Saturday, March 5, 2011


This is a story fragment from 2001. No idea where it was going to go. But I recognise the place: I lived there then. Also observe odd use of language... my English improved since.

Viviane Schwarz 2001

Two men were sitting on a bench in a train station.
One was thin, the other was not.
One had a suitcase, small and battered, sitting in front of him like a bald and faithful dog. The other had an umbrella, even though the sky was clear, the sun was shining, it had in fact not rained for several days.
They did not know each other.
Jackdaws were hopping on the rails, walking and folding their wings with an air of seriousness and determination.
They made the man with the umbrella feel idle. He frowned and gripped the handle more tightly.
"Are you waiting for the train?" asked the thin man with the suitcase. "It appears to be delayed."
The other looked up, surprised. "There is no train coming."
"Is there not?"
"This station has been dead for years. Look." He pointed to some small shrubs growing between the rails. "I'm just a bit out of breath. Needed to sit down."
"How peculiar," said the thin man. "I thought there would be a train. I must have been sitting here for hours."
The other man felt genuinely moved by this, just the idea of hours lost, watching busy birds. "That's terrible! - Where did you want to go?"
The thin man stopped looking at the shrubs and looked at the other man instead, with great interest, as it seemed.
"On the train."
The other shook his head. "Look, do you want to make a phone call? To tell them you will be late?"
"Tell who?"
"How do I know?"
"I am sorry," the thin man said. "You are confusing me."
"Don't worry. It's easily done."
"I would like to help you."
The thin man, who had not taken his eyes off the other for a second, smiled. His whole face crunched up in surprising ways. But he said nothing.
"Have you got a place to stay?"
"I was not going to stay."
"Yes, but you missed your train."
"But there is no train."
There was a short silence. Then the other said: "My name is Martin," just to say something that made sense.
"Edward," said the thin man. They shook hands.
"Have you had dinner?" Martin asked.
Edward shook his head.
"Come on, we'll get you some." When they stood up, Martin realised that Edward was almost a foot taller than him. The vertical distance made them walk in silence, because Martin did not want to embarrass himself by shouting upwards. The thin man took slow, long strides, looking around at every hedge, chimney and piece of grit. Martin made the metal tip of his umbrella click cheerfully on the pavement, to keep the silence away, but it only broke it up into smaller bits.
Edward began to hum a tune to the clicking rhythm, and then he sang, quietly:
"The birds in the trees
have feathers on their knees
the trees have leaves all over
the leaves are for rustling
the feathers are for fun
The knees are for not falling over."
Martin found himself clicking along, and to break the sudden bond he tried to make his steps fall out of rhythm, but only succeeded in doing something resembling a little jig, which harmonised quite beautifully with Edward's singing.
Edward smiled approvingly. "It's a good evening for dancing," he said. Martin feared that he would now start to dance as well, imagined the flailing of long, thin limbs, the hopping-about like a crow scaring worms, the clapping-of-hands. But Edward just walked on, his attention distracted again by a cloud shaped like a cloud, a speck of bird crossing it, a branch of a tree waving in some way or another.
It was not far to go to Martin's house, one in a long row of houses that had maybe one time all looked the same, but now resembled each other merely in the number of windows and the way they looked very old and solid, even the freshly painted ones, even the broken-down ones. These houses were lined in a long curve along the side of the river, which went on to join the sea a bit further on. There was a very nice view on clusters of fishing boats, many of them with the paint chipping off, half-filled with water and in danger of being tilted and sunk should a seagull choose to land on them. The water was green and littered with colourful buoys. Every house had a garden in front of it, decorated with topiary, or stone lions, or stray shopping trolleys, or a mixture of those and other things. Every house also had a conservatory, each one like a display case for the people living inside to show their wicker chairs, bottle collections, cats and lace curtains.


Dave Shelton said...

I like this very much, Viv.

Viviane Schwarz said...

Thank you! I sometimes like putting many words in a row. But they aren't often about humans.

Sarah McIntyre said...

This is great!