fiction, photography

HAT

Chris R-0700-2 Image by Christine Renney

The man was wearing a hat. It was the first thing Jonathan noticed before he realised what the man was doing, what was happening. Even as he watched his focus was still drawn to the hat. It was a trilby and it was dark, both the hat and the street, but there was enough light from the street lamps and Jonathan could see and he could hear.
He wondered would the hat have stood out as much as it did if the man had been wearing a matching suit or a raincoat. But dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, the hat clearly did not belong to him. He had taken it, grabbed it from somewhere else, possibly, most probably, snatched it from the top of someone’s head. One of his victims perhaps, but not this one, the one cowering in front of him and fending against his blows. The hat didn’t belong to him either and it didn’t belong on this street. The hat wasn’t part of what was happening here.
If the victim had been aware of it at the beginning of his ordeal, it certainly wasn’t at the forefront of his mind now. Jonathan wondered had the other man, the perpetrator, also forgotten about it and was the joke now on him? But of course, Jonathan wasn’t supposed to be there and anyhow he wasn’t laughing.
The victim was proving to be surprisingly resilient and refused to drop. To fall down onto the ground, where even if he were to curl up into a foetal position, he would be much more vulnerable. Kicking him in his heavy boots would have been so much easier and the perpetrator was clearly flagging. The punches were getting weaker and his fists were hurting.
Jonathan moved closer. The perpetrator was still bobbing and weaving this way and that and the victim was standing with his head bowed, not moving, not watching. Both of them were entirely unaware that Jonathan was there. Reaching out, waiting for the opportune moment, he snatched the hat and placed it on top of his own head. Everything stopped and he lingered just long enough for this register and then Jonathan began to run.

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fiction, photography

THE GRID

Chris R-0602 Image by Christine Renney

The cars are predictable. They crawl through the narrow and crowded streets at a snail’s pace searching for parking spaces. As soon as one moves away from the kerb, another is readying to take its place. This battle is almost constant. It is an elaborate board game, play pausing just briefly in the early hours of the morning when a stalemate of sorts is achieved and all of the vehicles are locked in tight and there are no spaces on the grid, on the streets and, for a brief spell at least, none of them will move.
I keep walking and find reassurance in the line of cars jammed along the pavements. Occasionally I come across a space and if it is big enough to take a car I feel anxious. I am even unnerved but of course it won’t be long before the players return and the game commences.
I observe the drivers as I walk. They are all so desperately focussed that they hardly notice me. They are usually alone but if there are passengers they are just as centred, just as determined and desperate to find a space.
I am passing alongside a pale blue estate car. In the wintry light it is the colour of cement. The windshield and windows are tinted and I can’t see in. I feel a little uneasy about this but I can see quite clearly that there is a place just up ahead. It will be tight but I am sure that this driver, like all the others, is skilful enough. That he will be able to manoeuvre his vehicle quite easily into position. But he doesn’t.
This perplexes me. I step down from the kerb and out into the road. Standing in the middle of the parking space I look back and there are no cars coming. It isn’t too late, he can still back-up but he doesn’t.
At the crossroads he turns right toward the City Centre. I cross at the junction and I stop and I stand and I wait. I expect that here, where the road is wider and there are no cars parked on either side, that he will turn himself around and begin to make his way back. But he doesn’t and, brake lights ablaze, he carries on, albeit awkwardly, down the hill.
When I start to follow he seems to speed up. I am running now and at the end of the road he turns left, onto the ring road and he is gone, leaving me stranded, anxious, here at the edge.

 

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fiction, photography

THE LOSS

Chris R-0868 Image by Mark Renney

Despite the lack of evidence, Carter was utterly convinced he was missing a body part, that he had lost something, a piece of himself. He couldn’t stop checking and wherever he might be he would hold his hands up in front of his face and count off the fingers. Or was it a bit of his ear or part of his nose? Or was there a hole in his forehead or in his side or was it a toe? No matter that he always rediscovered he was complete, that nothing had gone astray, he didn’t feel reassured. But he had no scars nor wounds. All of him was in its place and working properly.
Carter decided that if he could pinpoint exactly when and where it had happened he would be able to move beyond it and stop obsessing. He had been suffering from this strange affliction for no more than three months and so the time frame was at least narrow. He was a creature of habit and lead a routine existence, his movements confined. Even so, retracing each and every step he had taken during that time would be difficult.
Carter took the same route to work each day. He walked the same pavements and rode on the same bus. He frequented the same café and pub close to the office and a newsagents nearer to home. He shopped at the same supermarket on Saturday mornings.
He realised that he could have dropped ‘it’ anywhere, whatever ‘it’ was. One of his fingers perhaps or a thumb or an eye. He could, of course, have lost it at the office, and someone else had picked it up and taken it or mistaken it for rubbish and thrown it away. But Carter sensed that it hadn’t happened like this. Not at the office, nor at home nor even on the bus. No, he had lost it out on the street whilst walking en route to elsewhere. In transit as it were. And he had lost it in the way one might lose a wallet or a watch or a single ten pound note. The chances of finding it now were almost non-existent though Carter didn’t need to find it but simply to remember.

Carter quickly understood that his world was small and although he had believed it would be difficult re-tracing his footsteps and remembering what he had done and where he had been it had proved depressingly easy. As he moved through the familiar streets, searching again and again, he became more and more aware of how intricate the City was and how dense.
He rifled through the waste bins and sifted through the detritus and debris gathered at the curb side and in the gaps between the buildings. He scoured along all but forgotten pathways and cut-throughs. At first these ran parallel with his old routes but gradually he was pulled further and further from his little patch of the City and he was exploring parts that were completely alien. He realised also that anything lost would remain lost but he wasn’t able to stop looking, not quite yet.

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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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fiction

DIVISION

Chris R-0793 Image by Christine Renney

It smells of urine in the lobby. I grimace and step from the main entrance and out, onto the scuffed tarmac. I gaze across at the tower block opposite.
‘Jordan, get back here NOW,’ a woman‘s voice. I hear but can’t find her, but I spot Jordan striding swiftly and full of purpose. She keeps close to the building and her head below the windows. She reaches a column jutting out from the main block and she stops but doesn’t turn.
Her mum is standing in the doorway of their flat. They have copper coloured hair and are both deathly pale behind the freckles.
‘DON’T make me come out there,’ mum shrieks into the falling dark. ‘Don’t you fucking DARE.’
Jordan moves around the column and stands for all she is worth with her back to the wall.
Mum, in her bare feet, is clearly unprepared and so determined not to move. Nevertheless she leans forward and craning peers first one way and then the other. But to find her daughter she needs to move onto the expanse of patchy grass which separates her block from where I am standing. And this she now does, treading carefully in her bare feet on the hard dirt.
I step forward and onto the pavement so that she will see me and not be startled.
‘Come back Jordan, please,’ she pleads but softly, unaware her daughter and I are there and that we both hear her.

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