Mark offered to pick Martha up from the office.
‘I’ll be there at six,’ Mark confidently predicted.
But he put the wrong postcode into his satnav and turned up twenty minutes late.
‘You are a complete waste of both space and time,’ Martha ranted at him when he finally arrived.
Oh yes, honestly, I used to know her. I mean not well, but well enough to know what she was like. And she was really kind, back in the day, believe me. She was so beautiful. Everyone just wanted to be with her. We all used to copy what she was wearing and try to listen to the same music as her. We were in awe of her. And it wasn’t all surface stuff either. If one of her friends was in trouble she was always the first to help out. Seriously, I know it’s hard to believe now, but back in the day everyone used to love her. Even the people who said they hated her secretly wanted to be her.
But then, as she got older, a few people started turning on her or, worse yet, ignoring her. And I guess she just couldn’t handle this fall from grace. She started snarling at people. She got really bitter. And then, just recently, she started banning all known facts from her house. She declared them dry and pointless. Not surprisingly perhaps, she became unwell but still she banned all specialists from her home. Before we knew it she was sitting alone, rocking in her chair, singing random songs about the old days and promising to anyone who would listen how things were going to get much better in a minute.
I will be loved again, she promised. Just give me some time, she kept saying. But by then time was the one thing she didn’t have. It breaks my heart to see her now, really it does.
I woke up to find myself in hospital. In my semi-conscious state I had so many powerful visions! I saw a new phone; a whiter smile; far better skin; a cleaner, faster car. I even saw lust! There was so much to be done and time was marching on. What was doing wasting my time lying around here? I clambered out of bed, disconnecting myself from all the pesky tubes and wires.
“Relax,” the nurses said. “Those aren’t visions,” they said. “Those are just adverts on tv. You should just ignore them. Everyone knows they’re not real.”
But I was having none of it. I wanted it all. And I wanted it now.
“Get out of my way,” I shouted at them. “Can’t you see you’re holding back my recovery? Can’t you see you’re holding back the recovery of the entire economy?”
They construct the wall and appoint fierce guards at each checkpoint. How impressive they all look!
Until, that is, they notice the clouds gliding irreverently above their heads and the determined ants crawling up and over the wall each night.
Even tiny birds flout the fiercely defended border with impunity.
After being called dead early, Frank gets honestly intrigued, judging knowledge lovely; money nothing; or pettiness quaintly real.
“Sorry – totally unnecessary.”
“Violence with xrays, you zealot!”
Albert meets two old friends for a drink. After a couple of minutes, he clocks it.
‘Are you two….involved now?’ he asks.
They both smile.
Then Albert thinks about the word involved. Albert’s never been involved, not really.
Perhaps that’s sad. Sadder still, though, would be trying to involve yourself.
Albert accidentally brushes against a man in the corridor.
‘For goodness’ sake,’ the man complains, tutting loudly at Albert and giving him a cold stare.
And Albert realises something he should have worked out years ago: sometimes offence is something you actively have to take. It doesn’t just arrive, unbidden.