Brief Snapshot

by James Clarke

Picture the scene. It’s my birthday. I’m ill. I’m 17 years old. Mum and dad are still on speaking terms at this point but the cracks have long since started to show and there’s a fat fruit cake in front of me. This is the moment right now as I look down where I get a feeling of ultimate serene dissatisfaction and I realise that I don’t enjoy birthdays anymore. I resolve to drink nothing but alcohol for the rest of the night.

Picture the scene. It’s the last summer I spent at home before leaving and not going back. I’m standing at the bar serving lukewarm drinks to lukewarm people and smiling to myself as I realise I’m going to steal the tenner from the 12.50 I just got, running the whole round through as just one drink.

Picture the scene. Me losing my virginity a lot later on than I’d led everybody I know to believe I had. My drunken hands fumble at her bra and my solitary bloodshot eye traces the outline of her lips and teeth and the imperceptible fair hair at the corners of her mouth. I wonder how on earth I have managed to do this and I do not realise that this is all going to end embarrassingly for me in just five minutes time.

Picture the scene. I’m 13, I’m alone and I’m burying my brother’s guinea pig in the back garden after it finally fucking died. I drop it into the shallow grave I have dug for it and I fill it up with spadefuls of decomposing grass and dirt stone and shit from the compost heap nearby. I don’t feel much at the time but for days afterward I have nagging feelings of remorse about burying him in compost and I think about the grass and clay sediment clumping down on him, getting in his fur and teeth as he lies there on his back, feet facing dead upright in the air. I conclude then that I am against the ownership of animals.

Picture the scene. I’m sat at a funeral right at the front of the church. It’s his funeral. I’m watching the vicar read the eulogy that I wrote but was too scared to deliver. I look down at my hands and remember how they shook so damn much when I was writing it that I could scarcely hold the pen much less right the words. I stare down dry eyed and listening to the people around me sniffling away, knowing that nothing will ever be the same again.

Picture the scene. It’s me on holiday in Spain aged twenty and devouring pages of Hemingway. I’m sitting and thinking and folding pages so I can come back to them to reread and saying over and over to myself, “God, could I ever write like that?” No, I decide. I don’t even bother to try.

Picture the scene. It’s five minutes ago and I’m stood looking out of my window watching the child on the roof a couple of doors down from me aiming a toy gun at the traffic below and pretending to kill everyone out there. I sympathise with him and I want him to turn round and see me watching him so I can give him a fraternal wave. He doesn’t though and I find myself feeling actually a little bit relieved.

Picture the scene. I’m drunk yet again sitting opposite a girl on what I think might be a date. The boundaries have not been set so I pepper my conversation with eye contact and genuine interest rather than my usual mutterings and ignorant grunts of acknowledgement. Her thespian friends soon arrive though and I feel strange and out of place and unable to contribute to the conversation in any meaningful way. I make my excuses and leave, walking to the bus station and feeling in some way vindicated for going. On the bus I feel like I’ve made a big mistake and I’m embarrassed even though I’m on my own.

Picture the scene. Picture the scene. Pick that one or another one or any one of hundreds of others like it. Pick any one you like if you want. There’s no narrative and there’s no rich interwoven tapestry or incredible fabric of meaning. It’s just several choice cuts of things that have happened to me. That’s all it is and that’s all it has to be and then it’s all over and no one is the wiser for it no matter what they might think. To be honest you might as well just not have bothered.

James Clarke is a Northerner living in London, aged 25 and counting. He works in a school and is finally trying to get serious with this whole writing thing.

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  1. #1 by Philip Dodd on March 19, 2011 - 8:32 am

    i like this a lot. you have a way with your story that drew me in. People can be clever or not clever with words, not everyone can draw people in. i look forward to reading some more.

  2. #2 by Leah on March 19, 2011 - 2:03 pm

    But I am glad I did bother. There is an existential despair that weaves its own thread this piece, creating its own random weave. Hope you write more; you have a good descriptive pen, precise.

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