Ebb and Flow

About / O:

Daniel Odija’s short story written during Once Upon a Deadline in Translation in Southend-on-Sea in September 2012.


Opowiadanie Daniela Odiji napisane w ramach Once Upon a Deadline in Translation w Southend-on-Sea we wrześniu 2012 roku.

Excerpt / Fragment:

As early as 3 p.m. today Alan Smith felt tired. That’s why he needed to rest on the stairs of Churchill’s club. When he was younger, he used to come here to party with girls whose ample bodies smelt of youth. Time hastened and fifty-year-old Alan didn’t party anymore. Now he sat at the junction of Tylers Avenue and Chichester Road. The air attacked him with cars’ engines and wheels, they drove through his head too. Fuck, why did he have to get so wasted? He was just trying to drown the tiredness. He felt it every day since he understood that he didn’t love his wife anymore, his frail, little Kate. They didn’t talk, avoided each other, steered clear of each other, pretended that nothing had changed… But it had.

Alan’s sweaty skull was meticulously covered with his thin hair. He didn’t have energy to do it more meticulously. He didn’t have energy to reach for the comb he kept in the inside pocket of his shirt with ‘First travel’ embroidered on it. He got up and started walking unsteadily towards the sea.

After a few beers everybody develops their own stride. Some move back more than forward, others use a chess knight’s manoeuvre or attempt to catch up with their own legs or their own head. Alan Smith was the master of appearances. He was very good at pretending sobriety when he was completely plastered. He straightened up, stiffened his legs and walked in a robot-like way. And inattentive bystanders saw an ailing man, not a drunk. Alan didn’t want to go home. He went towards the sea. He must have had a reason to do that, but he yet had to discover it.

His children grew up. Twenty-three-year-old Sally was somewhere in the Carribean, earning money for her law degree. Twenty-year-old Harry got lost somewhere in London. Alan missed them. He leant against a post with a sign ‘Drinking Control Area’. He spinned a bit around that post, but that’s what posts are for after all – to hold on to them. So Alan grasped it, held on and maintained the posture of a dry person. Or at least that’s what he thought… Phew, admitting to yourself that time passes is not easy… He missed his children dearly. And it all made sense now. When they moved out, the boredom kicked in, the indifference. He realised he was living with a strange woman and his wife realised she was living with a strange man. Did they have enough strength to say it out loud face to face? So far they stared into mirrors and practiced arranging their apprehensions into words. But since they were not very talkative people, they stayed silent. If they spent an evening together, it was in front of the telly, Alan snoring after an exhausting day and Kate holding back her tears.

Alan walked down High Street, passing numerous smiling faces. Those smiles concealed a common secret. The secret of time.

A view stopped him, a view that he has seen so many times before. A panorama of the amusement park, with a bit too much movement, swayed in front of his eyes. Behind it he could see the spill of water with a narrow ribbon of the pier cutting into it. The pier was as long as Alan’s longing. The days gone by shimmered on a smooth surface of the sea, bathed in a strong sunlight.

Reality performed a leap – which was not so unusual for a drunken mind – and suddenly Alan found himself in the midst of children’s screams. He came to amongst moving machines, which brought ecstasy of joy and fear into being. The roar of roller coasters, rides, speeding cars, whirling merry-go-rounds mingled with squeals and sighs. Alan watched the children. It moved him to see those few-year-old people only just starting into their lives, and starting it with play. They took the world and didn’t smell a rat of deception. Time will serve it to them in the future.


Odpływy i przypływy


Daniel Odija



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