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The pleasures of reading short stories
The clouds were so low and so grey that you could see the fungus clinging to the corners of the sky. The mist had that dreadful supernatural quality of penetrating clothes instantly making everything that awful word- ‘moist’.
She was edging the lawn and would be for the rest of the day; possibly the week. She would have liked to listen to Radio Four but Arthur was also edging and he would like her to listen to him.
She was only half listening to him, thinking of the book of short stories by Elizabeth Taylor she was reading. The wonderful way she summed up a character with just one of two beautiful phrases was so much to be admired, and practised.
Arthur was saying: “..You’re quite placid and quiet though..”
“Really,” she thought, smiling noncommittally, “I’ve got you all figured out though, Elizabeth Taylor style.”
Just then Arthur disappeared. There was a small popping sound and he was gone.
The dangers of short story reading
Nobody missed Arthur too much for a few days. The last thing she had put in place in her beautifully precise mental description of her ex-colleague was that he had less than perfectly hidden drinking problem and it turned out that he had gone missing for a few days together before when he was on a jag.
When he didn’t return and people did become concerned there was still no reason for her to be concerned about being held responsible; there was no physical evidence to link his disappearance to her.
Indeed, was she responsible for what had happened? She hadn’t wanted it to happen. There had been no intention to do anything but craft the perfect phrases to crystallise his character.
Should she tell her boyfriend? How would he react? He could be so anxious.
“The thing is,” she thought, “he’s not so much anxious as..”
..And with a pop, at his desk in work miles away, her boyfriend disappeared.
The social implications of reading short stories
When her boyfriend didn’t come home for dinner that evening she suspected. When he didn’t come home at all she knew.
She had go through the police process when he officially became a missing person. She had to face his family unable to tell them what she knew to be true.
She stopped working and stayed inside. She had to stop her mind working. She took anything that carried a warning that it would make the user drowsy and she mixed it all with alcohol to dull her mind.
In the beginning she watched a lot of television as she had read somewhere that it affects brain wave activity until someone on a reality TV programme mysteriously disappeared from a sunbed in Reading.
She worried what she might do in her dreams.
She tried desperately not to think of her family.
She went without sleep. She cut herself off as best she could.
Still, she had to eat, she had to buy food, she had to go out.
As she walked to the supermarket she tried to keep her eyes on the ground. Once or twice she looked up to see the way and someone caught her eye long enough for her to make an impression and they disappeared like the others with a gentle pop and a little smoke.
Perhaps in the end it became too much. Perhaps the lack of sleep and hope twisted her thinking.
She went to a pub and started to drink and just look around. One by one the other patrons popped.
“Perhaps,” she thought, “this world is a fiction and I’m sending them somewhere more real.”
She knew that wasn’t true.
“Perhaps it’s just not that important,” she thought and she hoped that wasn’t true.
“After all, if it was all that important how would all this be happening,” she reasoned.
“How could some one like me who is…?”
With a gentle pop and a little smoke the story was over.