Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Short Story: Lemmings

Disclaimer: Not necessarily funny.

Tuesday 28th May 2012

David stood up.
Here's a list of things that I'm NOT expecting of you-”
Buh-” she'd wanted to interrupt, but wasn't given the time of day.
Ready? One, no sympathy. I have absolutely no need for fellow-feeling, whether it be yours towards me, or some old guy standing in the park, trousers round his ankles towards the kid he's just paid 20 quid so suck his old dangly balls.
Secondly,” he paused, checking her eyes to see whether they had drifted at the balls-bit, but when he found they hadn't yet, he felt he could do without the rhetorically cute repetition of the word, but since he was on a roll anyway, he decided to go for it, raised his chest and repeated, with a higher cadence this time: “Secondly, I don't want you to try and change my mind. You're not the most convincing person I've ever known. No, wait, no-no-no-no-no! Wait.” A breath. “Thirdly, no pity. There is no reason – well” he interrupted himself, sneaking a look at her to see whether she'd grasp the opportunity to interject, which she let fly. “I actually meant no love.”
A shattering pause. He tried to keep his voice steady, which he wasn't fully in control of anymore. “You've shown to me that this is perfectly possible, over a number of years- running nearly into double figures now- No Alice don't even try-”
But his refusal was empty. Alice sat, her dark brown hair cascading over her shoulders, focussing her eyes on a flowerpot in the middle distance and fixing her mind, trying to think very hard about egg cups. She'd always preferred them orange. She also thought about Nick. In her vicinity. Naked, the hairs on his chest and forearms bristling with excitement and the magnetism of her and of what they'd just been engaged in. His smell, the taste of the inside of his mouth, his sweat streaming in canals along the ridges of his spine as he thrusted into- “ALICE!”
Her reverie was broken by David, who appeared to be having one of his moments of misplaced grandeur again. That she could deal with. Him no more. Not for nine years. After all the- Not the- she-
Alice, I...” a broken David addressed her now. She could obviously see his grand oration failing miserably, so without sympathy, pity, love or even much interest she -having bored herself on the subject of the colour of egg cups- asked him the 10.000 dollar question.
So what IS your plan, David?”
He raised his shoulders, which had been forming the left side of the hypotenuse with the doormat and his feet in a Euclidian triangle, over-back, as if he were the base of anti-aircraft machinery, erect, very much like the ones you get in packs of plastic green toy soldier; catapulting unbidden truth in the direction of his girlfriend: “I'm going to do a bike ride.”

Alice spat out some biscuit crumbles over the kitchen table. “You what?”
Yeah,” he said, as he was building himself up again from that salvo. “I'm going to cycle, and I'm going to go end up in the mountains. And I'll live off the land.” Just then, he realised that he should have demanded that she would address him without ridicule, which was a late realisation of Homeric proportions. He was going to feel the full blast of her ridicule. He bit his lower lip and closed his eyes to narrow slits, as if he were trying to avoid salvos of archers firing from the back ranges of the front, all the while preparing his fragile ego for the Howitzer of mockery that Alice was about to deploy.

In the meantime, she cleared up the biscuit crumbs off the table and dropped them into the bin, before taking offensive position number 24: left arm akimbo, hips out, right foot over the other -toes uncurled and straight-, right arm leaning into the door frame, her head ever so slightly sideways. All he could do now was prepare for the assault. He knew there was no way he would be able to cope. No way.

She then began. A sigh. “Ok,” she looked at the tiles, at the floor, as far away from the man she used to love as she possibly could. “So! Cycling!” she tried, with the drag of feigned optimism in her voice. “Whereto exactly may I ask?”
That was it. He had been defeated. His great, heroic plan was noting more than dead shit in someone else's garden. He tried to suppress his tears. “Highlands. The Highlands.” he blurted out, surprising Alice, in that he still had some sort of faculty of speech, not to mention not having desintegrated before her very eyes.
There I will cycle to. All the way up to the mountain top. And then-” he raised his shoulders one last time. “I want to jump off. I want to jump off the highest mountaintop and fall. I want to fall and fall until nothing is left and my bicycle bell will be found by a fucking seven year old in fucking Dundee for all I care.”
As his lungs tried expanding outwards for air, they hit so many physical blockades that they eventually had to find some spare space in his neck which then expanded and retracted, making him look even stupider than the words he had just spoken. The term 'unattractive' would never carry the full significance of exactly how repulsive David then was.
Because Alice, I would die for you.”

Alice sat down, took a sip of tea and turned her thoughts to where Nick might leave his stuff as the main obstacle to their relationship had apparently gone the way of the lemming.

Alice I will.” He started to undress. A hideously unflattering lycra pair of shorts and bicycle shirt unveiled themselves. All of David's bodily flaws, faults and bumps (of which Alice could draw the Michelin maps blemish by idiotic useless blemish) were more visible to her than if he had stood naked in the kitchen before her.

She said: “I don't know what to say anymore. You denied me giving you love, despite all the arguments against and how you seem to have turned into a fat lemming in lycra. By the way, who's sponsoring you? Gregg's?”
David was as ever silent. Alice looked up at his face for the first time in five years. “So what you need from me is – forgive me if I get this incorrectly- some kind of blessing? Is that it? So you can chuck your sorry self off a mountaintop?”
She paused, feeling her anger rising, and looked at that man there, clad in lycra, 38 years old. Infertile, jobless, on lithium since October.
David, I'm telling you this as a friend. Ok? Go and, you know. Take a break. No. Listen to me David. Pack your things (he'd started to silently weep by this point) and go. Take these fucking things off first, you look ridiculous. No! Don't fucking look at me like that, I'm not taking you back.” She made an attempt to leave the room but felt she couldn't yet. “I deserve a life of my own too. I'm not just there to deal with your shit. I refuse. If it were, fucking if it even were washing a wannabe lemming's disgusting lycra shorts. I still would not. David I cannot deal with you any longer.” She inhaled with force now, but started her exhalation before she even commenced to form her words: “Now leave.”

So he did. David left Alice, who couldn't even bring herself to kiss him goodbye anymore as he boarded the train to Aberdeen. The highland streams were tainted that year. The water under the bridge coloured red at places. A stone in Pembrokeshire was now illegitimately used as advertising space for Gregg's the baker's. It took Alice a week to stop feeling guilty and two years to stop thinking about him every day. She never taught her and Nick's children how to cycle, which always puzzled Nick. He would have to forget about it too.

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