It slips from the child’s fingers, races down the aisle, bumps against the roof arch, then jumps from one carriage to the next, where a man catches hold of it. His bald head is balloon-smooth. At the next station he returns the inflatable to its owner with a bow.
You are a record, scratched and dusty, played over and over again. The needle of life follows well-worn grooves, cutting deeper with every repeat. Soon you will wear out, and be taken to the nearest charity shop. Or, if you still have some small residual value, be sold on eBay.
He was throwing under a minor sky, the rain holding off. At less scrupulous fêtes they glue them to the stand, but third shy of four he had his nut, more by accident than design. Hairy as an orang-utan, it was. Later he cracked its head open with a hammer.
The waitress presents them with the beer sampler, to which she has added three complimentary glasses. She must have delivered her lines many times before, with the same carefully disguised insincerity. The meal over, he says keep the change. As she wheels away, she scratches him on the back, lightly.
He was a Foxhound. Others were Bassets, Beagles or Harriers. They assembled in the courtyard before meals, supervised by the Roman-nosed Scot who taught English. To reach the dining room, they descended into the basement, then ascended, following the scent. Later he discarded the indoctrination and became a hunt saboteur.
The pigeons sat quietly in the branches of the trees, fat after an early festive lunch, puzzling over the absence of red buses. They were taking the air to escape from the parents, the Queen, the deflation that made the 25th seem like an extra twenty-four hours of Boxing Day.
Dirty Mac says to Gunpowder Plot, ‘Do you think we’ll pass?’ He looks us up and down, and sighs. ‘You’ll do, I suppose.’ Evidently he thinks better of this judgement once we’re inside the bar, because he cannot stop himself sighing again. ‘No self-respecting gay man would wear that tie.’
He glances out at the uniformed figures dawdling along the street. ‘Look at all those traffic wardens. I wonder what’s the collective noun for them?’ She’s not equal to the invitation. Later, like mortified Rousseau after peasants left him lost for words, the answer arrives: a tedium of traffic wardens.
A tennis professional, Dad’s face was well-tanned, not unlike Sean Connery’s. Indeed, a journalist once described him as 003½. I suspect the quip betrayed knowledge that the similarities were not simply facial. I worry about the legacy of this story: am I destined to play out my life as 001¾?
Her way was successively barred by the robust suitcases and bodies of a holidaying family of zombies, two nattering legal secretaries, and a space cadet attempting to calculate the elevation between platform and ground level. Obviously it was time to step up the Campaign for a Third Lane on Escalators.