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The International Writers Magazine
- FIRST CHAPTERS

Fighting the flow
By Greg Thompson

'He hated them now, their jauntiness and utter disregard for His misery'.

© Edward Hopper - Nighthawks

He could tell they were in love from the way they walked: the harmonious sway of their bodies and the synchronised rhythm of their footsteps beating a tattoo past his stool in the window of an identikit coffee shop. He marvelled at the rain cascading from an emblazoned umbrella, the type dispensed at corporate events, held chivalrously by her suitor. Rivulets, falling and splashing around them as they walked, made visible the protective bubble afforded them by a burgeoning love. A bubble so strong as to keep from them all the ills of man’s will, yet so weak as to protect them from none of the ills of the world. He watched them through blue-tinged cigarette smoke with a contradictory sense of both pleasure and pain: the pleasure a residue from the memory of His own love once known, the pain a perpetual ache from the loss of that love. Those rosy months seemed like yesterday but were, in reality, a long time hence and Reality was a game He had tried not to play since. Yet His best efforts could not prevent the world from imposing its cruel rules upon him with a relentlessness matched only by the march of time.

His mood changed abruptly. A rising sense of morose dissatisfaction permeated his pensive melancholia as He wondered how life could grant these two lovers such bliss on this dreary day. Envy followed quickly. The green bile seethed from the wound left when His bliss had been wrenched away, its potency amplified by the void that now held no hope of again finding His love lost, or any other. He glowered as the couple paused in front of the shop opposite His perch. They joked as they perused the wares on display in the window: probably some syrupy love joke about their hope-filled future. He hated them now, their jauntiness and utter disregard for His misery. He wished them no good fortune and vowed never to enjoy again the sight of blossoming love.

With a frame of mind resembling His double espresso, His thoughts turned to the day ahead as He closed His eyes and inhaled the aroma rising from the thick, bitter liquid in the oversized cup. He tried to focus His mind on the tasks awaiting Him in the office and the daily drudgery of office banter. He raised the cup to His lips and tilted the dark liquid towards His mouth. He concentrated on His internal world after such disappointment with the external, on the liquid warming the path to His belly. He drew strength from the newfound heat and the rush of the caffeine. He raised His other hand to His mouth and drew deeply on the cancerous stick that governed His life more than any other factor. The smoke bit at His throat and lungs as it permeated His airways. He felt the satisfaction of the nicotine affecting His brain. He felt ready for the world again.

As He prepared to open His eyes, brakes screeching in the wet interrupted His rumination. The dull crunch of metal colliding with metal followed. A cacophony of screeches assaulted His ears as other cars braked and swerved to avoid the two vehicles locked in a potentially fatal kiss. As He looked up, a motorcycle with locked brakes careered into view and lost grip on the road, bouncing on to the pavement and into the shop where the couple had been standing only a moment before. Resisting to some extent the universal urge to investigate the bizarre and morbid in the lives of others, He tried to ascertain, through gathering crowds, the fate of the couple that had turned His already delicate mood sour. There was no sign of them. But on the pavement where they had been the rain was diluting blood and washing it towards the gutter. The motorcyclist had separated from his ride in the slide from the road to the shop. So the blood must have once belonged to one, or both, of the lovers. With active and morbid curiosity coursing His neural pathways He lit another cigarette, defying His recent vow to smoke only one before work, and settled back into His seat. As the carnage smouldered in the street, people rushed from all directions to provide what little help they could until the emergency services arrived: with comparative speed given the daily morning gridlock exacerbated by the coming together of tonnes of metal, plastic and glass.

His phone sounded an alarm informing Him of the need to relinquish His seat in the warm and brave the rain and the tube. He donned his coat and gathered His bag from the floor before heading into the mayhem of scurrying people in a mixture of civvies and uniforms; bright orange, yellow and green visibility jackets increasing the surrealism of the carnage strewn across the road. As He strained His neck to see everything He could above the spellbound crowd, bodies were being removed from the wreckage in the shop window. Several were being lifted and hurled by fire fighters and paramedics, revealed as they bounced to be lightly clad mannequins. Two, however, were cautiously lifted onto stretchers and carried with haste and concern towards the waiting ambulances leaving another pool of blood to mingle with the rain and the dirt and the glass. He paused a moment to ascertain the state of the bodies but the crowd blocked His view so He turned instead toward His daily descent. As He walked, the rain slowly seeped through His clothing. The cold clammy effect matched the sense of shock He felt at the unusual events. His concern though was tempered by a sprinkle of satisfaction that the world had punished not only Him for finding bliss in this urbane, urban mess.

© Greg Thompson Feb 2004
gwmthompson@hotmail.com

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