Another day and another pound or two in debt. Donald’s world-weary expression was more deeply ingrained by the day. The practice had certainly paid off.
Most of the post was on the dirty carpet, bills, TV Licensing threats, bank statements, all disregarded as junk mail. Not even worth picking up let alone throwing away. A small glossy flyer still hung in the letter box though and Donald grabbed it merely to see if he could catch it before the door fell back into its hole. Not a big achievement. But an achievement nonetheless. He waded through the rising tide of paper that littered the floor, sat at the table, lit a cigarette and surveyed the flat.
On the top floor the flat offered little protection from the elements. In the summer it was like a greenhouse. And in the windy season the walls vibrated and the roof shuddered. It howled through windows and whistled through the doors at randomly varying pitches and rhythms, not unlike jazz, only more musical. The water in the toilet bowl became tidal and you’d be lucky to use it without getting splashed by its violent waves.
In 1970s America, NASA sent Voyager 1 off into outer space, even making it turn around several years later and snap a photograph of the earth from a distance of some 3.7 billion miles away. In 1970s Bogcragston, the company commissioned to build Apollo Towers couldn’t even make a flat that worked properly.
On top of that a few ‘improvements’ only made matters worse. Not only was Donald’s father an orthodox Anglican minister, but he was also something of an unorthodox DIY expert. George had a peculiar method for reaching up; he would hunch himself down and raise his hands. His unique ‘upward crouch’ may have contributed to the doors not quite closing properly, the toilet needing an extra flush and the shelves sloping in different directions.
Donald inhaled deeply on the cigarette he was only barely conscious he was smoking and he looked at the flyer he had been equally unaware he was holding. Estate agents regularly expressed their interest in other people’s homes in such a crass manner. But this time the words showed more promise. Donald flicked his ash, only missing the ashtray by a few inches, and glanced over in Kyla’s direction.
Sitting silently just 3.7 feet away, Kyla looked fraught.
Her dad had felt it necessary to make his own contributions to the flat despite strong discouragement. Alf was an interesting man whose voice and mouth were always slightly out of synch with each other. A good trick if you can do it. But in Alf’s case not good enough to distract from his inadequacies as a carpenter.
An avalanche of musical notations and orchestral scores sprinkled across the floor was a filing system that Kyla understood completely. Authentic Omnidowns woodwork in the vague shape of a filing cabinet was not. Merely another object to rattle in time with the gales. Or indeed to rattle whenever you walked passed.
Kyla finished her glass, unsteadily placed it back onto the table next to the empty wine bottle, brushed the cigarette lighter to one side and picked up the letter she was now finally inebriated enough to open.
Her audition with the Capital Symphony Orchestra seemed to go well at the time, the Principal Cellist was encouraging and the conductor wasn’t completely off-putting. The contents of this envelope would tell her just how well it went, and would decide the next direction of her life one way or the other.
She took a deep breath and looked over towards Donald, “It’s now or never,” she said slightly unsteadily.
Donald was distracted by his own uncertainties and simply grunted, “OK.”
Both were betwixt the then and next and things were becoming increasingly fractious.
Having only wafer-thin walls separating their adjoining flats meant that they had lived in dreadfully close proximity for the last seventeen-and-a-half years. Oh, they’d seen each other through their windows, and even windscreens, but not once had they actually met, let alone had an inkling that they were next-door neighbours. Not once had they even passed each other in those grim foreboding brick corridors that the estate agents always played down. They hadn’t so much as seen each other through the spyholes that were located at exactly the wrong heights in their front doors.
Never the twain shall meet. At least not these twain.
Copyright © 2014 M J Race
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