Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Spreadeagle Rests the Noise

She closed her eyes and listened to the clatter and tumult of the bar. The pint she held was halfway down and still cold.

She waited as she had been for a half hour or so. She didn’t mind. She had been early. But there was no rush.

She opened her eyes and saw a solitary man sitting on the corner of a table that he was sharing with strangers. The man had a plastic bag on his lap, which he was reaching into and pulling out a variety of pebbles. He arranged them in front of him. The strangers glanced at the pebbles that were gradually filling the table, but carried on their conversations without commenting. Eventually the plastic bag was empty. The man scrunched it up in his hand, got up and left the pub. The pebbles remained on the table.

The conversation had dried up between the table's inhabitants. They sat in silence and contemplated the pattern laid out before them.

Monday, 3 May 2010

The Briefcase

The mariachi band had left a briefcase in his bar. They had slept on the stage after the gig and left early in the morning, packing everything away except the briefcase. He put it behind the bar and got on with things, thinking they’d come back for it or call. It troubled him. It was a pretty ordinary suitcase. And very light - almost as if it didn’t have anything inside it. He tried the catches on it, but it was locked shut.

As the day went on and turned into evening, he realised he kept touching the briefcase absentmindedly as he served customers. He nudged it with his knees, stroked a hand across it when he bent down to pick up glasses. When he finally locked up the bar shortly before dawn, he decided to take the briefcase home with him. It didn’t want to be left alone, he felt. When he was home, he placed the briefcase in the middle of the bedroom floor, so that he could see it from his bed, which he climbed into and fell fast asleep. When he woke up he discovered he was holding the case in a tight embrace against his chest.

This was odd, he thought. Not too healthy. He decided to track the mariachi band down and return it, rather than wait for them to come back for it. He tried calling the number he had booked them through, but the line was dead. He got in his car and travelled to the small town they had said they would be playing next. He went to all of the bars in the town and asked if the mariachi band had played there. Eventually he found the one that they had played at. The owner told him where they had been going next. He got back in his car and travelled to the next town they had been going to. Again, he did the rounds around the bars until he got the information he needed.

He ended up driving up and down the country, trying to catch up with the mariachi band, but never quite managing it. He slept on the back seat of his car, clutching the briefcase for fear of losing it. He carried on looking for the mariachi band, but found himself taking it slowly, not really wanting to find them so much anymore. His thoughts became less coherent. His beard grew long and his armpits grew smelly. Eventually, as he drove across the desert, his car ran out of petrol. There was nothing for miles around. He would never get anywhere on foot.

He took the briefcase and sat down on the ground a short way from the car. He decided to see what was actually in the briefcase, if anything. He took a rock from the ground and spent a while trying to break open the catches. After a while he gave up and decided to rest. He woke up a few hours later, very red faced and burnt. He would have cursed his stupidity, but his mind was still too drawn to the briefcase. He tried the catches again. To his surprise, they opened without fuss, as if they had never been locked.

He opened the briefcase wide. Neatly lined up inside were stacks of waffles covered in Nutella, melting in the heat. One by one he picked out the waffles and slowly ate them, not pausing until every last one had gone. He sat there in the sun, face smeared with chocolate, smiling a very large smile.

I Rubbed the Surface of the Pebble in My Pocket

As I stood surveying the calm sea, thinking how nice it was not being able to see any signs of civilisation, I noticed something rising in the water. It was a black dot around fifty metres away. My first thought was that it might be a seal, but as it moved towards land I could see that it looked more like a bowler hat. Rather than float as you would expect, bobbing on the waves, it moved steadily in a purposeful straight line. Where the water started to become more shallow, the bowler hat rose and revealed a head underneath it. A smartly dressed business man gradually emerged from the water. He was very dignified, despite his sopping wet clothes and the water leaking out of his briefcase. As he passed me he lifted his hat slightly and bid me good day. I turned to watch as he disappeared amongst the sand dunes.