Short fiction

Issue #10


-    It’s not nearly enough of course but I never learn: twenty-five minutes to get up and washed and fed and dressed and out. I suppose there’s a kind of calculation involved, a trade-off between the stress of perpetual lateness and the pain of shifting from the bed, but you could hardly call it a decision. Except once I’m out from under the covers it’s never nearly as painful as I’d anticipated while I was holed up beneath them. So I stand there beside the bed every morning, stretching and yawning and looking back at the cretin I was twenty seconds earlier. You see, the thing is I fully acknowledge and understand the merits of the first push – consider them thoroughly accounted for – but it never makes it seem any more appealing, which is why it takes so long to build up to it. So the upshot is every morning, without fail, I sprawl and roll around and rub my eyes for a good twenty minutes before I can even muster the modicum of strength required to get even close to vertical. It’s a Herculean labour. Every time. And then, well, surprise-surprise after all that I’ve only got twenty-five minutes to get out the flat, or else I’ve missed the bus and I’m late for work and all manner of administrative confusion and chaos is ensuing at the office and there are aggressive/feral canine predators of every conceivable type making some pretty serious strides towards the door, and I’m not there to bolt it and then – well, that’s just a whole new can of hideousness that I don’t even want to go into. Not that it’s all rainbows and pats on the back when I do get there on time of course, what with the exhaustion that I can’t seem to shake – it’s a real albatross, I’m telling you. I try, I mean I really do but just never seem to be able to keep on top of things. Bloody nightmare, the whole thing really. I’ve always missed something somewhere and I never know why but it’s the details you see, the small things that trip you up, and by lunchtime you can be unflinchingly sure there’ll be a rapidly expanding pile of tiny little things that I’ve missed, just gradually rising around my desk, filling the office to the ceiling and by that point, well there’s just no way I can take an hour off to go and shoot the breeze in the break room. I just have to struggle on with it, trying to keep those aggressive/feral canine predators as far as possible from the door – from the whole building, if I can manage it, which I rarely can – and I know people tell me not to work so much, to take time off and all this but they don’t understand, you see? And who the hell do these people think they are anyway?

-    Adam –

-    Telling me what to do, as if they had the right. As if they knew any better in the first place. You know what my mother said to me last night on the phone? She called me a masochist. My own mother! I mean, hang on a minute I said. I said, hang on a minute. I call her up and she calls me a masochist. What’s that? What is that exactly? It’s a miracle I found the time to call her in the first place. And no wonder I didn’t get to sleep until one, with somebody calling me a masochist from another time zone. It’s perverse. You shouldn’t be able to call another person a masochist unless you’re at least in the same time zone. It’s just unfair, and there’s no recourse is there? I mean she’s my mother and she’s in a different time zone so what can I do? There are no courts for this kind of thing. And the worst thing is it still hasn’t left my mind. In fact I’d go so far as to say it ruined my day. It was swimming around my head so much I couldn’t sleep and then it kept popping up again all day in big neon letters– MASOCHIST – I mean how am I supposed to concentrate on keeping aggressive/feral canine predators from the door with MASOCHIST jumping out at me every ten minutes. There I am in my office at lunchtime surrounded by a heaving pile of tiny little things, doing all I can to contain it without dropping my egg-mayo sandwich, and there's suddenly this guttural arraignment bearing down on me: MASOCHIST!

-    Adam, I - -

      - I mean this is inducing Catholic-level guilt. And I haven’t even mentioned the journey here yet, which is why I showed up in such a humiliating sweat, by the way, in case you were hoping to level some kind of accusation of hyperhydrosis – don’t ask me how I know that’s what it’s called. Of course what with the tiny-little-problem-pile and the aggressive/feral canine predators and the MASOCHIST pop-ups, I didn’t get away from the office until an hour later than I should. Which happens all the time by the way and I don’t give a ha’penny-jizz who knows it. But anyway there I am at the tube station and up pops MASOCHIST and this time it really knocks me off my stride, sets off an internal monologue the like of which your sagacious mind has never contemplated in its most doolally daydream. So there I am getting into a right state on the northbound platform and only with hindsight does it occur to me that this might have looked odd to an outside observer, what with the muttering under the breath and the corkscrewing, not making any locomotive progress in any direction, you understand. But the machine was most definitely rotating on the spot, if I can quote Adorno, and don’t even dare tell me I can’t. So there I am locked into a pretty intense internal dialectic of accusation and counter-accusation – this isn’t a split-personality thing, I should say, before you start sharpening that pencil, I’m just playing both parts, my own and my mother’s. And yes I’ve seen ‘Psycho’ and no, don’t write that down. But there I am, oblivious to the outside world and causing untold distress to passers-by when the train rushes into the station and breaks the spell so now I’m back in the room, as it were, but still not entirely with it – the aftermath of a heightened emotional experience like that tends to fog the mind up, dull the perceptive faculties and so on. I get on the train and sit down and stare at the floor, rub my temples and try to regain my wits. Three stops later, the cognitive pistons are firing again, at which point I realise I’m on the wrong train, heading in the opposite direction to my destination, which as you must be able to imagine is a real fucking radioactive spanner in the whole mechanism! It turns out the whole MASOCHIST incident – for which I don’t have a name yet, I’ll leave that up to you – with all the corkscrewing and bafflement, managed to situate me on entirely the wrong platform. By the time I got back to anywhere near here, I was running so late that I’d built up a considerable sweat. So all in all you can perfectly understand that I’m feeling a little spiky when it comes to the subject of my mother, what with how she ruined my day and caused a pile of tiny little things and encouraged aggressive/feral canine predators towards the door and then made me perspire humiliatingly.

-    Adam, I think that’s enough for today. Why don’t you go home and rest? I’ll see you next week, shall I?

-    Oh yeah rest, yeah, that’ll do it. Nice bit of rest, well it sounds easy b—

-    Next week, Adam.

-    Next week, yeah. Next week.

Mark Wood

© 2014