…entre nous soit dit…

between me you and the gatepost.

Short Story #1: City Business

This semester I’ve taken a Creative Writing course at university which is a second year unit. I may be over my head, but who knows? We have to write multiple pieces for the course, but one of them has to be a short story that we submit to our tutorial class to be critiqued by our peers. I don’t have to do mine for another 7 weeks, but I had an idea today that I wanted to get out before I forgot it. Would love some comments on it, even if it’s to say that it’s a piece of shit. Still haven’t done a final edit though. Enjoy!…

The average person has a heart beat of 60 to 80 beats per minute, a volume of around 280 litres of blood pumped by the heart per hour, and on average they replace 27 billion cells in their body per day.

The average person grows up in a family, wants to be rich and successful when they are older, and dreams of all the things that are wonderful and possible in their future.

I was a kid just like that once upon a time. I dreamt of becoming the head of my fathers company, which contracted out almost every building firm in the city. I wanted to build onto his already vast empire, and become one of those rich and powerful men that you saw walking down the boulevard in their black suits with an assistant scurrying along behind them taking notes – the kind of man that looked and breathed power and importance.

I grew up and took over that business.

My mother had died giving birth to me, so I had only ever known my fathers voice and wisdom. I had started as a little tacker sitting on his knee as he told me the value of each block I used to build a toy castle out of duplo. Throughout my childhood, it seemed as though I was in training – a marathon of lessons and rules. It wasn’t an unhappy childhood without the usual fun and sillyness that every kid desires, but one where I learnt a lesson from every action, consequence and thought that I had. The burning passion inside me for business was stoked from the cradle, so that by the age of 14 it had gone from being a glistening ember to a roaring fire that could engulf a house.

When I was only 18 and fresh out of high school, I was at my fathers side running the company with a staff of fifty under my control. By 20, I was controlling almost every aspect of business and taking it in new directions. I had learnt everything I could from my father by the age of 22. I had sucked him dry of knowledge and command, and I was ready to take over. My mind was overcome with the lustful hunger for power, and I forced him into retirement against his own desires. I was the ruler of my own empire.

I became the rich successful man that I so longed to be as a child – I was the one that got paid $1000 a minute and owned an empire worth billions. I had the world at my feet, the city in the palm of my hand, any woman I wanted on my arm and anything became possible for me. I lived a life fit for the movies and better than any king or queen. I had it all.

November 16, on the year that I had turned 27, there was a freak car accident.

At 11.22 pm, a car slid uncontrollably through a red light due to black ice on the roads. It hit 2 other cars passing through the intersection, and another car swerved to avoid the collision that was occurring. Normally, you would expect the significant damage to lie with the pile up of cars situated in the centre of the intersection. Not this time. The car that had swerved, drove off the road and skidded into the side of a house on the corner – a quiet and modest house where a little old man lived alone and uncared for.

As the innocent car skidded into the side of the front room, the bonnet smashed through the window and into the small bedroom posted with old photographs of lost loved ones and small boy playing in a yard. Old memories were torn up in a matter of seconds with that one car, as it killed the small grey haired man in his bed as he slumbered silently. His life was extinguished in a less than a moment.

That moment was the one that brought my whole life crashing down. The death of the one man that had changed and helped me build my life was the only thing that had ever broken through the walls of business and power that I had built around myself. I had hid behind those walls for so long so people only saw my power and not my insecurities.

How do you describe the transformation that the death of one man can make so drastically? The death of my father, my mentor, the only person that truly nurtured my passion and that I rejected as a result of my lust for superiority and greed for power. That, is one thing I could not tell you. I could tell you anything about business and the ethics of it, but when it comes to philosophy, I’m still at a loss as to where my place is in the world.

Now that small house is an abandoned and run down site. The doors hang on hinges and the windows are all broken. The front room still bears a gaping hole reminding all of the history and tragedy that took place there. By day it is empty, by night it is full. The city’s beggars and homeless, that can’t find refuge in one of the few shelters, drag their weary feet there. The cold breeze blows through the cracks and the only sounds that can be heard are the gentle creaking boards and slow snores of poor men. They are considered the scum and the bottom of society. Spat upon, they are rejected by all who pass them.

After all, to the rich businessman with the scurrying secretary, how can the homeless man sitting outside begging for money or food really be a man? How can he possibly be like everyone else, when he wears rags, is covered in dirt and hasn’t a single thing in his possession?  To that man in the suit, every man has to make his own living and be proud. Only through hard work can one be rewarded. That businessman doesn’t need to look any further than the filth that he sees sitting in the gutters, to know that he is a pitiful excuse for a man. Once upon a time, I would have thought that as well.

Sitting here in the filthy gutter, I can reflect on that.

After that one moment on June 16, everything lost meaning in my world. I didn’t want what I had thought was important and I retreated to a life of watching the world pass by. Once upon a time, I had lived the life and seen what the world had to offer.

As people pass me now avoiding eye contact, and mother’s rush their children away from the filthy ragged man that I am, I wonder what their own stories are. Looking at me, you would never guess that I could out smart any one of them when it came to business and the stock market, or that somewhere in the world there is a slowly growing bank account worth more than a child could dream of in my name. No one would guess that I could probably outwit them when it came to knowledge of the literary greats or that I knew how to put together an entire oven. Living on the streets, I have read manuals on electrical goods, discarded books, and newspapers from every day and every subject. I’m definitely nothing short of very well informed when it comes to those matters.

I am probably one of the smartest men in this city and I used to be the most powerful. Now I sit peacefully and fulfilled in the back alleys, archways and curbs of the city, pondering the very existence of those who scorn me and consider me an animal or vermin not worthy of being in their society.

However, I once walked amongst them, revered and loved. I have an average heart beat of 67 beats per minute, a volume of around 280 litres of blood pumped by the heart per hour, and like them, I replace around 27 billion cells in my body per day. I’m just your average man.

I just chose a different life.


August 5, 2009 Posted by | life, my writings, observation, people, short stories, The Streets!, university | 2 Comments