Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Dreamer: Part One

 This is a story I wrote last year for my creative writing course. If I could design my life I would become a published novelist one day, I would love to see my name on the cover of a book and spend my days typing away in my own time about things I really want to say.
Anyway I hope you enjoy this first half, the second half will be along shortly. 

(Image source)

 The Dreamer

Everything in my flat was saturated with must and mould, dim corners dimpled like paper when gently pushed and the wallpaper itself sagged as though weighed down by the floral vines on its surface. I pulled on wet socks from the pile of dirty clothes beside the bed, my left toe stuck out through a worn hole and they clung to my feet uncomfortably. Even the second hand dress I pulled over my head had its own new tinge of must and it had clearly shrunk in its latest date with the Laundromat dryer; I tugged at its hem.              Crossing the kitchen floor my feet squelched wetly on the greying lino, figures and faces always peered grimly at me from the burn marks and indentations that floor had accumulated with years. With the jug switched on I watched the steam and imagined it actively sinking into books and swelling the doors so they would stick in their frames. As it boiled some new variety of fungi on the edge of the bench caught my eye. Maybe I should have plucked out the small brown suckers and been revolted at their texture and their dirty, earthy smell; but instead I took last night’s teabag off a chipped saucer and stewed it with hot water. The tea had a mouldy taste as it turned over my tongue.
            I sat at the table with the newspaper. It started to rain and the sound made me shiver and notice my bare legs. The Star Post had a minuscule job section and I trawled its small columns, Experienced Swim Teacher Required. I recalled my own swimming lessons, the floundering, the choking gasps and the swim teacher’s overweight daughter showing me the perfect example of floating. No, I didn’t think swim teacher was a viable option. My toe, the one that stuck out, ran over a rough spot on the floor. The phone rang once and then again, I rushed over and clamped the plastic to my ear.
            “Hello?” there was a heavy breath buzzing through the telephone wires. “Hello?” a click and the absent tone hummed.
            I let the phone drop, it bounced against the cupboard on its spiral cord and I left it hanging there like a broken yo-yo and went back to the paper. The single ring that adorned my finger glinted faintly in the dreary light. I took it off and rolled it along the table, really it was just a bit of tubing found on the street, but it fitted my finger and I liked to pretend a boyfriend had given it to me. The fibres of my sock pulled on the uneven patch of floor. The pouring rain made me feel like a child stuck inside, so very trapped and passive, the feeling was so strong it had a smell, like damp shoes and toast and plastic.
               Downstairs in the flat below, the sounds of someone moving in reached me; a couple of loud bangs echoed in the high ceiling, a few masculine expletives; Human Resources Administrator the newspaper read. Even the ad had a tedious, orderly look about it. It continued drip outside and I thought of rain songs, bumped his head and went to bed...,my toes had worn away a little at the rough spot, Rain, rain go away..., it was spongy and my smallest toe sunk in.
            I abandoned the newspaper and crouched between the table legs. My fingers scuttled to the hole and my nails clawed at the soft surface. It felt like I was ripping some living being apart, like opening up a wound in the belly of my floor. Wood turnings scattered round me, they looked like nail clippings. I stuck my finger in and pushed; the sponginess collapsed into crumbling grit, like sawdust, and below that a portion of rotten wood gave way. I sprawled out of my stomach and put my eye to the small hole. On the floor in the flat below I could see the crumbled piece of floor board; however I felt sure in the chaos of boxes below me it would go unnoticed. The room was bigger than mine, it must be one of the flats that had been done up, as the paint looked fresh and clean; eventually they would ask me to leave so the same could happen up here.
            Moving men came into the large living room, they crouched and lifted mechanically. I could see inches of hairy back and legs and dirty faded clothing moving like pull string toys. They left and for several minutes I stared down into the room with the dust and the stack of pale brown boxes; with childish impatience I started to count them, thirty six. They now carried things that could clearly not be boxed, furniture, appliances and other, odder things. There was a taxidermied miniature pony, a man-sized kite and several odd sculptures. Hints of other, presently indefinable things, passed by the cut-out of my vision and I imagined it as a parade with the dust as confetti and myself, the watching crowd, cheering internally with delight.
            The faded, hairy men let out a collective sigh as they placed down their last loads and the mechanical unity, that once defined their bodies, relaxed. One sat on a box, got out a pouch of tobacco and busied himself with the precision of rolling a cigarette; another leaned against a heavy metal frame and dragged out some sandwiches; yet another pulled out a bulky cell phone.
            “Boss. Yep, nah, yep. All done eh.” There was a long, muffled, electronic reply. “He’s not here eh, just taking smoko now. If he doesn’t show up in five, I’ll just leave Jimmy here. Sweet.”
            They sat for several more minutes; the man with the sandwiches finished them and rolled the gladwrap into a small sticky ball. The one with the cigarette smoked it with efficiency and I, above, muffled my coughs from the ashy fumes, the one with the cell phone called ahead to their next job saying they would be there in half an hour.
