This concerns no one
On a lonely jetty at night, a man with no identity meets a man fleeing a deadly rumour and suggests they change places.
I can sleep in the wet, I can sleep in the cold, and the ebb and flow of the sea will subdue me even on the roughest of nights. But some jerk stomping along the creaking boards above my head, shouting and swearing at his mother and the world and God?
That would wake anyone.
He almost fell off the jetty with fright when I emerged like a troll from below. I was not sure if his grimace was because of my appearance or due to the unabating stench of fish and piss that saturated rock and bone.
He froze, staring at me; his pale, round face reflected the moonlight like a new road sign. Yet he did not look scared or in any anguish. He simply had the look of a man who had wandered into the wrong room and was standing awkwardly, waiting to be told to leave.
“Who you shouting at?” I asked him.
Despite the list of names he’d reeled off into the sea, he dropped his briefcase and shrugged. “No one.”
I offered my hand to him. “That’s me, friend. I’m No One.”
Rather than shake my hand, he pulled out a business card, as if he was selling something. He read it himself, to demonstrate the level of admiration it deserved, and then gingerly handed it to me.
Musician & Composer
We perched upon the support poles, as if in a deserted bar. I was still waking up and so had to concentrate on his moonlit mouth to follow every word, especially whenever the snooping wind snatched his voice in midflight.
“Smoke?” I asked, toying with an old lighter in my hands.
He shook his head. “I don’t want one.”
“You got one?”
He just shook his head.
I looked at the lighter before putting it away. It was a cheap one that used to have an image of Clint Eastwood in full cowboy regalia printed on the side; the man with no name. I kept it as a memento of my own forgotten name, which had faded from forms and my own memory just like the image of Eastwood on the plastic. It was also the last personal possession I owned.
I learnt far too late in life that if you don’t value something as much as someone else then they will step in and take it from you before you have a chance to think. Some sleazy charmer decided he loved my wife more than I did; Social Services decided they cared for my children more than I did; the bank decided it valued my house more than I did.
“Why would a man like you throw his life into the sea?” I asked.
“Because it no longer feels like mine,” he replied. “I don’t feel I have a life now.”
“You look alive to me. Unhappy, but still breathing.”
“You want to know what I did?”
“I mean, what reallyhappened. Not what they’re now saying. What I actuallydid.”
The wind feigned interest and so he continued.
“I handed in a lost case. That’s it.”
It had been a while since I had spoken with someone. I mean reallyspoke. Not just grunting my name or choosing between white or brown rolls to go with a bowl of tepid soup. Talking when you don’t know the outcome already, that’s real talking. It’s like chess; it’s talking that makes you think.
- Paperback: 150 pages
- Publication Date: 1 Mar. 2012
- Publisher: Rubery Press
- ISBN-10: 0955425247
- ISBN-13: 978-0955425240
THE TIPPING POINT
A collection of short stories that won and were shortlisted for the Rubery Book Award 2011. Every relationship and every story has a tipping point: a moment of clarity; a realisation that actions lead to consequences; a decision that can affect the rest of a person’s life. Each of these ten beautifully written stories reveals a new perspective on those tipping points. They are subtle and thoughtful, shining light into dark corners, presenting to the reader a rich slice ofcontemporary life. There’s something here to satisfy every taste. Truth can be found in the desert; in the face of rising flood water; within the darkness of encroaching Alzheimer’s; in the changing circumstances that come with age; in friendship across generations; double cross; murder; corruption on the border of Nigeria; lost opportunities; domestic abuse. Read them. Let them illuminate the dilemmas that lie at the heart of our existence and the tipping point that lies in wait for us all.