fiction, photography

PRECINCT

Chris R-1-81 Image by Christine Renney

After visiting the shopping centre they always lingered, had done for years. It was difficult now to pinpoint exactly when this had begun, much less how or why. It was unspoken that, once the shops had closed, they would skulk along at the edge of the precinct where the teenagers gathered.
Pubs, clubs, burger bars and pizza joints dominated and the couple would find a table where, from behind the plate glass, they could gaze out across the now car-less car park.
The litter, the day’s debris, had been swept and shovelled against the kerb and in each and every corner and crevice. The youngsters didn’t seem to mind. They kicked through it, tramped on it, added to it, restless and eager for the night with all its possibilities.

The couple talked over their pizza, dissecting the lives of others, of old friends, people they rarely or never saw anymore, colleagues from work and people they barely knew. They raced toward conclusion after conclusion, invented scenario after scenario. There was something about that place, that time, that offered obscurity: a middle aged couple with nowhere particular to go, nothing to do except to visit the multiplex cinema to see the latest blockbuster – ‘Action/Adventure’ or ‘Romcom’, sequels and prequels they watched indiscriminately. But this particular night their hearts weren’t in it and so they began to wander.
This, in fact, was what they had wanted to do all along. Simply to walk, just to be here and not feel the need to dress it, to skirt around this fact. They were elated and entered a busy pub. It was like walking on air and the drink helped to prolong this feeling and then, suddenly, the moment was lost. The revellers had deserted them. Of course, they could have followed, chased the party, found another pub or even a club but – they had shopping bags to cart and so stayed put, drinking until common sense prevailed at last and they began to make their way toward home.

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fiction

VENDING

Chris R-2-30 Image by Christine Renney

Out of work for almost a year Patrick finally found a job at the local supermarket. He was a shelf-stacker and so, one at a time, he placed a particular item in its correct place. All the cans and cartons, the boxes and bottles.
Patrick found the work invigorating and that it was enough. After being idle for so long, after compiling so much, so many thoughts, he needed this and it felt like a break, like a good clean snap.
He threw himself into the job, arriving early, and was always the last to leave. Patrick wasn’t out to prove anything, certainly not to himself and so why was he so concerned about what others might think and worried about what they might say behind his back.
The work was tiring and Patrick wanted to be tired, to be numb. He had gotten soft from sitting at a desk in an office. His body ached, his legs and his back were stiff and after a shift his arms felt longer than they should. But this weariness helped and Patrick felt as if he were a computer with a hard drive and could wipe himself clean. Through repetition and graft he could forget his failures and his loneliness and yes, for now, it was enough.

As often as was possible, Patrick worked the early shift. Increasingly he was becoming more and more anxious about working when the store was open. He dreaded running into someone he knew and in this small town, where he had lived for all his life, this was inevitable.
He was becoming accustomed to the work, to the bending and the lifting, and didn’t tire so easily. He tried to work harder and needed to work for longer and as the weeks progressed he was forced to enter the busy store more and more often. Keeping his head down he avoided interaction and contact with the townsfolk.
Scanning the aisles, whenever he noticed someone he knew, from school or a colleague from his old office, reeling around with their trolleys, he would scurry off in the opposite direction. Patrick was convinced that they were laughing at him behind his back and as he scuttled away he was ashamed of himself for not turning around to see if it was in fact true. And if they really were smirking and pointing at him then of course he should confront them, and if not then why couldn’t he simply say hello and pass the time of day.

Despite his erratic behaviour Patrick was left to his own devices and somehow he managed to get the products and the produce onto the shelves. He was able to tire himself, enough that he could sleep but he wasn’t able to achieve that former weariness and he couldn’t forget.
He was losing something. It hadn’t ever been more than an idea of who he was. And as he attempted to burrow unseen through the bright and busy store, Patrick was deeply and profoundly disappointed in himself.

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