            “Jimmy, stay!” he pointed his phone at the one with the cigarette the others laughed “Good boy!” they ambled towards the door; one kicked a box with spitefulness. “Oi!” said the one with the cell phone and then they were gone, leaving only a sweaty odour and Jimmy behind. He rolled another cigarette.
            The door opened and a man came in. He walked with such confidence, his dark hair was wavy and his clothes looked so expensive that he would not have looked out of place in an advertisement. His eyes seemed to pierce all he saw and my heart fluttered as he looked up and around the room; it felt like he could see me.  He strolled over to Jimmy, who leaped up and referred to a thin piece of paper, maybe a receipt.
            “Mr Logan? Hi, I’m one of the movers,” he put out his hand but it was ignored by the striking Mr Logan.
            “Have you been smoking in here?” it appeared to be a rhetorical question because he left no pause. “Leave the bill on the table on your way out would you.”
Jimmy walked out quietly and closed the door tentatively. Mr Logan surveyed the room again, lay down a case he was carrying and started to push a large floor-to-ceiling shelf further along its wall. He grunted as he pushed it and slowly it scraped across the floor, he placed a tapered ladder up its length. There were many compartments in the shelf and each section had a small hole in the back. He spotted the dented box that the mover had kicked and rubbed at the side with a sigh; pulling out some scissors he ran the blade along the packing tape with a loud zipper-like sound. There were three of four telephones inside the box, one was pink and had a holder over the top for the receiver, it looked quite old, another was modern and cordless and another was wooden and large and boxlike. The pink one had a crack from the kick, I could see it, even from above; perhaps the old plastic was quite brittle. Mr Logan ran his fingers along it gently as though soothing a wound. I could not help but imagine his large hands running over my skin in the same calming fashion.
             Another box was unpacked, and yet another, until the floor was covered in what might have been the history of telephones. There was over a hundred, he even had a telegraph with worn finger holds from many hours of tapping. He placed each one in a section of the shelf; there seemed to be some sort of order, because he took a long time doing it. I wondered why he had so many; maybe he was a telephone thief who went around small country museums coming up with elaborate schemes to steal more. Eventually every shelf except the top right one, the one nearest to me, was filled. He disappeared and I heard his footsteps go towards the kitchen, he came back with the phone that was already in the flat; it was grey and compact and its cord dragged behind him. He climbed the ladder and placed it in the empty compartment. He was so close I could smell the wet wool of his jersey and the soapy odour of his hair, three small moles were on his cheek; I held my breath so it wouldn’t be heard. Mr Logan dialled.
            “Hello, yes this is William Logan, yes, that’s right, I would like to set up one hundred and thirty six phone lines in my apartment. Yes. No, don’t put me on hold... ugh”
            William, his name was William.
            “Hi. Yes. William Logan. Yes. No, today, I can pay double what it is worth to have it done this evening. I understand that. Look, can I talk to your manager? Thank you... Hello, William Logan, and who is this? Hi Betty, I would like to set up one hundred and thirty six phone lines in my apartment. Yes, I realise that but I will pay any price to have it done today. Please don’t—ugh.” I assumed he had been put on hold again because he started humming Moon River.
            “Hello. Right, yes Logan, with an ‘A’. Sure I realise that. No, whatever you think is fair; I’ll leave that up to you. It’s apartment seven, at number fifty six Acacia Street. I will be out but I will leave a key under the mat. Ok, thank you very much. No any phone numbers will do. If they could label...? Yes. Perfect. Thanks, bye.”
            William climbed down the ladder, pulled out his keys and left. With the lights out it was hard to see as the light was dimming for the evening. My stomach growled at me as though there was a monster living in the pit of my gut angry at my negligence, hissing and writhing with snakes for hair. I had been watching for half the day, hours had ticked by and I had been unaware. When I got up my body was stiff and my hip bones ached from the hard floor. I fixed dinner, there was half a can of baked beans in the fridge to heat and I spooned them out trying to avoid the blackened sauce crusted at the top of the can. There was some pumpkin that I scrapped the mould off and boiled. I ate and was alone in an quiet, though it was not a real silence; the dull traffic noise drilled at me and the rain continued to pound at the window. I tried to search the newspaper again but the words left meaningless trails through my mind as my eyes struggled to follow the lines. I boiled the jug for the dishes to save power and scrubbed the plates in the light of the street lamp outside. The bench curved up at the edge catching a pool of water that soaked into my front as I leaned forward. A small cup of tea and a half filled hot-water bottle came from the remaining warm water in the jug.
            The people from the telephone company must have arrived; I could see light glowing from the hole underneath the table, but I didn’t really want to watch them. I replaced my telephone receiver and stared at it for a while, but it remained silent. Voices volleyed back and forth below and the glow from the hole looked golden, warm and inviting in my grey street-lit flat.
            I took a cushion from a chair and put it under my stomach as I lay down again and started watching the men in blue uniforms drill into the core of the building and thread wires in and around as if they were stitching it together. I fell asleep to the sounds of them sewing and splicing.

To Be Continued...

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