The company man’s GRV Corp. tie clip clanked against the smoked window of his car, a company car, as he stooped to unlock the door. He’d had the electronic key disabled after successfully copying the signal into his own home-made device—a kind of electronic skeleton key to be used for his own nefarious misdeeds—and now he trusted only the old, mechanical locks—customised by himself, of course. He slammed the door behind him with the vigour of a slaughterhouse meat-packer, cleaving into the first carcass of the day. The crack startled a cat that had spent the night down with the cars in the underground car park; it looked up from its breakfast: a skinny, bloodied mouse. Pressure often got the better of this company man, but at least he knew that a mind in equilibrium was essential for his line of work and accordingly his stress management skills were exemplary. He opened and slammed the door again as if to prove a point, cutting more bone. He followed up with his right fist—clawed, heavily ringed fingers—driving into the charcoal-coloured dashboard. ‘Bitch,’ he cursed the woman he lived with, grinding the word out of his smoker’s throat, noisily opening another pressure valve. He growled the word again, followed by her name, flung at the windscreen.
Feeling a little better, he put the pad of his thumb into the security lock; the device liked his print and blinked a green light. The company man twisted the key in the ignition and started the engine; pushing hard on the accelerator, he squealed the tyres as he let in the clutch. The cat was quick, but not quick enough in front of a fully revved-up V6 turbo-charged engine at the hands of a similarly wound-up GRV Corp. company man: Mason O’Keefe killed the cat. Continue reading
For no other reason than a profound taste for the absurd, Ivan Bidditch liked to trace back the important events in his life and discover the preposterous coincidences on which they depended.
At twelve …
At eighteen, he landed his first job because of a few lines in the small-ads of the local rag. The tabloid had been mistakenly dropped through his letter box by a spotty teen, who was covering for the regular paper boy, who the day before had forgotten his rain coat and had caught a chill . . . An unexpected rainstorm had determined his whole career. And what a career that was.
At twenty four, he was pressed by an overbearing aunt into attending an amateur-dramatics production of Alice In Wonderland at the local village hall. On his way there he was caught in a traffic jam, caused by an overturned muck-spreader, and arrived after the curtain had gone up. He was shown to an uncomfortable seat at the back and was soon joined by another late arrival, who a week later became his lover; a year later his spouse. A road plastered in liquidised cow shit determined who became his wife. And what a wife she was.
To Ivan, who took a demented view of the past, it sometimes seemed as if whole hideous periods of history turned on things as innocent as an early spring or a late train.
Six million Jews, he once figured out, might have survived the 1940s if the woman who later became Hitler’s mother hadn’t stopped on the way home because she liked peonies and met the man who introduced her to the man, who . . . A simple cluster of peonies growing in a window box—what a sight that must have been. Continue reading
The horizontal man twitched at the first ring and jumped up at the second; his naked feet stood snugly where his body had just lain, on a hand-woven carpet: Konya, Turkey, 1963. Carpets were still cheap in ’63, before mass tourism, and the lady of this house had certainly got a bargain. A master weaver created the carpet; and although she had ruthlessly cut the price beforehand, he, with the loving help of his family, had still put his heart into it and woven a work of art. Now it lay on the floor of a small room in her big Manhattan apartment, one of many items collected during decades of world travel.
Madame Boursicot began her sojourns in the 50s, when a moderate fund, left to her by a deceased relative, suddenly, and to Mme Boursicot inexplicably, enlarged itself many times, allowing her to cease gainful employment and become something of an aristocratic nomad. She unshackled herself from a pesky husband, who was unsuited to such living, and started with deltas; then deserts, high mountains and tropical islands; and finally, just a few years ago, third world cities — monstrous, sprawling metropili, the poorer the better. Continue reading