fiction, photography

HIS NEIGHBOUR

Chris R-0957 Image by Christine Renney

It struck Thomas as odd that he wasn’t repelled by his newest neighbour, who was very eccentric and extremely loud, the type of person Thomas had always gone out of his way to avoid. Strangely, he found himself drawn to the man and didn’t mind getting caught out on their communal landing or on the hard standing in front of the main entrance doors.
Thomas would happily stand alongside this man and talk, although he wasn’t required to do much of that. All he really needed to do was listen and nod along, getting the occasional word in whenever he could and often he would laugh because his neighbour was funny. Thomas had decided it wasn’t so much what the man said but how he said it. He had a gift for language, a way with words. It was as if he were reciting dialogue written by a talented playwright. And his outlook was slightly slanted and a little anarchic and Thomas enjoyed listening to him and looked forward to their encounters.

His wife had always found time for people like this man, the loners and misfits, the one who stood apart from the crowd. She had been more than polite, taking the time to talk and engage with them. Time and again, Thomas had found himself trapped alongside her, uncomfortable and mute. He had started to wonder if she wasn’t becoming a little eccentric herself and was readying to join their ranks. He realised now that he wouldn’t have minded if she had, that he would in fact have embraced it. And here he was, once again, standing with his newest neighbour, listening and laughing.

Thomas decided it was time to move this relationship, their friendship, to the next level. Half turning, and motioning toward the door to his flat he said, ‘Why don’t we go inside and I’ll get us some tea and we can make ourselves more comfortable.’
Turning again he realised that his neighbour had stopped talking and that, amazingly, he was lost for words.
‘Oh, ah,’ the neighbour spluttered, ‘that’s very kind of you but I’m far too busy. I have things I need to do.’
He was backing away and delving into his pocket for his key. Reaching his own door he looked back.
‘Thank you but no,’ he called, ‘perhaps another time.’

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fiction, life

WORD FROM THE WORKING MEN’S CLUB

chris-r-0334 Image by Christine Renney

The day after his eldest brother had taken his own life the boy’s dad drove into work. The boy was eighteen, a man but watching his dad from the passenger seat he felt like a child. His dad, braving it in the faces of the speechless, made no demands that day. And the boy did what he did, which was nothing.
Over the next few days the boy’s dad heard from the others. They all said that nobody would have, that nobody could have, known.

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fiction

RESISTANCE

Chris R-1116 Image by Christine Renney

I make my way through a labyrinthine network of paths and alleyways. The blocks of flats are identical and even the decay is uniform; peeling paint on the weathered boards, rusty stains on the bricks from the leaking gutters, the graffiti repeating itself, the same tags and faded colours.
Most of the shops I pass are empty and no-one is at the centre of the parade. The Advocacy Bureau is closed. There is a hand painted sign above the door and I study the flyers and posters in the windows but none of the dates are forthcoming.
I move on, and walking alongside a wire mesh fence at last I find my way out onto a vast expanse of rickety paving slabs. It is more of the same here but the flat blocks are bigger and taller. It is deserted and desolate. It seems that living here is a covert operation.
The old woman is standing on the balcony and ranting. Her voice croaking and unfettered by humility. She doesn’t trust her flat, not since her husband died.
‘I don’t trust it’, she yells. ‘Not after all the trouble with the electric and the plumbing and the watermarks on the ceiling they remind me you know? All the time, you know what I mean?’
Her granddaughter is clinging to her skirt but now she pulls away, and begins to fidget.
‘He was so ill at the end’, her grandmother continues, but calmly now, and reaching out she places her hand on top of the girl’s head in an effort to still her.
‘He didn’t care, how could he like that?’
She moves to pull the girl close again but her granddaughter has stopped fidgeting and, for a few seconds, she stands firm and won’t be moved.

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