2013 STORGY SSC SHORTLISTDAY 9 – STORY BY ALICE MASON

cropped-storgy2.jpg

2013 STORGY SHORT STORY COMPETITION SHORTLIST

DAY 9

*

STORY

mop-and-bucket-pic-rex0-131578388-400639

by

Alice Mason

The official definition in the dictionary for ‘story’ is:

An account or recital of an event or a series of events, either true or fictitious, as:

  1. a.     An account or report regarding the facts of an event or group of events
  2. b.     An anecdote
  3. c.      A lie

With this in mind, the author has chosen to comply with definition A. This story takes place with real people. Two ‘characters’.  As this story is real, the names of the characters will change for identity purposes. This story is not ‘a boy overcomes his troubles to get the girl’, ‘a girl winning the heart of a boy’, ‘the boy winning the heart of a girl’…In short, it is not a romantic formulaic plot heard so many times before. It is simply a chance, a coincidental collision of two lives, completely different to each other, in parallel yet disjointed directions. In this case, she is called Virginia. His name is Arcadius. No epilogue is included.

Arcadius and Virginia meet within a convoluted narrative structure. His head is a black hole, completely vacuumed of feeling, hers, a mixture of apprehension for the future and nostalgia for her past self. The story will take place called ‘Somewhere’. A coffee shop. (No brands remember, brands signify familiarity.)

Bring me summer back

Bring me the sun back

Bring me the dawn over Paris back

As hopeful dusk burned into the early brims of night, Virginia realised she had already walked away the afternoon. This was a successful day. Wasting time was one of Virginia’s greatest accomplishments.  She noticed the coffee shop, and as part of her daily routine, she walked inside, a man in front of her was wearing a shirt that said, ‘Eternal destiny depends on intelligence’.

What did that even mean? Why did people have those sayings on shirts? Did they think they were more cultured to the people who didn’t wear those pointless shirts with quotes on? It both irritated and confused Virginia.

Eternal destiny depends on intelligence.

Does fate depend on coincidence? That’s what I often ask myself.  They’re the same thing in disguise.

I remember when I sent her letters and she never answered in the order I wanted her to. It was like she was there when I wasn’t.

I remember my dad always kept saying “be one of life’s good guys, the ones that no one has a problem with” it was the third time  he said that with my mum crying in the corner I knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t change.

I remember a song that I barely remember the words to. It’s the tune. It’s always the tune.

Bring me summer back

Bring me the sun back

Bring me the dawn over Paris back

I sent her letters. I sent her thirty five letters and she replied in all the wrong order.

Bring me the dawn over Paris back

In obituaries why don’t they say the truth? That the person had flaws, why do they always talk about someone in such fake and false terms? Arcadius, I think to myself, stop being like this.

My thoughts are with her family who…’

As I got my coffee, I couldn’t help but think at least inevitability had a sense of irony. All these phrases appear in my head that don’t mean anything.  I remember what I said in each and every one of those letters. Hot grimy coffee take my memories away. I realise that I’ve just been thinking about me, about whatever’s happened and I’m here – alive – here. I’m here.

Virginia’s mind sauntered back to her movements and as she was choosing a place to sit, someone was standing in front of her, in her way, lost in reality.

Boy: Oh. Sorry. Oh. Hi. Um.

Girl: Yes?

Girl: Can I just sit

Girl: Hi. Sorry I

Boy: Don’t know me? I was in your

Girl: year! You were in my

Boy: Yeah. Same year. Class too.

Girl: Sorry I don’t wear my glasses a lot, rubbish memory too

Boy: Oh that’s fine I

Girl: I’m not waiting for anyone

Boy: Oh right

Girl: You can you know sit

Boy: Oh that’s fine I’ll just

Girl: You going to sit over there?

Boy: Yeah I was planning to read

Girl: Read what?

Boy: A book

Girl: Oh, what’s your name again?

As this conversations becomes less static, the two characters finally begin to talk with each other. Whether anything becomes more, it is uncertain, for even the author doesn’t know.  The more the story unravels, the more reality melds with imagination.

As these two characters continue talking in a corner, the man with the shirt that confused Virginia asks for another coffee. He quietly mumbles to himself. His idiosyncrasies are visible to everyone.

Eternal destiny depends on Intelligence

His own eyes are afar – he thinks in a sea of his own thoughts. The nameless man thinks nameless thoughts. He remembers the one time where he met a girl at this very coffee shop where life granted him an opportunity. He could have been anything. A writer, an artist, a poet. Endless.  He slowly stands up, he’s been writing something on a scrap piece of paper, he hides it by stuffing it underneath his seat. He leaves but not before his mind takes him to another hazy memory.

There was once a man who wanted to kill himself. He went to the local beach, but before completing the act, he saw a group of teenagers. What were they doing at the beach at five o clock in the morning? He noticed the comparisons with them and him – they were in shirts and jeans, he was in his best suit because after all, who’d better be best dressed for than Death itself? He walked over to them, gave them two hundred pounds, his watch, his wallet and his shoes. They all stared back at him. He was about to cry – a grown man – in front of these teenagers who he’d never seen before. Their paths would have never crossed if his own actions hadn’t led him here. After the initial shocked silence, the teenagers started to talk to him. They asked him where he came from, what was his name, why he wanted to do this. Then one of the teenagers simply said

“Living – that’s the best thing you can do”

The man looked at that teenager. A moment of silent peace.  He asked for his things back bar the two hundred pounds. He put on his shoes, the laces frayed at the ends, the shine gone, it had been polished too roughly. They were good shoes though, brogues to be exact. They’d been with him a long time. He tried to recall where he bought them from.  As he walked in these shoes, not yet tattered, back home, he realised that today was not the day he’d kill himself, not tomorrow either.

A song started to play in the coffee shop. The door swung shut in time with the first note sung.  It was a relatively unknown song, the mellow voice crooning the words and tune that seemed so familiar to Arcadius.

Bring me summer back

Bring me the sun back

Bring me the dawn over Paris back

Something changed in Arcadius. He stopped talking mid sentence to Vriginia.

“I have to go” he mumbled, barely looking at her and left.

Virginia was not surprised. Something was telling her that this was only meant to a one time thing, that she wouldn’t be able to read anything into it or reflect. It was at this time when the barista told her to kindly leave as they were closing for the day. Virginia complied and left the coffee shop, one of many customers who had left that day. What was so special about this day – she couldn’t shake off the feeling that there was something else out there.

She noticed a homeless person in front of her, a child and her mother.

“Spare change?” A rasping voice asked.

The mother began to walk off but the child looked at the homeless man. She stopped. She felt around her pockets and all she had to give was a chocolate bar. She gave it to him before her mother called out her name.

“God bless you child”

His hand outreached for hers. The child was no longer there.

As the barista started clearing up in the coffee shop, the paper cups, some still holding that precious coffee, the abandoned trays, she started to arrange the seating to mop the floor. It was the final task of day and then she could go home. But before that she checked all the seats as people always dropped change.

As she put her hand underneath one of the armchairs, a paper rustled. She slipped it out and read it. The writing was slanted as if it had been written in a rush and as she tried to remember who sat here, she found it hopeless because all the faces that she served blurred into one.

She read the piece of paper again before putting it in her pocket.

Living – that’s the best thing you can do.  

*

 Please ‘like’ our Facebook page and invite friends and family to explore the wonderful writing of our contributors and shortlisted competition entrants.

Your support continues to inspire.

*