The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes

Duncan Dicks

We met when I was sent to audit the stocktake at Centenary Furniture. I was audit junior, Claire was a trainee sent to keep an eye on me. It turned out it was my eyes on her most of the time. She was all pastel shades and Broderie Anglais. Her dark brown hair always seemed to have a little twist or curl peeking out. Her face would break from deep concentration to the widest smile in a moment. I didn’t even notice her nose on the first day. Some would call it patrician but I found it elegant, distinguished – in fact just bloody sexy.

Anyway, stocktake audit, a poisoned chalice we both knew. If I saw anything I shouldn’t, she’d be out of a job; if I didn’t, I’d be out of a job. We enjoyed every minute. But business is business; she tipped me off about some minor ‘window dressing’. I turned a blind eye to some ‘teeming and ladling’ because, she said, they were ‘good guys’.

I asked her out for a drink and put it on my expenses. I thought she was out of my league but we went out again. And after the job had finished she called and it became a regular thing until one day she asked me round to her parents for dinner.

No wonder I’d thought she was out of my class. Her parents owned the bloody company. I dressed up and not my work suit either, Claire would have spotted that, but they made me feel right at home. Malcolm took out an old soccer yearbook to nose through while we waited for dinner. Maybe Claire had told him it was my passion. Footie and music, Blue Monday and the Sky Blues. Footie crosses the generations better.
Malcolm had the same nose. He used it, called attention to it, taking a mighty breath in before making a decision. Claire’s Mum, Jessica, would tip her head questioningly in his direction, tasting the atmosphere, before suggesting a move to the living room or offering a last glass of wine.

Claire had broken away from them, like a young bud bursting with the irrepressible power of spring; she had her own flat in town, rented from her own wages. We were in a taxi back to town when she suddenly turned to me.
‘I can trust you Alex?’
I wasn’t sure whether it was a statement or a question. I looked at her quizzically.
‘With your life.’ I said it ironically but I really meant it.
She stroked my cheek and her eyes sparkled.
‘You’re a special guy, Alex. I’m going to introduce you to someone.’
I leaned forward to kiss her but she turned to the driver.
‘Change of plan. Fender Street first please.’

I was confused - and a little frustrated. I could almost taste that kiss I’d just missed. Claire had obviously just made a big decision but I had no idea what it was all about.

Fender Street was close and she directed the car outside the local DVD rental. I used the place myself but at this time of night it wasn’t the safest area in town. There was a down-and-out in the doorway, huddled under a blanket.
‘Come on, Alex.’
She grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the taxi over to the shop.
‘Hey Jamie – visitors.’
The guy in the doorway looked up sleepily. He was unshaven, unkempt and unclean, but then I suppose I would have been if I slept in a doorway. From the desert of his face his nose thrust like the Great Pyramid at Giza.
‘Alex, my brother Jamie. Jamie – Alex.’
He half got up, suddenly awake, and stared at me intently. His eyes were bright and full of intelligence, burning into my soul. I could see Claire watching closely. Love me, love my brother. I took his hand firmly and shook it.
‘Nice to meet you Jamie.’
He took a deep, rasping breath, drinking the air into that enormous nose, and then he smiled a sweet smile. He turned to Claire and gave her a short embrace.
‘Perfect, Claire. He’ll look after you.’
‘I know it, Jamie’
She handed him a bundle of notes, must have been a couple of hundred at least, and with a lingering gaze she turned, took my hand and pulled me back to the taxi.
In the back seat she took my head in her hands and gave me a long kiss.
‘Your brother, Claire, why is he …?’
‘He’s not an addict if that’s what you are thinking.’ She sounded angry.
I could tell he wasn’t on drugs. I’ve met plenty, in the office and on the streets. Coke is life. You can sense them a mile off. You get a sense of disconnection, not this intenseness that Jamie had.
‘Then why?’
‘That is the other secret, Alex.’
‘I love you, Claire. I don’t care who knows it. I think it every day. I want to be with you all the time. So trust me or don’t trust me but if I can help you I will.’
The taxi stopped.
‘Come up, Alex.’ It was an order not a question.

I’d picked her up here before but never been past the doorway. I paid the cab and followed.
The flat was small but beautiful. Tasteful, not modern with all sharp edges and clean lines, but minimalist all the same; a Kate Faulkner bronze, a Jaqueline Marr oil, some fine photographs that I thought maybe were her own. Contemporary quality worth a fortune and more than the sum of its parts.

She sat perched on the edge of the sofa, her body language inviting me to sit beside her.
‘I called him Sniff when we were young. He was the best. The best brother, got the best grades, captain of the football team. He charmed everybody and everybody loved him. Even Dad couldn’t resist. And here is why, Alex. Here is the big secret. Jamie smells everything. He smells good luck, the right decisions, the best people. He smells the way we feel and the way we think and he smells the future.
‘One day when he was sixteen and I was fourteen, we visited my Grandpa. Jamie was sick the moment we walked through the door. Mum thought it was a bug but an hour after we left he was fine. Grandpa died that night and that was the start of it.
‘He got more sensitive. Can you imagine, Alex? If someone is going to die in the next month he is violently sick, if it’s in the next year he has abdominal migraines. There is a more than even chance that one in every hundred people will die in the next year. If he is in a house it’s a thousand times worse. He can’t go indoors because for Jamie the stench of death is everywhere. He has a caravan out in the woods. During the night he comes here. I bring him stuff and everyday I look in his eyes and wonder what he sees.’

If it hadn’t been Claire and if I hadn’t seen those keen, bright eyes in the doorway I wouldn’t have believed it. I was shaken.
‘Are you the only one he sees, Claire?’
‘He buys stuff at the 24/7. He nearly died when the police took him in once, but when he concentrates he can still hold it together. He can still be the boy everyone loves.’
‘You and me, what he said, we’re okay then?’
‘That doesn’t just mean you’re not about to drop dead, Alex. Remember Jamie can sense your whole future, your destiny. He knew your were a good, decent person with a great future.’
We kissed then. I held her close, closer than ever before, because I saw Jamie’s face as she turned away, his pain and misery, charging me to make her happy in the time she has left. And I will, right to the end.

© Duncan Dicks November 2006

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