Wednesday, 23 September 2009 00:00

Aitch - a short story

A short story. (If perplexed, pay close attention to the last five paragraphs.)


Deadridge was a junkie and he lived in a junk yard (in the way that bees reside in bee hives, just so)

The junk yard was a buzzard airport littered with the carcasses of white goods, the guts of the once useful.  Cords, wires, sprockets, pistons, nuts and levers, all clung together in mute remorse. Rusted springs coiled from the cluttered earth like the remnants of a buried Medusa. Perhaps now frozen in self reflection, mock-asleep under a patchwork quilt of faded magazines and fake frozen fish finger packet family smiles.

Here Deadridge nested.  Here he made junk of his flesh.

It had started furtively.  In a dentist's waiting room.  Tearing individual letters from a glossy magazine. Half watched by the disapproving eyes of an anonymous beige man.  Deadridge disguising the tearing noise beneath pantomime sneezes, building up a store of little letters tucked down into the coin pocket of his jeans, a comforting stash of squares.

Then concern in the family home.  A confrontation in the parlour, mater and pater sternly standing in solidarity before the incomplete Scrabble set presented on the table in accusation.

"Your mother and I have noticed that...(a scramble for euphemism, delicacy - none found: The subject must be broached)...the Aitches are missing...what have you to say?"

Gasping, silence. A struggle. A bolt.

Running away into the night. Deadridge's sweaty palms pricked painful from the rounded corners of the plastic squares, so tightly are they clenched.

Under a bridge, stopping, the comfort of the familiar.

Assonance. Parachesis.


In the grave morning Deadridge, huddled and shuddering in the clammy air.

Disconsolate, lost for words.

Composing himself, he had decided then to turn back, to give up the compelling chase. I will stand back, I will turn away, I will refrain. I will. I will.

But it was everywhere, the most prolific element of all, in the very air, in the substance beneath his feet, saturating the everything - the gargantuan unknown that cradled his being.

He found a yellow hydrant sign and unscrewed it from the wall.  Unfixed. Fixed.

Meaning, delicious meaning coursed into him. He was profoundly, blissfully, lost.

Deadridge came to in the junkyard, came to beneath countless pinwheel stars giddy in the musk of the purple summer sky, his body sprawled on a soft bed of shorebogged jetsam.

His head hurt. Heaving himself hither, he hunted helplessly, haphazardly. Here? here? here?

He was found two days later, nearly dead, lain on a Rugby field.  Both sets of Rugby posts were gone.  Deadridge's grin a thin sliver of light against an engulfing darkness, the last moment of an eclipse.

Rushed to hospital, his condition first improved, then got worse.  An astute nurse noticed that signs indicating the hospital's presence were disappearing from the road just outside.  They moved him from the first floor of the hospital, to the very top floor, thinking that they could keep him away from temptation.

And duly he seemed to have recovered, there was some colour back in his cheeks, the dark shades beneath his eyes scattered by a new delicate light. He was eating and talking and quite acceptable to all concerned. He was to be released back into the world, a bird whose broken wing had been re-set.

But when the sunbeams of morning came leaning in through the window to stroke slowly across his face, they did not rouse him.  They found him gone to their caresses for he had slunk deep into a coma.

Emergency! The frenetic activity around him resumed.

How could this be?  All demand answers.

It was not 'til later that morning that it was discovered that the Helipad from the hospital's roof was missing.


By his bedside, Mater and Pater sit with sun, and then artificial, light, playing upon silver locks.  Tears verging and receding on a tide of anger; sorrow; guilt; pantomime; further guilt; love.

What can we do Doctor? What's to be done?

The severity of the case is such that I recommend a course of action I would not normally. There is a place that specialises in such things. It is

We are not wealthy but we will find the money if that is what Deadridge needs.

The shame. The pity. That he lives in a junk yard.  Dishonourable. Aitched.


Deadridge was reluctant when told of the plan, but acquiesced through weakness against the pressure and a waning but extant hopefulness.  Waving weakly goodbye, he boarded a plane, his hands shaking.  Upon his face had fallen an expression of horror, white as fresh snow. Fear stealing all warmth from within him.  

On board the aeroplane, thirty thousand feet above the ground, he sweated and moaned in his seat.  Vast clouds looked in through the tiny windows and seemingly mocked him with their serenity. He clawed at his own arms, raking red furrows in his pale skin. He repeatedly summoned the hostess, to ask for new copies of the onflight magazine, High Flyer.  Tearing away the initial capital in remorseful hunger, oblivious to the increasing tension in the hostess' fixed smile.

