Continuing our series of short fiction set in, or influenced by London. This week, Tom Mitchell offers something, well, a bit surreal.
An Extract from the Diary of Kay Richardson, Actor
Trauma. Pain. Distress.
It is now twenty past five, Friday evening. I am about to retire to my bedroom and sleep until I wake. I hope there come no dreams. Not even sexy ones.
For today was fashioned in the depths of hell by bad-boy Lucifer himself. I feel half a man. Reduced, Richardson-lite. Losing consciousness is the only escape.
Last night is to blame and last night was a crazy, bitchin’, hot shit type of night. One might even describe the evening as BONKERS. I wouldn't. It is not a word a man such as myself should use. I am no ‘Dizzee Rascal’.
This velvet (sic.) Friday morning, I woke in an empty, mysterious flat. I wasn’t where I should have been - in Lee, SE London, in bed. The place was also fucking freezing. Unlike Lee. The room in which I regained consciousness held no furniture. An empty room. I had slept, curled, on the unforgiving carpet-less floor. Like a dog. A greyhound. Cold, white light flooded from the bare windows, encouraging my skull-pain. My mouth tasted of cigarettes, my shirt - speckled with sick and blood and black stuff. I was disturbed to find I wore no trousers. My pants, thankfully, were intact. Small mercies, Reader.
A quick recce of the flat revealed it to be wholly empty of life, save for me. A most troubling situation. A secondary recce (secce) revealed the flat empty too of my trousers. I stood in the small, white and DIRTY kitchen, drinking brown water from the tap when images of the night before flashed across my dulled mind.
Trousers off, twirling trousers above my head. Shouting. Banks of faces watching blankly. Gay Tom, turning, telling: 'it’s only quarter to eight, check yourself’. A bouncer approaching, mean-faced.
Later – walking London streets alone. Lost. A sudden compulsion to remove trousers again. For what reason, who knows or dare ask?
Much later — a dance-floor. Wearing trousers, but DIFFERENT trousers. Talking to a girl who thought me a girl. I'm not a girl.
And so I left the flat. Thrust into an area of London unknown. Acton Town: wtf? Outside, in the suburban street, I stood paralysed by geography for six whole minutes, praying that someone I knew might materialise. Miracles happen – ask the Pope.
Six minutes later, I boarded a bus claiming to be heading towards Westminster. I hate public transport — to journey upon it is an admission of failure. My wallet contained only two pound eight three pence, however. I had no choice.
Before leaving the mysterious flat, I had searched through the myriad of Ikea cupboards in the bedroom for something in which to wrap my legs.
These wardrobes were full of frilly shirts (the flat of a dandy, perhaps) but as trouserless as my legs. I could only find cycling shorts. Having no alternative, I was forced to wear them. They were NEON GREEN. I see them now, Reader, in my memories. And I shudder.
I know not in whose flat I woke up. I sincerely hope I didn't drink to such excess that I murdered its tenants. This is not a joke. I really hope I didn't. There were slight traces of blood on upon my shirt. I may ring the Police to check that nobody was murdered last night in Acton Town, just to be sure. I’ll do it from a phone-box. Murder leads to short-term celebrity, but long-term unemployment.
The bus’s display hadn’t lied and after forty minutes of travel, the big red double-decker rolled past Trafalgar Square and I jumped out. Spanish tourists and pigeons and noise. Although conscious of wearing tight neon-green cycling shorts with a white dress shirt, suit jacket and EXPENSIVE SHOES, I was more conscious (monscious) of the hollow hunger pulling at my guts.
Solution: buying a MEATBALL sandwich from Pret and eating it over The Guardian outside the National Gallery like a sophisticate. London’s temperature was penguin-worryingly cold, but the pain of the hangover distracted my careless body for I worried not for my heat. In fact, all was going (relatively) fine.
Until, that is, I was approached.
“Kay? Kay Richardson?”
A punter wanting an autograph, I thought. Then I realised I wasn’t yet famous.
I looked up. It was my downstairs neighbour. The one with the explosive nose. She stared at my groin, the tightness of the Lycra giving the contours a pornographic tint.
“Hello,” I said and tried to subtlety position The Guardian over the delineations of my genitals. “What are you doing here?”
I even smiled.
“Taking my parents to the gallery,” she replied.
Two serious tweedy people to her left. A man shaking his head. A woman looking elsewhere.
“Well…have a nice visit,” I said, summoning as much enthusiasm as a Lycra-clad, hung-over actor in Trafalgar Square talking to his downstairs neighbour can.
They left. Downstairs neighbour said:
“He’s the one I was talking about.”
The father asked if I always wore such clothes, as they moved out of earshot. He asked if I were “one of those”.
I threw down The Guardian and finished my meatballs with a flourish.
It was a subdued train journey home to Outer Blackheath. Thankfully, the train carriage was empty. Nobody else had the opportunity to complain about my shorts.
I burnt them in the sink on returning home. It felt good and I felt potent.
Reader, read well, for there is a moral here. Red wine mixed with vodka and Kahlua in one glass makes for a PAINFUL (trouserless) evening.
My 'phone does now hold one extra number, however: SONYA. Memory fails me, but I expect 'SONYA' was one hot lady. If only I could remember...
And so to bed.
Submissions for this column should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Entries must be no more than 1,000 words, and must be set in London, or strongly inspired by the city. Full details here.
Previously in this series
- Amelie: Narges Rashidi considers the interactions of three people on a District Line tube.
- Old Nichol: Jill Fricker evokes the woes of the old East End.
- Compatibility: Stephen Lynch conjures the awkwardness of flat hunting.
- Two Four Eight: Lance V Ramsay envisions an Orwellian dystopia in the lingo of future London.
- Shelter Drawings: Stuart Snelson’s tale of a mysterious Circle Line artist.
- Harvest Festival: A spooky Halloween tale in the London suburbs by Helen Craig.
- Jazz Code and the Tube: The ambivalence of dating, by Jenny Mackenzie.
- Bishopsgate: Oliver Zarandi visits the site of a bomb.
- A Free Man: Melanie White’s flash fiction piece considers a recently single guy at a bachelor party.
- Tracks and Albums: Richard Lakin attracts the attentions of the British Transport Police.