A couple of years ago I tried to write a short story every day, starting on January 1st. Each tale would be a page in length, nothing more than 1,000 words. The idea was that I’d have an entire book, for people to read each day, calendar style. I was even in talks about making it a calendar, but these didn’t come to fruition.
I got to March 4th before life overwhelmed the project. Or perhaps I got lazy. I’d love to go back to it, it was terrific fun.
Anyway, seeing as those tales are sitting in the trunk, I might fire a few of them out. Here’s the first one looking at New Year’s Eve:
Dylan celebrated the first of his two birthdays with a cocktail on a first class flight he hadn’t paid for. No-one was any the wiser as to his provenance, although the clues were all there; the off-white pullover, the hole in the right sock, the glazed look he’d cultivated since a spell in the business lounge with its free peanuts and frosted glasses. “Isn’t it a downer to have a birthday at this time of year?” the bartender asked.
“Not so much,” Dylan replied, and might have begun a conversation, had the bartender not switched his attention to Sabrina, the press officer who’d accompanied them. Sabrina was hopelessly beautiful, and Dylan resented neither the bartender’s switch nor Sabrina’s clear interest in him. The man had skills, Dylan had to admit, watching the shaker revolve in his hands as he composed something pink and cosmopolitan. I need to get some skills.
The time came and went on the Seiko watch he’d bought in the departure lounge on the road out; in the land he’d just left he should be celebrating his birthday, but time dictated something else here, at 35,000ft. The sun finally streaked ahead of the jet, setting somewhere over an African desert where, he imagined, impala hopped and lions lingered. Another cocktail followed, or perhaps two, when the cities winked into view in the portside window as the midnight hour approached. An announcement was made by the cabin crew, and he got a round of applause, remembering to look suitably abashed. Sabrina had done this. Before midnight, she tapped him on the shoulder and said they should do Facebook. “Just so I can send you a birthday card. A proper one.”
They laughed at the idea of a proper card on Facebook, and when midnight UK time approached – marking not just Dylan’s birthday, but the new year’s – they hugged. She had long curls like a princess in a fairy tale, and they tickled his nose. The pair of them were quite drunk, but he didn’t dare kiss her.
Fireworks erupted over the cityscape as they came in to land, and Dylan had to admit it was quite something.
Back at arrivals, his suitcase lumped on to a baggage rack, he bid farewell to those he’d shared the flight with, Sabrina included. He had a sad feeling he’d never see them again, though he tried hard to bury it. Nonsense and sentiment. Though Sabrina claimed she had already Facebooked him. It was a big city. Who knew?
It wasn’t hard to get a taxi, as the text messages filed in, late but not abashed, like a schoolyard miscreant. There were invitations for drinks and parties, but it was too late, and he was too tired. Before he allowed himself to slip into bed, his travelling clothes long discarded in a foetid pile and the shower’s blistering slaps gratefully accepted across his stubbly face, he allowed himself a moment’s daydreaming outside the window. A clear night, one or two stars visible through the haze. In his dying days he would consider the stars, he knew, ignoring the sirens that even now shrieked at him and the bad years they had watched pass far below. He remembered something; his watch, stuck on another time, another place. He wound the hands back. They say you can’t cheat time, but in a way he had. He marked another birthday, and accepted the gift of starlight, before slipping between the sheets in his big, empty bed.
Copyright (c) Pat Black 2016