Thursday, 5 March 2015

Little Miss Average

Average that's what she was, had always been. The average kid who was average at school. The average teenager, possibly a touch more responsible than her peers, but who still experimented with the latest fashion and make-up, and along with it nightclubs and alcohol. As an average young adult, she'd kept some of those habits up whilst holding down an average administrative job. She'd followed the set rules of home-commute-work-commute-home, as other averages had done before her, and like them saved her salary for her 'BIG NIGHTS OUT'. A Saturday, once a month with the girls. She became a member of a gym and added it to her schedule as if she were revising for an exam. It could not be put off, it had to be done. Every single day. Averagely, although she would strive for sweaty perfection. Pound away stress on the treadmill or cross-trainer; immerse herself in dance classes, forget about those around her and perform.
A baptism of rhythm and music.
A hamster exercising in a wheel, in a cage.
Too average to stand out from the crowd, as she didn't have a lot to say nor did she ever think to push herself forwards. She was just getting on with the average status quo. No burning ambition, no drive. A pastel shade of wallpaper that you might find in any average home. Magnolia. A pale English rose. With average looks and the average height for a woman. An average build. Typically blue eyed, but not typically blonde.
As you get older, the more average you become.
And so it was with her.
In her mid-30s the average looks were faded, nature gradually stripping them away, but by this point she had stopped being merely average. She owned an average apartment, but paid below-average bills, and had opted out of the average marriage with the average kids. She refused to be Mrs Average, preferring to remain little Miss.
She now avoided the gym, but still did the average daily fitness – a combination of average yoga with average pilates - with lots of walking thrown in as she refused to learn to drive the average car. Her average feet, she claimed, were made for walking! Her weekends were full of the average domestic chores: food shopping, laundry and cleaning; the evenings saved for the average television viewing in the ratings war. Her social life was about average for her age, far less boisterous than it had been in her youthful days, and the venues had changed to caf├ęs, restaurants and cultural settings.
Average she was still in appearance, but not in her attitude to paid work. She passed up opportunities that failed to meet her exacting requirements, that didn't give her essential 'ME' time. Time to volunteer, to read, to write, to learn, to create, to reflect. Some might complain she was inflexible, but the balance for her had to be just right. Rigor mortis in regards to compromising on this had already set in, which meant her mind was years ahead of her average peers and older generations.
But despite this growing intolerance for the hustle and bustle of life, she's still your average person: nice. Although there are days when little Miss Average has a little more bite.
A hamster freed from its cage to trundle around in a clear, minuscule plastic ball.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Go Fish!

The neighbour's Siamese cat was poised over the bowl again. Its stalking face peering at its swimming prey as its paw rippled the water's calm surface as if to say, 'What a nice day we're having trying to catch little goldfishes.' So intent was he that he didn't see the resident coming through to his conservatory to relax amongst his potted plants with that morning's paper.
Darn cat!” He whacked the table with the rolled-up Daily telegraph. "Get outta here, scat!"
The water in the fish bowl dangerously swayed like a huge wave which upset the goldfishes' leisurely stroke and made the Siamese cat leap in the air with an arched back and all its claws extracted as if it had only just realised it had been napping on a hot tin roof. A natural gymnast, it landed neatly and squeezed through the wedged open door and out into the jungle.
The man with his plump, soft hands, which his wife, God rest her soul, called her winter warmers, steadied the fish bowl. His blue eyes were magnified in the sturdy glass as he carefully inspected each goldfish, “Swim my pretties and let me study you,” he encouraged them, but apart from some stressful gasps there didn't appear to be any scratches.
Satisfied, he lowered himself into the white wicker chair alongside them and tried to return to his usual routine: the perusal of the Telegraph, followed by a spot of amateur painting, but found all he wanted to do was dream. About life before old age and retirement.
The goldfish, now graceful and calm, blew air bubbles at him and enabled his mind to drift... They turned into hazy gold flashes as his mind's scummy anchor was hoisted up. Eroded metal, crusty barnacles and slimy seaweed dredged unwanted memories from the ocean bed.
His wife's last uttered words stung him like a stinging nettle, instead of as he had expected a sharp puncture, and in a memory sea there are no waving dock leaves to rub away the irritation. He knew why he had placed those words of hers in an underwater castle - because like her, they had puzzled him; he hadn't known what to make of them then and he still didn't, and so like Bluebeard he had let those words of hers rot in a locked chamber. Crumble, decompose, disintegrate letter by letter. Or at least that's what he thought, but it seems they had outstayed his wife's parting. That rib of his was bone dust.
She had been a faithful wife and did everything he asked of her. Eventually. Sometimes caving in for a quiet life, but oh, she had a mind of her own, so that when he assumed he had won, he had really lost. Come to think of it, she was a bit like a goldfish, his deceased wife, in colouring and manner. Honeyed skin and coppery hair with an unsure look about her; often opening her mouth to say something and then closing it again, letting the silence remain unbroken. He knew she didn't always agree with him and only tolerated some of his habits, but she loved him in her own way, which was why it was so alarming when on her death bed her tongue lashed out like a sea serpent.
A lot of it had been incomprehensible gibberish, but the syllables ripped from her with unusual violence, her eyes red-rimmed and ablaze with a strange inner light. Her last words sounded as if they'd been torn from her voice box, “For balance and grace, go fish!” Then the light in her eyes had suddenly died and her quietened spirit had been snatched, the force of which lay her flat on her back stone-cold dead.
For a few months after her death, he had tried to find the meaning to her spewed secret. He'd spent whole days line-fishing; he'd eaten fish in some recognisable or disguised form at every meal, until one day carrying on in this way had seemed pointless, so he buried the information she had tried to pass on with his last regrettable image of her.
But his retirement last year, a good ten years after her death, had again unsettled him. Widowed from life, loneliness had seeped into him like a teabag left to stew for too long, and so to combat that he'd bought some goldfish. “Yes,” his dear wife whispered like a breeze from beyond, “you finally got it.”

