Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Random Acts Of Kindness

Kathy watched Ron – an accounts clerk in his late twenties - come into the West End bar, riffle through his change for the price of a pint and sit in the corner. He stared at his glass, throwing occasional burning glances at girls at the surrounding tables.

She looked at Ron’s cheap suit and the anguished hunger in his eyes. Pasty and knobbly, he looked like a throwback from black and white movies. The girls around him, media secretaries and the rest, ignored him. Kathy, returning to the States the following day, had a spare evening on her hands and something stirred deep within her as she watched him trying to ignore his loneliness.

Although Kathy was very attractive, it took almost two hours to get Ron to pick her up. He seemed to think that a girl like her showing an interest in him was against natural law.

She inveigled him for a Chinese meal, where he pushed noodles about and back to his room where, with an apologetic smile, he pushed his noodle into her. She spent the night, giving him every attention, unconditionally. Then at around seven in the morning, she took a cab back to back to her hotel, picked up her luggage and flew home to the West Coast.

Ron held onto that night as an unmerited and uninflected glimpse of paradise. He married a girl from Despatch called Tricia, large and prone to blushing. They made diffident love and three babies, one of which suffered from sensitive skin.

As he trudged his way up through the generations, Ron would sometimes stop and wonder why Kathy had singled him out. He developed a warm appreciation for her generosity. But sometimes the anomaly made him shake the tears away.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Noble Gestures 4

Old Martin Holborn came upon a young mother sneezing herself towards a structural fault beside a fine display of azaleas in the Isabella plantation. He was surprised she’d ventured out. Even allowing for seasonal fluctuation, an allergic reaction like that seemed severe enough to keep the sufferer indoors all summer. A small, fat boy with a face covered in half eaten chocolate held stolidly to one of her hands and rocked with the seismic shocks of her nasal explosions. The young mother, in track suit bottoms every bit as colourful as the azaleas, snatched feebly at her pockets as her eyes watered and her face turned rose red.

Holborn mounted an annual expedition to view the Isabella Azaleas. An expedition that became annually more onerous and significant. For as long as he could shuffle down to the wondrous blooms and colour swathes, Holborn knew he would live the year out.

The young mother’s asphyxiation continued unabated so without hesitation, Martin pulled a clean silk handkerchief from his sleeve and proffered it to her. She seized it and evacuated her nasal passages deeply into its soft paisley folds. Then drawing in breath like a warhorse she gathered focus enough to see her son’s chocolate spattered face. She grasped the back of his head and scrubbed at him briskly till his skin started to appear through the smear. Then indulging in three or four good extra nose-blows for luck, she held the hankie out to Holborn. “Ta.” She said.

Martin drew his hands back from the squelching mess. “No, no. Please. Keep it.”

She waited till the old fart had hobbled round the corner before dropping the sodden silk bundle into a litterbin. She didn’t want it either.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Noble Gestures 3

Doctor Aziz gave up his seat to a heavily pregnant woman on the train and smiled benignly down at her. She gave a half smile and then read her magazine.

How soon we forget, thought Doctor Aziz as his knees buckled slightly at the hurtling onrush of the train over the points. I have given. I am forgotten. She must be around seven months gone. Another screaming mouth to feed in a world plagued with too much pollution and not enough soul. Another being destined for junk food, junk culture, unemployment and pension shortfall.

The train stopped briefly at Reading and a young man got up to get off. He tapped Doctor Aziz on the shoulder to indicate his seat was free and the Doctor sat with some relief.

The young man watched him closely as he closed the carriage door. Dirty bugger, he thought, staring at her tits like that. She’s six months pregnant if she’s a day.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Noble Gestures 2

Pentimento. This image may be more faithful to the text. Oscar

Lady Evangeline Dupont clambered back out of the lifeboat to permit a mother with two young girls to squeeze into her place. She was eighty nine and belonged with the men. In fact, looking at some of the men, mere boys scrambling oily and terrified over the hull of the beleaguered ship, she felt some of the elder women ought to hand over their passage to them too.

As the lifeboat pushed off into the tumultuous night, Lady Evangeline felt a calmness overtake her. Somewhere out there was a preposterous submarine, filled with boorish, diesel slicked fascists. All around were choppy and sour smelling waters. She was far better off here. A better class of demise.

She turned to offer some quip to this effect to her neighbour, but lost her footing and slid directly over the side. The cold, coarse salt water surged up her crepe de chine skirts. It really was too vulgar.