Seeing as some people seem to insist this is our last year before (insert cataclysm of your choice here), I thought I should get off my indifferent bottom and post some more writing WHILE THERE'S STILL TIME. With college work out the way now I really have no excuse (until more college work arrives), so I hope to keep things coming in a fairly regular fashion. Hope you enjoy!
‘Have you got that then David?’
My eyes shot back to meet Mr Benson’s. I tried to instil in them a quality that would suggest I had indeed got it, and was raring to go, despite my mental meanderings the previous few seconds. I‘d even practiced this look in the mirror, and after 5 years it was almost automatic. ‘Yes, yes sir I understand.’
‘Good. It’s critical these figures be turned around, moving forward.’ God I hated that phrase. It was one of those unique to the business world. Old Benson lovingly embraced anything he felt added more gravitas to the situation. He wasn’t alone, I suppose.
I started imagining what work might be like if everyone started saying things how they actually were, instead of dressing it up in these vapid, self important little labels. It’s not a new ‘prototype hygiene product’, it’s a roll of fucking toilet paper. There’s no ‘technology’ at work in the fact it’s a little bit softer on your arse than the last lot.
Clearly my automated exterior had cracked. ‘Altwell! I hope you bloody do understand. If these sales aren’t up to snuff by the next review the shit will fly!’ Well, I thought, surely we’re more than adequately equipped to deal with that. I contained the smirk that began to form well, it coming across more like a whimper of fear based on Benson’s reaction. He looked down at his desk quickly, then shooed me out. ‘Just get on it, and get some results.’
‘Yes sir, right away.’ I turned and left the office.
A vigorous autumn wind snaked through the stone pillars of the old bandstand. Now a faded white, it’s elegant domed roof defied the onslaught. Beside it, the branches of an alder tree, hidden through thickets of gold and amber, lashed and rippled like ocean waves.
The old structure had heard fine music in it’s day, from swing bands to string quartets, jazz trios and choirs, but for a long time, longer than it might remember were it capable of such feats, there had been mostly silence. Mostly, because music was not all that had soaked through the old stone.
There had been the declarations of lovers, the laughter of grandchildren - the whispers of secrets. Today, as a scruffy looking man in a deep brown winter jacket hopped up the two steps to the open interior, one more secret would weave it’s way through the structure before being lost to the wind.
The man was unshaven, closer inspection of sunken red eyes indicating a lack of sleep, fatigue. His hair was long enough to be at the mercy of the wind. He pulled up the hood of his jacket, took a sweeping look over his surroundings as inconspicuously as he could, and embarked on the doomed impossibility of lighting a cigarette.
The stand had become a stage for his drama, and now, as if timed to perfection, another figure made her way with quick refined steps up to the tiny hippodrome. In her gloved left hand, a brown envelope fought to be free of her grasp. She seemed impervious to the wind, only one strand of her light hair catching it’s currents. The two stared at each other, and once again the wind reached its whining crescendo.
The metallic cup slammed against the small, circular window with a sharp clang. It came to rest under a compact table after a brief flurry of erratic rolls. Mark was aware of it only through the distant clattering behind him. He had a tight grip on the wheel. The thick sheet of rain that pummelled the front windows made any attempt to look out useless, yet he stared anyway. His gaze was rigid, as if he could see through the turbulence of the storm and beyond the horizon, into nothingness.
A great wave heaved the boat upwards like a flipped coin. His grip wavered, leaving him stumbling, falling. He landed on the small couch flanking the table, catching his elbow as he tumbled to a halt. There was an audible crack from underneath him, punctuated by the boom of another wave on the hull. His face, grey from days of painful wanderings through the empty in-between of mourning flashed a sudden red. He reached under his legs as another great lurch cleared the more steadfast items of the table.
Trying to stabilise himself, he pulled the snapped fishing rod free from his weight. It was smaller than the one that lay in his cabin, a red ribbon tied to the handle. A faded sticker of a smiling panda beamed up at him from just below it. The greyness returned to his face, along with a grimace that faded so quickly it was gone as he clawed his way back to the wheel.
Memories gently floated up again, as if dredged up by the tumultuous sea outside. He resumed his stare, but now oily flashes of a summer seared deck laced the watery nothingness; The laughter of a little girl as she casts a line; the bubble of happiness that seemed made of steel. Then the lurch of insides, the beating of the heart ready to explode; The screaming of a mother that would never forgive. The screams of his own that would never forgive.
He was no longer searching. He never was, and it was a poor excuse. A month later and there was still no destination, no tangible one at least. He kept his grip on the wheel, holding it as straight as he could. Changing direction changed nothing. He let a short sob escape, fixing his gaze again beyond the window. The waves had returned, the rain, and the nothingness beyond.