Have Fun

People are sitting next to me in this train.

Matt blinked at the text, and then typed out a tentative reply.

i mean
that’s usually how it goes on trains

The quickness of Sarah’s reply suggested she wasn’t reading, wasn’t writing, wasn’t doing her normal train activities.

Yes.
But there’s lots of them.
They’re so noisy.
And there is an odious smell.

Mark chuckled.

odious?
you’re such a fucking pretentious writer

Sarah’s reply was a middle finger emoji, and Mark grinned.

it’s not a long journey tho, you’ll be fine

WILL I????

stop overreacting

I am NOT overreacting.

Alright fine maybe I am.
But they’re drinking beer and being loud.
I’m going to deafen myself with how high my music is turned up, honestly.

you’ll be fine
anyway
i’m going into my meeting now
thanks for entertaining me

No don’t leave me!

have fun!

Mark turned off his phone with a smile, feeling much better about his shitty meeting. At least he wasn’t on a train.

-Maura Kenny

[20/02/17: Odious]

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Scotland’s Too Small

When I was twenty-years-old, I had no ambition. I was working at my dad’s garage and Falkirk was the only part of the world I needed. There was nothing I wanted past Stirling, and I felt happier that I’ve felt since. A few days after my twenty-first birthday, that all changed. Bethany was off to Australia with Graeme Walkinshaw.

‘The world’s too big and Scotland’s too small.’ That’s how she phrased it. She had ambition. I’m not sure where she found it. But that day, she handed it to me.

By the time I was twenty-five I had opened my first shop. There were warnings aplenty. It was expected to go the way every Scottish High Street premises tends to go nowadays, but I opened it up in Falkirk town centre. A clothes shop expected to be in tatters after its first month.

Instead, the business stayed in shape and shops darted across the country like thread from a sewing machine. As I tightened my grip on the country, all I wished I could do was tighten my grip on her once again, just for even one brief second. I was sure she’d hear of my success. But that contact never came.

I stayed in Falkirk all my life and married a beautiful local woman. The most beautiful, but she could never match my woman, who fled to Australia to escape. My world became wrapped in new business, my new life, my new love. But always hidden beneath the surface, occasionally bursting through the seams, was Bethany.

Time eventually healed over that past wound and she seemed no longer part of my life. But last week, I was in Sydney on a business trip. My wife was sleeping besides me but I couldn’t sleep after the flight. Flipping through the channels, I saw her face. The Australian sun and father time hadn’t been kind to her. She was heavily wrinkled and her voice quivered gently. She was not quite as powerful as she was before. I compared her to myself. I had become steadier, more confident with age, whereas these qualities had diminished in her. Nevertheless, the spark of love blasted in my heart.

She was beside Graeme and they were talking about the injustices of sweatshops.
‘These big companies have odious practices. There’s…’ An onslaught of successful clothes company names followed mine got honourable mention as one of the worse. She emphasised its name, almost savouring it.

I glanced across at my wife. Her steady breathing normally calmed me. But I couldn’t be calmed. In one sentence, twenty years of my life had been wasted.

by James Hunter

[20/02/17: Odious, ‘Fools Who Dream’- La La Land]

A Memorable Audition

The sheet that had been given to me said she wanted, no sorry, ‘needed’ a single spotlight just off centre. All these young actresses, no longer bright eyed and busy tailed, still looking at their lines and lyrics they’d been rehearsing all week, entering the theatre, adorned with modesty, and ‘yes sirs’, ‘no sirs’, ‘and thank you sirs’ before I’d even said anything.

Now…their faces are glued to their phone screens, taking pictures of themselves, pushing their tits up for a camera, strolling on to the stage like it owes them something, with no sense of awe; and no one says ‘sir’ anymore. There was no day I didn’t sit here, sweat dripping down my back because the manager wouldn’t get the fucking heating fucking fixed, that I wouldn’t take a gun, and mow down every damned girl, before, during, and after their audition, before topping myself for allowing them to enter this hallowed place. I no longer spent the night before researching the hundreds of girls, trying to get a head start on my first impressions. Every tune, every lyric, I dreaded. Today was no exception.

She came on to the stage, skittish like a deer who’d be spooked by a far off gun shot. Hers was the first ‘sir’ I’d heard in this theatre in almost a decade. She begged pardon for her hair, her clothes, and the plaster on her knee. Avoiding direct eye contact, she asked if she may give us all another copy of her résumé- I merely gestured for her to approach.

She returned to her single off centre spotlight, nodded to the pianist, and opened her mouth. Oh, how many years had it been since I’d heard that song? Every note, trickle of melody and harmony, came back to me. I could feel myself subconsciously mouth the words, a musical muscle memory. I hoped Jack and Dan didn’t notice this, nor the tears that had begun to roll down my cheeks, one even resting on the tip of my nose.

Each word that came from her mouth took me further and further back. I could see the open air cinema from our 30th anniversary, our 25th, 15th, 5th, all the way back to our very first date. Closing my eyes, I saw the night I proposed. We’d given up on the tent; he was just desperate to sleep under the stars anyway like he did when he was a kid. We left the car running, the radio playing for naught (a word he taught me) but our ears and the night. As soon as I heard this song, this same song that this ingénue now graced us with, I knew that I wanted to marry him. It took him ‘til the end of the song to say yes.

So many memories all woven into each sound, each key change and lyric, like a series of sentimental chords played alongside the melody. I could do nothing to prevent them from coming. It wasn’t until Dan budged me with his elbow that I realised that she was done.

‘Thank you, erm, Lydia, right? If you could just tell the next girl to come in, that’d be great, thanks.’ Dan looked at Jack; Jack looked at Dan, and they both looked at me. They shook their heads.

by James Reynolds

[20/02/17: Odious, ‘Fools Who Dream’- La La Land]