14 January 2008

a new life - part 3


Francis liked this café, it was old, dirty and usually quiet. He stared out the window, absently stirring his coffee even though he didn’t take sugar. He was thinking about his grown up children (a boy and a girl he felt sure) but whenever he tried to visualise their mother he saw a face out of focus.

Today he had been out walking but the rain had forced him indoors. Two office girls burst in shaking off their umbrellas as they slid into a booth opposite him. Their heads were almost touching as they giggled, sharing confidences. I bet they are laughing at me. To give his presence some authenticity, he began studying a dog-eared menu with no intention of eating.

Little by little, pieces of his past were falling into place. He remembered the layout of a large house and in his mind’s eye he moved from room to room, peering into the corners, searching for more clues. He knew how to drive a car, he knew because he practised manoeuvres and gear changes in his head. He had been a bank clerk. The truth is, he was scared to remember more. Closing off unpleasant realities was safer, yet he remembered more than he was choosing to admit. Sometimes he caught himself balancing on the edge of memory’s precipice, one slip and he could free-fall into total recall. There was horror lurking in that black abyss.

“Refill?” A young waitress in a blue check coat was hovering beside him, her steaming metal coffee jug poised.
“Refill before we close?”
“Sorry, I was day-dreaming…” Francis put a hand over his mug. “No thanks. See ya.”

He walked fast in light drizzle. The staff at St Agnes dolled out a little pocket money each Friday and he would be there to collect his. It wouldn’t do to be late.

***

Take your time… Francis, take your time. There’s no hurry old chap,” said the doctor.
Oh but there is, I’m 49 already. He was racing through a test paper, a kind of questionnaire designed to exercise the memory. He had never believed these tests were innocent and today he felt sure there were trick questions intended to catch him out. His paranoia bone itched. They are looking for inconsistencies. They think I’m faking.

He always rushed the tests, hoping to give the impression they didn’t matter to him. But a test means marks. Marks mean pass or fail. There would be consequences. If they ever guessed he had begun to retrieve his past he would be out on his ear. For now it seemed prudent to stay in this safe place while he formulated a plan.

***

He could see out of his high window if he climbed on the table. Autumn leaves swirled and danced on the grass below. On the horizon were the roof arches of Waterloo Station.

791. The numbers just came into his head. A locker combination for left-luggage.

Last night’s dream had been the most vivid. He was running helter-skelter along a railway platform, gripping a small heavy backpack with one hand and pushing travellers aside with the other. Head down he sprinted past blurred posters and lines of commuters. He was leaning forward to the brink of balance, running out of control and his pursuers receded in the crowd behind him. As he slowed a line of grey lockers came into focus. He dropped to a walk and looked about him. He slammed the backpack into an empty locker and snapped his padlock on.

Hands on knees, gasping for breath he felt suddenly very sick. Abruptly he stooped over a waste bin and spewed his breakfast, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. His heart hammered then suddenly behind him came the shriek of a whistle. He broke into a fast run again, sprinting toward the station’s exit gates. Bright sunlight dazzled him as he burst onto the street...

Francis jolted awake to the drone of his alarm clock. Red digits 7am.

20 comments:

Queen Neetee said...

Once again, very well written. More and more is being revealed about this man who thinks out every little thing that can possibly be thought of. Inch by inch we're being led into his complex life.

I'm peaking through my fingers!!

fathorse said...

Oo-er, a mystery...

I'll tell you what would be a GREAT twist - if he finds out he's a CIA hitman and lost his memory after failing a mission, meets a beautiful french woman, takes her to india, loses her to an assassin...

No wait, hang on...

Hurry up with the next one PV!!

cocaine jesus said...

blimey o'reilly. neat writing. fab finish. feel like a fish on the line.
stroll on the next part!

Perfect Virgo said...

Neetee - Oh yes, the devil's in the details and he is definitely one for details. I am keen to find out in the end if you think this works a story as it's hard to decide how much to leave unsaid. Meantime, I'm delighted you're enjoying it.

FH - hey, have you been reading ahead? Well you're wrong! I trust you prefer your mysteries a little on the mysterious side...

CJ - stay on the line my friend, I'll try and reel you in. (I love your excellent interjections - you remind me I'm English!)

cocaine jesus said...

top hole wot!

Michelle Dawn said...

"To give his presence some authenticity..." How many times have I done this?

As a thinker and a dreamer I often find myself lost in my head while trying to appear occupied with reading, etc. so co-workers won't disrupt me with their silly small talk.

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fathorse said...

What the fuck was all that??

Perfect Virgo said...

That, my dear Steph, was the rantings of a pretend holy person. Some arsehole who thinks it's funny to push his unsolicited views onto me. I have 2 choices:
1. retaliate but he will thrive on that.
2. ignore but I am furiously angry.

So what do you think I shoud do with this wrinkly old Aussie scrotum?

Michelle Dawn said...

Mickey needs to get laid.

boulies said...

I feel like I'm on a high wire with this. The tension has me grinding my teeth. Really riveting writing. All the little details are so realistic.

Perfect Virgo said...

Boulies - another reference to realism! I'm glad you are finding this credible. Don't bite down to the bone though, you may damage your writing hand!

boulies said...

Or my writing might loose it's bite!