Upon arrival he stumbled through the processes and the forms and the trudgeways of the bland and humourless concrete airport, until he at last was on the other side of the gates.

A row of expectant people stood amongst the milling crowds, holding signs that read names - 'The Mattesons'; 'Mr Kanyuki'; 'Team Malibu'; 'Deadridge'.

The man holding this last sign was small and round, solid and giving, like a water balloon. He had a grey moustache that drooped over his lip, and mirrored circular glasses that covered patient, if somewhat sad, eyes.   He wore a white and red striped waistcoat over a white shirt and his substantial girth was restrained by grey woollen trousers.  His shoes were black and had bright silver buckles.

Deadridge approached him.

Balthazar Reinhard?

That is I! the man remarked with a flourish that was at once emphatic, yet dismissive.

Please, call me B.R.

Then, with an assured grace, he led Deadridge to a waiting car and they sped off along the concrete helter skelter that traversed the city.


As Deadridge watched the lights writhing past like glistening scales of a great serpent tightening itself around them, he inadvertently mouthed the shape of a sound, his jaws closing against the empty air.


Balthazar occasionally lifted his eyes to the rear view mirror and surveyed him, but Deadridge was oblivious.  His muscles tightening and his heart irregular, his mouth speaking, with a longing tongue, silence.

When the journey ended, it was on the soft give of gravel, outside a mansion nestling in the hills beyond the vast city. The two men walked in silence from the car, the sounds of calling insects fervently dotting and dashing the air. So too the stars the night, in piercing semaphore glints.  Deadridge felt the warm nocturnal breeze on his clammy skin.

The door was opened as they approached, and a buttery mellow light stretched out to them.  A small and old black woman, with white hair clinging tightly to her scalp, and a wirey old body neatly contained in a white pinafore beckoned Deadridge in to the light, and then led him up to a chamber.  He followed obediently.

She, without words, showed him around.  The bathroom.  The cupboards.  The linen. All gestured to and explained in motion. It was only when she came to leave that she spoke:

'After I close this door, then it will begin, and you will no longer be able to hanker or hunger, there will be no hook, no hang-up, no harm will be possible.'

Then she left him standing in what was now his room, and after she gently closed the door behind her, Deadridge heard the sound of a key locking him into place.

So it began.

Deadridge bedded down in a cream coloured bed in a pale blue room, and waited alone. Outside, a curious wind flexed gently against window.

Fitful sleep followed. Waking, Deadridge screamed:


But nobody else stirred.

Sat rigid in crepuscular folds of dark.  Deadridge wept.

Longing for just one more.  Just one more.  Just one more.

Rocking into bruised and sorrowful sleep, a man in a pale blue room wanted no more of life.


BR (please do call me by my initials) met Deadridge for breakfast.  Two men ate scrambled eggs on a sunny veranda. One delicately, one voraciously.

It was difficult, I take it? BR asked

Deadridge nodded fervently.

Don't worry. It will get easier.

Deadridge's eyes met BR's. Quizzical, afeared.

I promise.

Nausea arose and was quelled, Deadridge was led from veranda to sauna by yesterday's predominantly silent black woman (Elma), in new pinafore.

Clouded in steam and naked, lost, blissful, Deadridge's anxiety evaporated into fat air.

Later, a better, untroubled, sleep gave gentle dreams.  Joyful dreams.  Wordless dreams.


More days passed, and a stronger resolve was born, like a foal:  On weak legs at first, nascent independence stumbled stronger step by step into a joyful trot, canter, gallop.

Deadridge was soon smiling; gardening attentively; running determinedly; talking effusively to BR and Elma (pinafore always immaculate) of a possible future.

I don't need it.  Deadridge remarked.  I don't need it anymore.

Of course you don't. You are free. You need it not at all. You never did.

BR allowed a moment of pride, a soft swell of one more success.

Sunset came, pink and lazy, clouds brimming fire.

Deadridge looking on, skin coloured by reflected dying flames, alive, rejoicing.

I'm so...

A sentence not completed.


Next morning BR went to waken Deadridge. Rise and...

An empty bed. An open window. Curtains dancing.

BR panicked. Scouring. Calling.  Slowly, eventually, resigned. Saddened, one more failure to accept.



A man's body, face serene, was found still and lifeless upon soft grass on a large city's main acclivity.

Towering above our quiet loss, an incomplete word:



T*e End.

Read 5461 times Last modified on Monday, 29 July 2013 17:44
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