In What With Who?

There he stands, words so simple and clever.
Failed smart shark or pretty pathetic pig
declaring ‘we’re all in this together’.

Powerless people protect each other;
the phrase’s first impression. The big
community, words so simple and clever.

She’s poor, pays rent, a roof for her daughter.
Expectations of a tree on a twig.
Helpless but ‘we’re all in this together’.

She takes trips to the benefits centre –
condemned for taking drops from an oil rig.
They’re twisted, words so simple and clever.

She voted for him, thought he’d deliver
for her family, but now money digs
debt deeper. ‘We’re all in this together’.

His number is ten; a tiny tower,
his life lovely. Lying lion or sick pig?
There he stands, so simple and clever,
declaring ‘we’re all in this together’.

Nothing To Say

Every Friday night, I see a couple come into the local restaurant. By the hairs growing on their moles and their wrinkles, I’d say they’re in their early sixties. The man always wears a grey suit with a coffee stain on the left side and the woman wears the same dress that she has worn every Friday night for the last month. He has a grey, wiry beard and she has glasses on a chain, resting on the very tip of her nose. The man pulls the chair away from the table for his wife to sit down. Then he sits down and, when they are both sat down, they sit in silence.

The man drums his fingers on the table to a basic rhythm. I always think about how I’d hate to tap my fingers on a table for as long as he does; they would begin to ache. He continues because he does not mind his fingers aching or becoming numb. It is much preferred to the numbing silence he is terrified of hearing. He continues drumming until his wife glares at him and then he stops immediately. A few minutes later, he opens his mouth but no words make their way past his crooked teeth. He closes his mouth again and runs a hand through his dyed, black hair.

Seeing her take off her wedding ring and aimlessly roll it between her hands, the man begins to play with the candle holstered in the table, hovering his hand above it. Lowering his palm just enough to feel the heat, he asks whether he has told he how pretty she looks in that dress. A few minutes later, she sighs and nods her head and her jowls flap. Nervously, he asks if it is new. A few minutes later, she shakes her head and her jowls wobble.

He sees that she is bored, as she traces her finger around the lipstick stain left on her wine glass. She is bored and this makes him nervous. A few minutes later, he asks what she thinks she’ll order.

“Everything here tastes bitter,” she sighs.

The only sounds now are the reluctant clang of knives and forks on plates and his loud chewing. Without another word uttered, they finish their meal, pay and leave. I’ll see them again next Friday.

Receptionist

Mary was hypnotised by boredom; she looked at how the second hand traced its way around the clock at the other end of the empty reception room. A flicker from a nearby oil lamp drew her attention and she began to slowly flicker between the stone floor, Mr Pease’s office door, the open front door, the window near it (giving a view of the street) and finally to her desk. Her out-tray full, Mary picked up her Emma Goldman article and began to reread it.

After a few minutes, a noise crept through the open door. Mary looked outside the window. A group of women on the street were shouting. Two pushed flyers onto people walking past and another waved a placard. Before Mary could read it, a car pulled up outside the building, blocking her view from the window. She saw a man leave it, shout over the top of the car, cross the road and waddle into the building.

He looked to his left and frowned at the clock. He looked to his right and frowned at Mary, before walking towards her.

“Tell me,” the man’s voice was as gruff as a battered cliff-edge, “is Jack in?” Mary found herself inches from the man’s pointed finger and wondered how a nail could have such a potent odour.

“Sorry?”

“Jack? Is Jack in?”

“Do you mean Mr Pease?” Her eyes worked their way from his gnarled hands, to his tweed suit, to his unruly collar, to his disapproving face. She thought it was a strange face; it looked like a sheep desperate to be a wolf.

The man snorted. “He’s invited me. Check your papers.” He moved his finger away from Mary’s face and went to place it on the appointments book, before the Goldman article, sitting next to the book on the desk, caught his eye. “Oh bloody hell, not you as well? Those women outside are bad enough.”

Mary looked him in the eye. She stayed silent.

“Check your appointment book. I should be marked as ‘Horace Vachell’.”

Mary stayed silent.

“Useless. I’m going in. Hold this for me.” He took off his coat and held it out to her.

Mary stood up, took her bag from under her desk, tucked the article away and made her way to the front door. She had a flyer to pick up.