The Present

by Dave Early

The throng pulsed. Filthy soles parading through his living room. But he did not mind. He was used to it. And understood their urgency, their joy, their anxiety, their stress, anger and excitement. They left him alone to make his preparations and in turn he allowed them free passage. A few glances askance and the indiscreet wrinkling of offended noses were the only forms of attention he received. And the advantage of the surplus footfall was the excess material they provided for his offering.

He did not have to read the date on the newspapers he had been harvesting all afternoon to realise the advent of the special day. The message had been broadcasted across the city for over a month – product propaganda illuminating the shop windows and bus shelters. But like everybody else he had waited until the last minute. That was all part of the process though. Part of the fun. Besides, tomorrow would be quiet. The city died for one day every year. And he was part of the city. He was part of modern life. So he too would contribute to the generic procedure instilled in the populace.

The box was nearly covered. An avant-garde illustration in presentation. A myriad colours. Faces and body parts both famous and infamous beaming up at various angles between statements of bold type – headlines and articles on topics he had no relation to. It was all so amusing to him. A funny world. One which persists with myopic conjecture, fruitless competition and insidious sanctimony. One where the progress of thought terrifies the thinkers, and to hide behind a shroud of meaning provides comfort in its aggressive dogma.

There is nothing quite like a homemade gift. The application of thought, initiative and diligence. Removing dirt and hair from the adhesive backs of fallen messages. Locating the most recently discarded gobbets of chewed gum. Inspired methods of fixing the wrapping to the gift. Time-consuming, meticulous and exhausting. All because he had not forgotten the principle of the circus. Whether Roman winter solstice, Celtic mysticism, middle-eastern folklore, or biblical fairytales, he was determined to play along and join in the celebrations by donating all he had to the gods. As was the purpose of the day. It was a significant episode. A demanding production. And he was putting his heart and soul into it.

Come nightfall the footfall had changed. Last minute consumers had been replaced by seasonal revellers. Below the hum of artificial light the box was finally presentable. Half the task was complete. And now was the time to unite with the partygoers. To kick back after a good day’s work. He crawled into his newly decorated abode and reached for a self-congratulatory drink. No plebeian aluminium cans this evening. But a bottle he had reserved. Lethal shards fashioned into a brooch of wealth and sophistication.

Poking his head out from the opening of the surprise package he savours the taste of absolution. At the bottom of this bottle a new day would commence. A day of eternal silence. Peace. But until then he would imbibe the spirit of things. Smile at the cacophonous carolling interspersed with vitriolic spitting. A sense of satisfaction manifested itself within his breast, greater than anybody else had ever experienced. For a few hours he would relax without dwelling on a miserable past, or staring blindly into a futile future. Until tomorrow he would have his place. This is his reality. In the present.

Dave Early cannot be summed up in one sentence; one word perhaps, but not one sentence.

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