Monday, 5 September 2011

Story: Crisp Afternoon

It was five minutes to five o'clock and the afternoon was crisp. Yeah, he'd describe it as crisp, if he was asked. A bit chilly, maybe. A crisp, chilly autumn afternoon. Evening, even. Crisp enough to justify his overcoat. He was walking through the park, trying to focus on the cold, pretty light of the setting sun shining through whatever leaves hadn't fallen yet and not thinking about the different ways he could mess this up. He had a too-hot cup of coffee in his right hand, while his left hand was deep in his coat pocket, clutching his phone in case she tried to get in touch. He'd had too much coffee already today; his stomach was starting to complain. He might have to throw it away; it'd be embarrassing if his belly started audibly gurgling during the date.

He was pretty sure that this was what it was. A date. No, he was sure about that. When he'd called two days ago she'd sounded pleased to be hearing from him.

"Oh, hi! I was hoping you'd call," she'd said.

First hurdle, he'd thought.

He'd stumbled his way through the usual pleasantries, until finally he'd managed to ask her for a drink and make it clear that asking her for a drink was what he was doing.

"That sounds great, definitely!" she'd said.

He'd tried to match her level of excitement for the rest of conversation, which was actually pretty easy. She'd sounded pretty excited. They'd settled on this crisp, chilly afternoon when she got out of work. She worked at a café, though he'd forgotten which one. He was pretty sure it was nearby. They were meeting in the park round the corner from the tube station. He was early. He'd wanted to be early.

He took another gulp of coffee. Mistake. He grimaced and dropped the cup in a bin. The flimsy plastic top fell off and he felt a rush of shame as the coffee soaked through the rest of the rubbish. He moved quickly away from the bin and tried not to let this affect his mood. She'd been excited. She would be happy to see him. This would be good. He walked over to the park gate and wondered which direction she'd be coming from.

They'd met at a party about a week ago. Their one mutual friend had introduced them, and had conveniently left them alone quickly afterwards. After telling each other what they did and how they knew their friend they discovered they had several interests in common. After discussing the relentless cheeriness of Jonathan Richman, the uplifting power of Bruce Springsteen, and how much they loved the film version of Where the Wild Things Are, phone numbers had been exchanged before she was spirited away by her big sister to catch the last train home. He'd spent the rest of the party with a smile on his face, for which his friend teased him relentlessly.

"Hi!"

He turned, probably a little too quickly. There she was. She was wearing a big coat too, as well as a big cheery smile. He grinned, trying to keep it pleasant rather than scary. He tried to repress this thought. It would probably be best if he could stop worrying if he looked scary or not.

"Hi!" he said back. "How are you?" Pleasantries again. Pleasantries he could do. She gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. He was happy.

She knew a pub around the corner that she said was nice but not too expensive. They walked together out of the park and made small talk until they reached it. It wasn't too busy and smelled comfortingly like stale bitter. She let him pay for her drink on the condition that she would get the next round. He felt heartened that she had already decided she would stay for a second drink.

"So how was work?" he asked. He thought it was a safe question, one which would show that he cared (and he did, after all) and would be a good starting point for the conversation.

"Fucking awful," she said. He waited for her to elaborate on this and she smiled at him. "Fucking awful," she repeated. "But I'm really glad that I'm here now."

He grinned and didn't stop to think about whether it looked scary or not. And she grinned back. It wasn't long before they'd rediscovered the comfortable level of conversation they'd had at the party the week before. He would occasionally catch himself and worry if he'd said something that could be considered stupid, or inappropriate, but mostly he just talked and listened. He learned that she'd had a cat called Brian when she was younger, and they agreed that it was an excellent name for a pet. He told her that he had a fear of heights and she told him that it was sensible but impractical. She said that if they went anywhere high up she'd go with him to make sure he was alright.

And after a while he stopped worrying about what she would think about what he said. They just talked and laughed, and they took it from there.

-----

Hello there

So, as promised, here is my "pleasant" story. Hope you enjoyed it. It's pretty similar to another "pleasant" story that I have trotted out in the past to prove I don't just write sad, weird, gory, or upsetting stories. I mostly do. But I like to think that I don't have to. I think what happens is that if I start to think of a plot, then my natural instinct is to have it be...unfortunate for the characters. Which is why I wanted to keep this story as plot-less as possible. I was determined that this would be a nice story where both of the characters were happy. Which is also why it's quite a bit shorter than the other stories that have been on here. I was pretty confident that if I took it much further something awful would happen, and that shouldn't happen in a pleasant story. I'm not sure if this story is any good, it's pretty bloody twee, but I committed to an experiment, and here it is. As a short twee thing I kind of like it.

I'm always a bit cautious about putting details into stories. I think it helps if you can add something specific, but at the same time you don't want to alienate people who don't know what you're talking about (problem #395 of my Novel That Nobody Wanted). But everyone knows Bruce, I would have thought most of you reading this will have seen Where the Wild Things Are, and if you don't know Jonathan Richman go to YouTube or Spotify or, indeed, Amazon and check him and The Modern Lovers out. They are awesome. So yes, they are things that I like. But I have never met anyone with a cat named Brian, and I do not have a fear of heights. That I made up. I do drink too much coffee, though.

In other news, Benjamin Elias Sheppard of not-recently-updated Treppenwitz blog notoriety has told me to write a script. He's given me deadlines and everything. So I've dusted off an idea I had with Sheffield-ian in Paris Martin Parsons and am giving it a go. Ben can probably look forward to some missed deadlines.

Hope you enjoyed the story. Feel free to let me know if you didn't, or if you did.

1 comment:

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