Okay – scary stuff – a new story. I have been blocked for a while and now this has popped up. I am calling it Splosh for now but that will possibly change.
Ironically a mugging would have been better. If Ewan had been mugged the police would have been called, he would most likely have been given a cup of tea with plenty of sugar by a kind lady with large breasts and all would have been well. As it was he lost his belongings because of his own stupidity. He had loved the leather satchel; Fiona bought it him for Christmas. He no longer had Fiona but he still had the satchel. He had carried his “papers” in the main body of the thing and all his other bits and pieces in the zipper part of the flip over lid. He took out his ‘phone, spoke briefly to Keith and slipped it back into the space.
Then he fiddled inside to fish out the A to Z, he wasn’t lost really, not really but wanted to double-check the route. If the cover had been on the manhole, if he had trusted his sense of direction, if he had closed the zip, if bloody Fiona hadn’t bought him a sodding manbag – if God didn’t hate him quite so much then all his belongings wouldn’t have clattered out into a desperate heap on the pavement and then slithered in a delirious cascade into the gaping black hole. Phone, wallet, tickets the whole damn shooting match, one after the other, slipping and sliding against each other, a fiesta of loss, sploshing into the dark slime of the drain.
For several moments he simply stood glaring at the gutter, disbelief robbed him of the ability to think, just for bit and then an avalanche of reality swept in and knocked him into a field of panic. He dropped to his knees, almost tripping a leggy blonde who cursed noisily as she skipped aside, he didn’t hear her, didn’t see her, he didn’t see her and that spoke volumes.
It was horribly obvious from the start that the stuff was gone, not even a glint of evening light on dark water raised his hopes, it was too far down, beyond the reach of light and way, way beyond the reach of his arm. He stretched out across the pavement, his head in the gaping hole. Why did he do that? he didn’t know why he did that. The space was deep, the bottom unreachable, the depths unfathomable. Lying full stretch on the pavement did nothing more than diminish his already depleted dignity, soil his pants with a bit of tomato sauce and sliver of onion and scuff the toes of his new shoes.
He sat back on his heels, gathering the satchel to him and took a deep shuddering breath. His heart wanted to panic, it tried, it danced and jigged and punched at his chest wall but he wasn’t going along with it, not just now. Another deep breath, he closed his eyes, squeezing the lids tightly together. None of it helped but while he was doing that he didn’t need to try and stand because he knew that at that precise moment he couldn’t stand. His kneecaps had turned into blobs of mucus and the muscles in his legs had the holding power of water. Talking of holding water – oh well we needn’t go there but that was another reason why he stayed crunched in a little bundle on the pavement.
He would ring Keith, Keith would come and collect him. Ah, but he didn’t have his mobile; no matter he could reverse the charges from a ‘phone box. He pushed to his feet and rotated a hundred and eighty degrees. Of course there wasn’t a box, not strictly true there was a box, a lovely red one outside a pub and filled with potted plants. Yeah, just what he needed pink petunias and a huge, variegated pelargonium.
The thought nervously slithered into the little grey muscle nestled in his skull that he didn’t have Keith’s number, actually he did but it had launched itself, along with the rest of his contact list, inside the silicon chip now floating seawards cocooned in silver-grey plastic. He tried to recall a ‘phone number – any number and the only one he could summon was his grannie’s in Barnstaple and she’d been dead sixteen years. He could also remember his mum’s Co-op divi number but conceded this was of minimal use.
Fine, he’d go to the bank, get some cash, buy a new ticket and get home. Then he could start the whole depressing process of reporting loss and requesting replenishment…
“Good afternoon sir, my name is Sarah. How can I help you today?”
“I need to withdraw some cash.”
“Do you have your card sir? We have a cash machine in the lobby.”
“No, I just lost it.”
“Oh dear, do you want to report it stolen?”
“It’s not stolen. I dropped it down the drain.”
“Ah right, so you need to report it lost, do you want me to do that now for you.”
“Um, well – okay but I also need some money.”
“Do you have your account number?”
“No, that was on my card.”
“Oh dear. Not to worry if you can give me your name and address.”
“Ah, well I can give you my old address but I haven’t –erm – well you see I’m in the middle of moving.”
“Did you notify us of your change of address?”
“I told you I was moving but I didn’t have my new address. It’s all been a bit messy, personal stuff you know.” The girl nodded and smiled sympathetically, to the woman in the queue behind Ewan. He shifted and leaned closer to the security window pulling her gaze back to him. “I’ll give you my old address and if you ring my – well my ex she can vouch for me. I was about to open a new account, it’s all in flux at the moment.”
“Yes, you know up in the air, not sorted. Call my ex she’ll give you the numbers and stuff.”
“Do you have her number sir?”
“Oh, er no, it was on my phone, we didn’t have a land line. She was speed dial one but – well hmm.”
“Right. Do you have some form of identification?”
“NO! Ahem – sorry, sorry didn’t mean to – you know, shout it’s just that I’m feeling a bit panicked now to be honest and you’re not helping.”
“Sorry sir, would you like a glass of water?”
“No, I would like some money please, from my account.”
“Yes sir but, without your account number, or your name and address.”
“Okay – I’ll give you my old address.”
“But you just told me you don’t live there anymore and you don’t have any identification.”
“Oh, yeah right but you could pretend it’s my address couldn’t you.”
“Well not really sir, not without some corroboration.”
“My corroboration is in the flicking sewer.”
“There’s no need to swear sir.”
“No, no of course not – I’m sorry. Can you just help me out here, just take my old address, give me some cash. When I get home I’ll sort it all out.”
“What is your current address sir?”
“I’m living with a mate – Keith.”
“Do you have his number sir, can we call him.”
“Oh well no, I – his number it’s.”
“Down the drain? If you have his address we could call Directory Enquiries?”
“No land line. No sodding land line okay.”
“I’m really sorry sir. I am trying to help but I am struggling with this. Did you take out card insurance?”
“Oh – it’s just that if you had we could have called them and they would have your details and… perhaps I should speak to my colleague, could you take a seat in the waiting area, there are brochures there, about card security. Are you alright sir?”
“Can’t breathe, can’t get my…”
“Would you like a paper bag?”
“Yes sir, for your hyperventilating, your panic attack.”
“No, no – not unless the blinkering thing is full of blinkering money – you can take your paper bag and put it in the…”
“It’s alright, it’s okay – look I’m gone, thanks, thanks for nothing Sarah.”
“Sorry sir, it just that I erm… If you take a seat I’ll speak to my colleague, sir, sir…”
The street was full of people, people going home, not going home, people with mobile phones, wallets, money. His head spun. This was crazy, things had spiralled out of control unbelievably quickly. It must be him, Fiona said he panicked too quickly, flapped and fussed. It was just one of the things that had led to the rift, she was calm, able to take control in a drama. His eyes filled with moisture, suddenly and stupidly he wanted Fiona to be here to take charge and to take him home.
He coiled his fingers into fists, they bit into the flesh of his palms the small pain focusing his mind, helping him. Okay, he had to regain control. He had to calm down, he had to breathe and think and calm down. This wasn’t a national disaster, it was a small thing – a glitch, and he had to calm down.