Thursday, May 26, 2016
The large group under the trees have not noticed that there is no one speaking at the centre, until two pairs of policemen enter the park and start to break up the meetings.
Lomas observes that they travel in pairs because they are neurotic. If they travelled alone, they would start talking to themselves.
Freddie Kilennen walks up to a pair and asks them whether they would like to take part in the premiére trial run of his pneumatometer, which is a machine for measuring how much of the Holy Ghost there's left in a man's soul, and he belches.
One of the policemen says: Shut your mouth and clear out of the park . . . because I say so; and Cafferty observes that if you have a hat shaped like a bomb, egocentricity is rather out of place.
The police close Cumberland Gate and herd the people towards the other. Harry, Norman and the man with feathers in his hair wander about the tarmac unconsciously repeating themselves: the unconscious repetition which leads to neurosis. The neuroses will be sold to the tourists the next day.
The man with the silent message has left his platform, on which he stands saying nothing at all, and sits in the mirrored section of Fortes studying form: . . . to spot a winner, he says, demands a rare constriction in the mind, a constriction in the colours in the street, a constriction in the typography of the Sporting Life, a constriction in the air you breathe . . . never change your mind once you have, through your training, lapsed into this constriction, and you'll win . . . you'll surely win.
Lomas comes over to him and observes that Saturday night in winter in the park, when only the regulars are there, is like the service of compline in preparation for communion next day.
The man with the silent message says: As Aristotle, the great Italian sculptor said, a man is a man for all that.
Harry goes back to Chiswick, Norman goes back to Shepherd's Bush, Lil goes back to Stepney, Aggie wanders through the streets buttonholing people until she comes to the tea stand at the end of Hungerford Lane, Solly Sachs takes his dog back to Notting Hill; a man helps the woman from the Catholic Evidence Guild to fit her platform into the platform rack behind the New Inn, the man with the silent message goes back alone to the North End Road, and Lomas, Cafferty and Freddie Kilennen walk back to Kilburn.
Monday, May 16, 2016
Closer to the blaze, the stench of the fire filled the air and she could see fire tenders at the scene, three of them, as she walked up the road. Uniformed officers were keeping the crowd away from the site. The Old Chapel, she realized, now belching clouds of acrid smoke into the air, the inferno roaring. Hoses were spraying water but bright flames were still visible through the holes in the roof and the windows where the shutters had burned away.
Fire always drew a crowd, a spectacle and free at that. It hadn’t been a chapel for ages. Probably closed back in the seventies and she remembered it was a carpet place for a while then that went bust. Rachel had no idea what it was used for now, if anything. The state of the grounds, neglected and overgrown behind the wire fencing, and the holes in the roof suggested it was derelict. Just begging for some fire-starter to come along and set light to it.
She looked at the crowd. Whole families, mum with a pram and a bunch of kids around. Teenagers, some of them filming with their phones. A few older people too; one man had made it with his Zimmer, determined to be at the party. A lad on a BMX bike, stunt pegs on the rear wheel. Dom had wanted one of them, their dad had played along but they all knew the only way it would happen was if it was robbed. So it never happened. Rachel had found an old racing bike at the tip and dragged it home and Sean had begged new tyres off a cousin and they’d done it up for Dominic. Never had working brakes but Dom was made up.
All we need is an ice cream van, she thought, or toffee apples. A loud cracking sound and the crowd responded, oohing and aahing, as part of the roof collapsed and fell inside the building sending fresh flames and sparks heavenwards. Rachel shivered, damp from her run and not near enough to the heat from the fire.
Saturday, May 14, 2016
Thursday, May 05, 2016
Rachel was running. Running for her life. Air burning like acid in her chest, feet pounding the tarmac. Everything around her, the shops and passers-by, lampposts and railings, smudged, a blur of shape and colour.
She risked a glance behind, hair whipping in her eyes, almost losing her balance as one ankle buckled, and she saw the car was gaining. He was at the wheel, his face set with intent, eyes gleaming, mouth curved in a half-smile.
Running her down, running her to ground. For a moment, her legs stalled, numb, weak as string, before she took flight again. Arms slicing the air, throat parched, sweat cold across her skin and the thud of her heart ever louder in her ears. Then the roar as he gunned the engine, the screech as the car leapt towards her, close enough for her to smell burning oil and petrol fumes high in her throat. Dizzying.
The thump of impact. Hurling her forward, a bone-cracking crunch and Rachel fell, sprawling along the gutter and into the pavement’s edge, legs twisting the wrong way beneath her, skinning her chin and shoulder and the length of her forearms. Smacking her head against the kerbstone. A jolt that turned the world black and brought vomit scalding her gullet.
The engine cut out and then she heard his footsteps, the smack-smack of best Italian leather on the gritty stone.
She tried to draw away but was pinned, paralysed, and her attempt to shuffle brought scarlet pain licking through her hip. She tried to cry for help but her voice was frozen too and all the people had gone. She was alone with him.
‘Rachel,’ he said sadly, ‘Rachel, Rachel, what will I do with you?’