Whatever

Whatever
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whateverHe thinks it’s a gift, though he knows it’s a curse.
Bus stops, rain, traffic islands in a sea of murky puddles.
It’s everything they ever wanted. So why does it feel more like yesterday was probably the best day of his life? He ran for the bus, missed it. Left his umbrella on the one he did catch. Pigeons had roosted in the roof of his block and the shit smear reached down ten floors. He lives on the fourteenth.

It’s pointless to say but, yes, the lift was, indeed, broken. The stairwell the predictable hell mouth. The door to his flat is missing the number 4. It reads 1 : 6. Like the mockery of a heavy defeat in a home game. Even the cat hates him. She’s pissed off at the pigeons she can hear, but not catch, and he ran out of cat food the day before yesterday.

The fridge light never worked, so he can only tell the state of the milk once it’s forming cloudy curds on the surface of his tea. He tips it down the sink and pops a can of mediocre lager. Turns on the TV. The screen fizzes with static. The trial. Again.
He curses the fucking pigeons.

Still in his suit, he takes the broom from the hall cupboard, leaves the relative sanctuary of his flat and ascends the last flight of stairs to the roof. The rain has stopped, but it’s still really wet. The irony of digital television bothers him. You still need a bloody aerial on the bloody roof.

He’s forgotten to bring a torch.
And, what a surprise, the bulb’s dead in the safety lamp at the top of the fire escape. It is dark. The clouds are hugging the sky to death.

The aerial’s on top of the tower. The tower is where the air vents for the building pump waste gases from the heating system. It is shrouded in a warm miasmic haze. Now he’s there he can’t see any pigeons, though there’s plenty of evidence.

Picking past an oily puddle he climbs up the tower to look at the aerial. His suit jacket flaps in the wind and catches on a spike. He can see no reason for it not to be working. It’s even relatively clean up here. A flutter behind him takes his attention. Looking around the jacket tears. He curses again. Straightens.

The bird is watching him. He’s balanced on the edge of the tower, fighting to rescue his jacket and this joker is just looking at him.

He feels his anger surge, checks it, releases the jacket and jumps down from the tower. The pigeon is still staring right at him, its eyes filled with a sort of calm menace. He flaps his hands. The pigeon does not move.

He doesn’t know why, but he takes a run at the bird and slips in the puddle and lands on his arse. The pigeon regards him scornfully, its beady, unblinking, eyes giving nothing away. He stands. Shakes himself.

The broom. He left it on the tower. He’s soaked and his jacket’s ruined, and he doesn’t get paid for another two weeks. The electric meter ate the last few pounds from the previous month’s pay cheque. He turns to go back for it…Only.

Only… he can’t remember why he came up here.

There are feathers all around him. His crop is full. It’s warm and soft and dry and his skin’s all pink and dimply and… wait… What?

He wakes still slumped in the armchair, dawn light fighting its way through the next instalment of rain. His ruined suit hangs on the back of the door, a ragged mess. He’s in boxers and t-shirt and the scrabby blanket he’s draped round his shoulders.

Someone is burbling on the morning news. The TV picture is perfect. The cat purrs, rubbing herself against his legs, a single grubby feather adhering to the corner of her mouth.

Arwen Xaverine

About Arwen Bennett

Arwen writes fiction and poetry and is a regular contributor to the online music zine freq. Her short stories have appeared in the quarterly online magazine Halfway Down The Stairs. She lives in London.

Arwen writes fiction and poetry and is a regular contributor to the online music zine freq. Her short stories have appeared in the quarterly online magazine Halfway Down The Stairs. She lives in London.

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