A nostalgic day on my end. One of the first places that published my earlier stories no longer exists. Their website (The Specusphere) is now inhabited by a company selling e-cigarettes. Don’t ask me exactly what they are because I didn’t read on, just noticed the cigarettes (or cigarette holders?) looked like old fashioned fountain pens.
Anyway, even though these stories were written some years ago, and I suppose early writing attempts, I think they are still aren’t too bad…a little silly maybe. So I thought I might as well post them here, now that they’re now nowhere else to be found.
Here’s the first one, inspired by my time working in Thessaloniki (Greece). Back then, on some of those sweltering evenings, I used to pop out for a beer with my friend, Fanis. One night, down by the harbor, we sat out at a bar where there was a big screen. Supermodels were parading around on it. And scrolling at the bottom of the screen was each one’s particular characteristics. With such a description the story starts:
‘The Model, The Bum and The Tiger’
by Paul Malone
She struts the catwalk for all the big names. Her face appears in all the important fashion magazines. She is known as something of a rebel, with her twelve tattoos, her boyish looks and her unusual walk. She is twenty-one. Her measurements are five foot eleven inches, and 34, 24, 34.
He hasn’t held a steady job in years. His face is a regular at the welfare office. He is known as a downtrodden man, with his shabby clothing, his scraggly hair, and his occasional angry mutter. He is forty-one. His measurements are unknown, although he is certainly widest at the waist.
None of this, of course, means anything to the Manchurian Tiger that paces now toward them. It growls as if to confirm its indifference to their circumstance. Circumstance is what binds the model, the bum and the tiger at this moment. How did all this happen? Yes, it is peculiar, however life is often like that: you plan for this to happen, but that happens instead. The model was silently cursing this very permutation before the tiger turned up. Her mood went downhill from there.
Circumstance is familiar to the bum; the force of it has crushed him for years. But it’s different for the model – she appears to have life by the reins. They say she is self-actualising. Life, for the bum, is like a bolting horse from behind which he is being dragged. They say he is self-effacing.
The tiger flicks its tail as if annoyed, and its muscles ripple beneath its stripy fur. It looks as though it’s about to pounce. This is not happening, thinks the model. Not now. The bum thinks the same. It’s a surprise to him – that he should care. He often wished his heart would just stop beating. All that work, for what? Perhaps he served as an example for others – human entropy.
The model thinks of the car. It’s not so far away. “Please,” she whispers to the bum, “distract it.” The bum knows what she means. It is a reasonable request. She has everything; he has nothing. The world is on her side. Only the tiger sees it otherwise: it snarls when the model whispers and then it lunges for her. She screams before she falls and then the tiger is upon her. What a terrible injustice, thinks the bum. It should be me. He is startled to find himself running to rescue the model.
The tiger, if you were to translate it from Russian, is named Cuddles. She is the star attraction at the Rosgozirc State Circus. She appears in all the renowned Russian films where a performing tiger is required. She is known for her playful nature and her fondness for tall women. She will be four on Sunday. She is two metres long and weighs two hundred kilograms.
Cuddles licks the model. The bum stops his dash and stares at the model and the tiger. Anatoli Bykanov, Cuddles’ trainer bursts into the clearing and shouts in Russian for Cuddles to leave the girl alone. Cuddles growls, licks the model once more and then trots over to Anatoli. Anatoli speaks little English, but manages to apologise for Cuddles’ behaviour. “She is simply irrepressible,” he says. The model, who is not without humour, finds herself laughing. Anatoli laughs too although it is in relief: Cuddles sometimes bites.
Before Anatoli leaves with Cuddles on her leash, he obliges the model’s request to take a photo of her with Cuddles and him. The model hands her camera to the bum. The bum fumbles with the buttons and holds the camera wrong. She sighs and explains the workings to him again. Anatoli observes these two unusual westerners: the lanky girl and the rugged-looking, well-fed man. Perhaps the man is in the movies. He would make a fitting bad-guy cowboy. Yes this man is most likely from Hollywood. It would be good for Cuddles to be in a photo with this man. Anatoli waves for the bum to come and stand beside Cuddles and the model. When Anatoli takes the shot, he is displeased: he couldn’t persuade the Hollywood cowboy or the lanky girl to smile. Still, before Anatoli departs, he demands that a copy of the photo be sent to him: smiles or not, the photo