Dust Jackets

Oh baby was I on a roll! Words poured from my fingertips each night like a ritual bloodletting. I felt light, breezy even, in my daily dealings. I believe it was this self-satisfied charisma that got me the job in the first place. Once bedded in, the nightly well started to dry up. I’d made such good progress that a little hiatus seemed only fair.


I hadn’t seen my friend in a couple of weeks what with work being so busy, so it was with a glad twinge that I heard a peep; he was on quiet form for a few days and ‘did I want to hit up that coffee?’

It was the seething heart of winter, so I wrapped up with a little whiskey as lining. I walked towards Bus Stop C and the trundling nightmare which would ferry me in the direction of our favourite little coffee hole ‘The Roasted Joint’. The mewling hordes on the bus and the hellish symphony of their phone tones dampened my spirits. The cries of ‘the destination of this bus has changed’ proved a wry coda.

I hopped off the 68 and strolled forth. My destination came into view, ‘just as I predicted’ I thought. Glancing askew at my own rugged reflection to make sure I was the man I professed to be, I handled the wrought iron door-bar and pushed my insignificant mass into the hustle and bustle of the crowded coffee house, and onwards to my fated rendez-vous.

There he was! A shock of wavy, chestnut hair that continually reminded me of what it must be like to be colour blind and stare wistfully at waves lapping at a beach. His trench-coat was immaculately tousled (was it Burberry, or perhaps Prada? I pondered, dressed in Uniqlo) and his well-loved Edwin jeans were turned up ever-so at the hem to reveal a startling glimpse of pink — the dandy — a hallmark of Burlington argyle socks if ever I knew one. All told he was a consummate cad, and I envied and pitied him at the same time. Oh! To be so turned out, like a darling, like a fop, but to never be able to gaze upon it.

“Old horse!” I beamed, as I was beckoned towards his pokey table, the minor surface area in stark contrast to the hectarage of his heart — and I, its respectful landscape gardener.

“Bean!” He retorted, fending off the eager Barista-ress with a deft flick and a pointedly raised eyebrow that I hoped would elegantly imply a black americano with a little warm milk on the side.

“You know sir, I must tell you at once, this has been rather the month, all to and little fro, plenty of see with a dashing of saw, and that, you know they say, is the comeuppance of the brave!” Comprehending, I nodded vigorously, for how many times had I meditated on a similar fate? I parted lip and dashed out the following:

“That’s good news man, I’m happy to see you in good health. It’s been too long. You know…do I sense a tinge of sadness — despite everything?”

At this he flinched, inwardly, the outward result more a sublimated tremor.

“You do well to uncover me as ever! It’s true that lately I’ve been slightly hung up on a thing or two, you know the sort, all is well and true at the end though, and I hold out utmost hope of a thorough return to the halcyon days post-haste!”

For my part I didn’t want to hog the conversation, instead I let him air his griefs and enjoyed the silky aroma of the surrounds. I’ve always felt safe and coddled in warm, loud environs thick with the roasted after-life of the darker bean. It’s also true of me that I hadn’t enjoyed such soirées as much as I desired, what with the work and all, a state of affairs I equally kept well-meaning to redress. ‘A thing or two’ indeed — I knew them well, the dastardly duo, yet they were more a whisper on the wind for me as opposed to the ruinous miasma.

I took leave feeling refreshed, but by the time I’d made it back to dwell happily on the meeting I’d gotten side-tracked with a few figures (Heh, but no, not of that unruly and sensual sort) and a call to the man who saw fit to employ me.

Someone who, via memory, presented themselves as a silhouette had once lectured me on the importance of ‘just letting your imagination run wild’ once, but such is my lot that I must forego the pleasure implicit in not doing anything much to keep the cogs of my own little corporate machine turning and grinding out the cash. “What about your writing?” She had murmured that time, softly in my ear, a sweet, rose-breeze that had rolled delicately from the deep valley of her esophagus. What indeed? There it lay, well, on my bedroom desk, a good few thousand words from the tantalizingly promise of a first draft, all characters fleshed out and taking on more and more realistic pursuits in my imagination whilst their heroic deeds, set down as pixels thus far on my mac, matured and awaited to be poured into the tumbler of another’s mind some near-off day.

It was a good few weeks more than the last juncture until we managed to reach each other. I still longed to see him, and hear him doing good deeds and very much banging the world to rights — but I didn’t want to sacrifice my means of buying him that coffee. Eventually, I retraced the route back to the cafe, the recent snow-melt giving me cause for concern on more than one occasion and, in a rare bout of schadenfreude, sending a poor miss tits over arse yards from me, her cheeks turning rapidly as red as her dislodged beret and no doubt — I shuddered to envisage — as the throbbing bruise on her ample buttocks.

This time I arrived before him, plumped for a seat with a decent enough view of the entrance so as to be noticed, and communicated my need for a sludge of caffeine to wipe quite away the fugue that grey skies and a long working week so readily impose.

The door! It yielded to an equally grudging friend of mine, whose trenchcoat now looked a little grubby (had he too fallen quite literally foul of the inclement weather?) here and there. His normally impressive coiffure limped — and the rest, I regret to report, had followed suit. Huffing down he avoided my gaze and beckoned fruitlessly towards the counter.

“Yeah, yeah, and no — but don’t interject you because it’d pain me to trundle over that — no, no, too, too terrible.”

“What’s up man?” I reassured, “have some of this?”

Apparently not, for he forswore further grumbling and cut to the heart of the matter.

“It’s just a bit DAFT isn’t it? I mean, me, here, now? Not that you shouldn’t be here with me, but isn’t that half the trouble? Don’t you think squire?” His eyes raging, and a little damp.

I shirked from his collusion. It saddened me to see him like this. All cover and no book. A grubby dust-jacket reticent to offer up the fragile pearls therein.

We took eventual leave on perfectly good terms and the usual agreement, but to my chagrin it wasn’t until many months later, now at the late bud of a fragrant Spring, that we reconvened.

This time, the both of us were late, and our conversation all clumsy and jumble. The milk-sun had pilfered what little gloomy atmosphere remained. The seasons were backwards in our hearts.

That night — though could it have been so definite? — was the night I believe I polished off the 12 year old Yamazaki and in frustration at a loose character arc had deleted the nearly-first-draft with bigger things in mind. That mental largesse however had been somewhat of a whiskey-induced miscalculation, and in the cold light of morning had revealed itself to be an email backlog and the desire for a new tie more than an emergent magnum-opus.

Feeling the pinch that following summer I had extended the virtual olive branch to my esteemed friend but, perhaps he’d taken that trip after all and left in a rush so as not to have told me, because I received no reply. I think I saw on Facebook some reference to his hermitage but it wasn’t clear and I didn’t investigate further. The tie arrived in good time and went quite well with my new brown blazer, or so I think I was told, the report seemed to fit in nicely with it all too.

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