*Picture credit: Goldfish by Henri Matisse

Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Go-Between

Cheesegrater to Gherkin: How do you feel about spaghetti? Over.
Gherkin to Cheesegrater: I like it with tuna, or black pepper, a knob of butter and a sprinkle of cheese. Al dente, plain and simple. Now you're talking! Over.
Walkie-talkie to Cheesegrater and Gherkin: Have you guys finished? I'm bored of transmitting this conversation...
Cheesegrater and Gherkin: Spoilsport!
Gherkin to Walkie-talkie: Yeah mate, some of us have a hot date! Is someone a little jealous?
(Gherkin croons) Will you be lonesome tonight...
Cheesegrater laughs.
Gherkin to Cheesegrater: See you at eight. Over and out.
Every day between the hours of 6am and 8pm the Walkie-talkie acts as a go-between; helps the Cheesegrater and Gherkin arrange their rendezvous, their dinner dates, for they were forbidden by the State to have contact, unless it was outside those set times. What would happen if they did had never been tried as each was scared of losing their privileged position in the London skyline, despite all three being agreed that it was a stupid work regulation.
The Gherkin could easily see the Cheesegrater, whereas the Walkie-talkie who had to play piggy-in-the-middle, wasn't even in the middle, he was the furtherest away, and what's more he couldn't stand all the smutty, fluffy dialogue that the pair often exchanged. He was however extremely grateful that he didn't have to be their voice and ears after Big Ben struck eight.
The Walkie-talkie occasionally wondered what it would be like to have a regular dinner date, but the one he'd had with the Eye had been a disaster. He'd been fifteen minutes early, she'd run forty five minutes late, and when she finally did show up she talked non-stop at him. Her verbal diarrhoea had been exhausting. But the problem right from the start was that she was an owl and he was a lark. As blind dates went, it was not a success. A second date was not on the cards, and it had slightly marred their professional relationship.
The Eye would now only send coded messages through him unlike her usual witty remarks, preferring instead to find another way to spread her malicious gossip. She failed to realise she'd hurt his pride, and yes structures do share that mortal feeling, as he remained silent on the subject and chose to abandon any regard for her he might have previously felt.
No, the Walkie-talkie would never again contemplate coupling with any London landmark, not even the Shard who was said to be asexual, which would have taken off the pressure. Playing matchmaker and 'agony uncle' was quite enough; he could do without romantic complications.
Okay, so not every day was hunky-dory, but on those rare occasions he would claim a bad line, a weak signal, or garble messages. It was one of his rights to do so, he felt. Technology was allowed a quota of malfunction days, like paid holiday, and so he felt entitled to use it without giving notice. Why not put a spanner in the works? And besides he really rather enjoyed messing up plans for the Cheesegrater and Gherkin, who were the most tiresome pair he'd ever had the misfortune to be the go-between for.
Gherkin to Cheesegrater: How would you like your burger tonight? Rare, medium or well-done? On a plain or sesame seed bun? Over.
Gherkin: Cheesegrater, do you read me? Come in Cheesegrater...Where are you?!
Ha, ha, the Walkie-talkie thought, that's another dinner date foiled.

Picture Credit: Peter Francis