As much as I admire Proust, I don’t actually want to be like him. I would rather people actually read things I write.
You’ll gather from this that my blog stats are in flatline mode, so I thought I would try my hand at a more controversial theme. I had intended to write a Halloween themed story, still inspired by my trip to Seattle this week, but the story which seems to have been produced is, dare I say it, a touch on the political side. Maybe I’m just tapping into the zeitgeist. I enjoyed writing it anyway, and it’s certainly different to last week’s flash.
This one really was the result of an encounter with a charity fundraiser and it was teeming with rain (this was Seattle). I would like to point out that I was not rude and that I give generously to charity back in the UK.
Let me know what you make of it anyway. I’ve included a not-subtle-at-all anagram to find as a Halloween treat. Probably easier to find if you’re on this side of the Atlantic.
And no, I haven’t read my Proust yet either. But doesn’t he look impressive up there next to Orwell?
On to the story…(it’s a bit longer than usual, which represents excellent value).
Don’t Bank On It
Toby Roy headed down the street, ducking under the awnings where he could to avoid the downpour. He had twenty minutes before his next investors’ conference call.
Approaching the corner, a dreadlocked youth waved a clipboard in his face.
‘Fuck off,’ barked Toby as he dodged past.
Ten metres on four more clipboard carriers stood, shoulders hunched against the deluge. Toby weaved his way through the slalom.
‘Out. Of. My. Way.’
He reached the crossing, impatiently willing the lights to change.
‘Excuse me, Sir. Could I have a moment of your time?’
Toby turned, venting curses.
The young man held out a leaflet, smiling.
‘I’d like to tell you about the-‘
‘Give me the pen,’ said Toby curtly, ‘where do I sign?’
Toby held out his hand, watching the lights.
‘But don’t you want to know what-‘
‘No, I do not. But if it stops you and your fellow work-dodgers from hassling me, I’ll sign anything you want. Pen. Give.’
‘If you say so, Sir.’
The man offered a shiny silver pen which Toby grabbed. He began signing his name.
‘Thank you, Sir, you’re very generous.’
As Toby finished with his usual flourish, he felt a tingling sensation surge through his arm and into his chest.
‘What’s happening?’ said Toby, as the street corner began spinning into a tall vortex, rain whipping his face like ice bullets.
‘I’m taking you on a journey,’ smiled the youth, ‘think of it as a field trip.’
‘I didn’t agree to this,’ shouted Toby, as they spiralled upwards.
‘Yes you did,’ shouted back the youth, ‘look, you signed the assent form.’
‘Where are you taking us? I’ve got important customers waiting for me.’
‘Ten minutes won’t hurt their profits much,’ said the youth, ‘ah, here we are. First stop.’
The vortex ceased spinning and Toby found himself near a long queue of dishevelled, shuffling tramps.
‘So? What is this supposed to be?’
The youth flipped through the leaflet.
‘”Your tour of shame,’ he read, ‘will take you first to a homeless shelter where you will have the opportunity to meet the desperate, made homeless by your rampant greed.”’ The youth looked at Toby. ‘Or so it says.’
‘I don’t know any of these people.’
‘And why should you?’ said the youth, ‘they’re nobodies. They know you though.’
Toby shifted uncomfortably.
‘Seen enough?’ said the youth. ‘Onwards then!’
The shelter disappeared as another vortex spun Toby vertically, forcing vomit into his mouth.
‘You might want to lose your jacket,’ shouted the youth, ‘it’s going to get terribly hot.’
They landed in a sweltering, windowless factory. Hundreds of sweating workers crouched low over ear-splitting sewing machines.
‘”Your tour continues in an Asian sweat shop. Here, you will witness workers toiling for a few dollars a day. Their efforts contribute to your investors’ profits.” And to the shirt on your back I should imagine,’ added the youth eyeing Toby’s collar with more than a hint of disdain.
‘This is all very interesting,’ said Toby, wiping beads of sweat from his forehead with a half-finished shirt grabbed from the nearest machine, ‘but nobody cares about all this.’
‘They do,’ said the youth looking out at the sea of workers, ‘but since you’re not interested, let’s move on.
The factory became a blur as Toby and the youth flew upwards once more, arriving seconds later in a dark and cold graveyard.
‘Well,’ said Toby impatiently, ‘are you going to tell me where we are?’
‘Certainly,’ replied the youth, ‘“The tomb stones before you represent the early graves of the thousands of people whose access to health services will suffer due to budget cuts caused, in part, by the banking crisis.”’
The youth looked at Toby Roy hopefully.
‘If they can’t help themselves, why should I?’ sneered the banker.
‘Oh I see,’ said the youth, ‘you think you’re immune to all this because you created it.’
‘If you like.’
The youth grabbed Toby’s arm and they immediately shot skywards.
‘Last stop,’ shouted the youth over the noisy rush of air. ‘You might want to cover your nose,’ he said, doing the same, ‘it can be a bit smelly.’
The pair now stood in a dimly lit room. A circle of tatty armchairs surrounded them, some occupied by grey-looking elderly residents, heads drooping in drug-induced sleep. An old man in a wheel chair mumbled to himself whilst trying to reach a cold cup of tea in front of him on a table.
‘Look closer,’ ordered the youth, pushing Toby forward.
‘Is this supposed to be a joke?’
‘Does it feel like a joke?’
‘This will never happen to me,’ shouted Toby, ‘I’ve got money, piles of it.’
‘Funny,’ said the youth, ‘nobody thinks it will happen to them. Until it does.’
‘Get me out of here.’
The youth nodded, sighing.
‘As you wish.’
Moments later Toby Roy and the youth were back on the corner. The rain still poured and the lights remained red. The silver pen in Toby’s hand hovered over the unsigned petition. He blinked hard and looked at the youth.
‘What did you say it was for?’
The youth smiled generously.
‘Do you have a minute?’
Toby glanced at his watch.
‘Yes, but I need to be back at the office soon.’
‘Let’s go over there out of the rain. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get people to listen.’
copyright: flyingscribbler 2010