The ring of empty seats that surrounded him was an indication not only of the nits he was supposed to have in his wild red hair, but of how they all shunned everything about him. He had gotten used to being ignored by the others. It wasn’t the first time he’d experienced ridicule and loneliness in a classroom.
As the fire alarm bells rang, Miss Dufour put in motion the well-rehearsed drill. It was not Friday at 11 am after all, it was Tuesday.
They didn’t do drills on Tuesdays.
Michael saw the meat fall as he bit into the thick sandwich. He’d thought he wouldn’t be able to get it in his mouth. The pastrami on rye, wasn’t quite. It was more pastrami on table.
The sandwich was huge and it was the size of it that took him back all those years.
They’d been on a last-minute trip of a lifetime to see the sights of the Big Apple. For Jess, though, it was more than that, for she was starting her new life as well. The New York office job at Cantor Fitzgerald was an opportunity she could never pass up on, he knew that, but he worried he would lose her when she started there, across the wide Atlantic.
It had happened to him before. When Helen went to university a year before him, he realised that there would be strains, but he never thought she would end it with him. Girlfriends in far off places would always cause him some anxiety.
Their last meal at Carnegie Deli on 7th Avenue was a treat they’d waited for. A New York icon for visitors and locals alike, the kitsch entrance lobby was full of pictures of the stars past and present who had eaten there and it only precluded the glass cases of huge desserts they both drooled over in anticipation.
I position myself to shoot. The target bobbles into vision in the scope and I’m ready. I suck air in deeply and slowly, then squeeze on the last out breath. That’s how I always did it back in the old days.
Never failed me. Gently does it.
I once heard that lunacy was defined as ‘a population of one, believing themselves right’. I don’t know where I heard that – or even if I did. Maybe I made it up. My thinking around this little situation is perfectly sound – to me – and that’s all that matters. Maybe it’s a little selfish, but I am doing a service to so many. The fallen. The innocent. The unprotected.
And looking after myself as well, of course. In this case, everyone’s a winner, in the biggest sense, except him, of course. Even his family and friends loathe him behind the scenes, so I’ve heard. So they can be on my side and, in their quiet moments, raise thanks to their God above, too, now that it’s done.
I slip silently from the 300 thread silk sheets we brought with us. He doesn’t move at all. It’s early yet and I can barely see what I’m doing. The darkness in my eyes still getting in the way. I stumble a little and find support in the bathroom door. And I find the chair where my things ended up. At least some of them did.
I look back at Johnny, and smile as I think of the night. Our night. Together.
It’s always the same amazing same with Johnny and just thinking of it makes the rest of the world go away. The world with all the imponderables of the changes that will surely come now.
He heard the van at six. The time they always came. He was ready and waiting and eager to get on his way.
Before they had time to knock, he was at the door and took his place in the informal procession to his place in the back. Through the darkness, the overhead neon lights provided an institutionalized backdrop to exaggerate the intensity of the rain that hammered on the roof.
“Ready Albert?” He knew the guards well enough for them to call him by his first name.
“All buckled up? We don’t want any accidents now, do we?” Roberts chuckled lairily as he looked across to his mate who was driving.
“Going home then, are we?”
She came to me every week. A crowd of skinny dark faces parted as I walked to her, alone in the impeccable dark blue suit. Perfect in a thousand other places.
“I love you.”
The smile appeared amidst the heat and dust.
“I know.” She took my hand and led me to the cottage by the sea.
“What about Erica?”
She always asked. In my guilt, she looked at me with a knowingness she never explained and in those moments she held me all the tighter; loved me all the deeper.
I left her in the morning. Took the 13 bus home in thirteen minutes. Up the stairs, the apartment looked the same as ever. And it would never be the same again.
Stared at by faded families of generations past on the mantelpiece, the very frames made me cry for the first time.
I would go back to her later in the day, after a freshen-up and a rest. I took my time to savour the quiet, for I could feel the difference already and I wasn’t sure that I liked it much. Our life, which had been so wonderful, was changed now forever.
I’d need to create other photographs – in new frames – in the times to come.
“When did it happen?”
“Last week. Monday.
“She’d felt off on the Saturday, but thought nothing of it. So she soldiered on.
“Truth is, she should have realised from the time before.”
“Where was she?” Continue reading
“You’re going on a little holiday. Just for a few days.”
Dad cajoled me towards the front of Uncle Jim’s car. With me between him and Aunt Edna on the long, leatherette seat, we could all just about fit.
“But why?” I could see my Mum looking weary, as she peered out at me from the front door of our house.
“You’ll have fun. And it will only be for a few days.” He gave me the third hug since we came outside.
I gave in to the ushering of my Aunt, unwedged my arms from between the two of them and, before I had time to resist any more, the journey began.
Once again, she had been talked into it. Even though she thought differently, Jeremy had got his way.
Deborah never knew why she let it happen, for she had her own preferences, and now, as it turned out, his weaknesses had let him down and they were in quite a fix.
She’d been there before and knew more than he did. She could have tried to put him off perhaps. At at this stage in their relationship she simply thought, “Why should I?”