It’s actually reading week, so I didn’t have a Creative Writing seminar. However, I do have some coursework due in that I wrote on the train last night, so I’m going to throw that up. Be warned though; it’s nearly 1500 words, and it’s not particularly plot driven or anything. So I don’t want anyone complaining that it’s too long. I’ve told you now, so if you continue then more fool you.
His fingers composed a nervous rhythm on his knee, the assorted coats at his back making an uncomfortable perch. His head was cocked to one side, giving him a curious look, like one grasping at a forgotten thought, desperately pulling at strands of consciousness to reconstruct the idea. However, he wasn’t doing that at all. He was, in fact, listening.
“Jean wanted me to feed the cat while she’s in Madrid swanning around with the company, but I’m fucked if I’m going to brave the utility room to deal with that beast. I swear that little fucker is vicious to anyone but her. I don’t understand it. I’ve lost count of the amount of cuts I’ve received. I mean look, I’ve got three just from this week!” He could almost see the man’s speaking partner half nod, disinterested. Something must have occurred for the man continued, unheeded, perhaps unbidden by his opposite.
“I’d much rather a dog. You can train a dog, you see. Tell it when to growl, when to just put up with people’s banalities. I really don’t understand how she tolerates the little bastard. All it does is shit and eat, and it doesn’t even do that very well. I’m constantly finding little ‘presents’ around the house. At least a dog can do tricks.” Finally the other interjected, predictably another man. By the tone of his voice he seemed both bored and slightly offended.
“Cats really aren’t that bad you know. They first serve a different purpose. I often think you can tell an introvert or an extrovert from whether they like cats or dogs. A cat is an animal for inside, requiring nothing but the occasional stroke. Really it’s an animal for a person who prefers to stay inside and contemplate… things. So it’s really for the introvert. On the other hand a dog is an animal that requires constant attention and exercise. It requires a level of social interaction merely with itself, not to mention the other dog walkers you meet. Thus, the extrovert. It’s the people who like both who are the most interesting, though, as they seem to tread the balance between a contemplative life and a social one. The best of both worlds, so to speak.” A half smile glistened on the listener’s face; he already knew what the response would be, and the inevitability of it amused him.
“Oh, I mean, I like cats. It’s just her’s that annoys m e. If it didn’t scratch so much it would be fine, just pottering about on its own…” He had heard enough. His fingers stopped their incessant drumming and instead curled themselves around the arm of his chair, propelling him to his feet. As he wandered the room, searching for a new place to sit, his mind fondled the ideas that had been proposed. He himself was a cat man, ever since his parents had first brought the orange and white tabby home when he was a child. He remembered watching television in the afternoons after school, his eyes distracted into marvelling at how the dust laden shafts of sunlight had darkened the white of its fur and lightened the orange until it seemed the feline was lying resplendent in gold. His lips creased into a dry smile, enjoying the memory. His thoughts were interrupted as his eyes lighted upon a dark corner whose only occupant was a soft leather couch. He made a line for it, settling down and tilting his head to one side, his ears open and eager.
“…and then Bianca, like, entirely blew him off. Oh, no, I don’t mean that kind of blowing…” He stood, ignoring their vulgar laughter as his brow furrowed with distaste. He moved away from the grotesque interchange, his eye on a sofa near the cat and dog men. Luckily it was far enough away for him to sample a different discussion. As he planted himself down his pushed his glasses up his nose, bringing the room into sharper focus.
“You really need to go see it. I was a little teary at the end of it, and we both know that hasn’t happened since…” It seemed there was an awkward pause, a shared memory of some embarrassing incident. The listener relaxed, satisfied that this conversation would bring him the interest he sought.
“So yes, anyway. You really should go. Take Tom. I know he’s more into the whole mindless blockbuster thing, but I still think he’d enjoy it. There are even a few scenes of what he would consider an ‘acceptable level of violence.’” They shared a laugh.
“I’ll think about it. But what I’m far more interested in is who you went with. I swear you never tell me anything anymore. Who are you and what have you done with James Spooner!” Another laugh shared. An in-joke, perhaps. Even without seeing them, the listener knew the man, James, had shrugged.
“There’s not really much to tell. I’ve not really done anything serious in the past few months.” There was a slight pause.” And while yes, I did go to see the film with someone, nothing came of it. Not that she wasn’t a nice girl, just, I don’t know, nothing really clicked.” There was another, longer, pause.
“What you mean is that none of them were Sarah.” Before James could protest she continued. “No, I’m not going to get into this again. I’m just saying that sooner or later you’re going to have to accept that no one else is her, and start looking at them on their merits, not holding them up against some impossible ideal of what made you love Sarah.” Both then stood in silence, one sullen, the other awkward.
Not unsatisfied, the listener slowly stood, moving over to the bar to order one last drink. It had been a while since he’d had a break up; it had been a while since he’d been in a relationship. He remembered the last girl, Beatrice, hadn’t lasted long. She talked too much. With a sigh he glanced around and paid for his drink. He didn’t have much longer; if he stayed in any one place for an extended period of time people began to give him odd looks, wondering why he only sat by himself. So he sipped his water, the chill of it slipping through him like a falling worm. He shivered, then tilted his head to one side, repeating the ritual. He didn’t have time for any lengthy reflection, tempting though it was. Instead he would grab one more morsel before he headed home in silence.
“Abby, remember to empty the ice bucket before you go home today. Yes, I know that’s not for two hours, but it doesn’t hurt to remind you does it?” There was a tone of sarcasm in the man’s voice, but it was playful at worst.
“You know Rob, one day I’m going to put my heel through your neck. My driving instructor showed me how. You know he was ex-SAS?” Again there was that joviality, keeping the banter light and fleeting. It was just the thing he was looking for.
“How can you formerly be a former member of the SAS? Do they deny you were ever a member or something? Revoke your parking privileges at the secret basecamps? Besides, what the hell would someone who’s been in the SAS be doing teaching teenage girls how to drive?” He chuckled while she glowered at him.
“You know what I mean you twat. I don’t know, maybe it’s a cover or something.” She sounded unsure. “Now, do you want me to go get more fruit juice from the shed? It’ll save time later.”
“If you want to do it you’re welcome, but if we sell more before close you’ll have to redo it.” As the conversation slipped into business his tone altered with it, becoming a little less light and a little more authoritative.
“No, I won’t, because I’ll bring a few extra now. We got space in the cellar so unless we get a lost desert exploration party, all of whom have an aversion to both tap water and alcohol I think we’ll be just fine.” The listener stifled a laugh, drawing a look from the pair. With a slight flush to his cheeks he drained the last of his water and got up to leave. He always liked to finish the night with a joke.