MOJAVE

Sign of the Times-0153 Image by Christine Renney

It isn’t the most inspiring of views. The flats directly opposite, a rectangular block identical to the others. the scuffed tarmac in front of the entrance doors to each of the stairwells and the expanse of patchy grass that separates that block from his.
The old man leans forward in his chair and from his balcony window on the third floor he can see the road on his right but not the sky above. He settles back and, confronted with a wall of darkened windows, he glances down and sighs. He stifles a yawn and listens to the traffic, is reassured by its constant hum and to this lullaby of sorts he begins to drift. He is always drifting it seems or coming around from one of his many sleeps, the naps that now define his days.
When he opens his eyes he is startled, surprised to see two men standing facing each other. It isn’t exactly the Mojave out there but it is a poor shortcut and although occasionally a group of boys will venture out into the middle and claim the waste ground for a spell at least, it is much easier and far quicker to keep to the path. The men, bloated and middle aged, are almost indistinguishable and he doesn’t realise at first that they are moving. But very slowly they circle each other and the effort this requires is obviously considerable.
The old man can’t even be sure for how long he has been watching but he doesn’t doubt that this slow and not so courtly dance will reach a conclusion. One of the men suddenly punches the other in the face and this man, the victor, can hardly contain himself and, making his ungainly getaway, he strides across the waste ground and begins to laugh. But his laughter dies almost as abruptly as his clumsy departure. It stutters and stalls like a dirty engine.
The old man cannot look anymore, not at the man now standing alone and nursing his bloody nose, using his sleeve to staunch the flow. The old man sits back and, closing his eyes, he waits for sleep, for it to come and steal his sighs.

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6 comments

  1. chrisnelson61

    I really like the way this piece equates being ‘trapped’ in a building with being trapped in old age. A sad, and uncomfortable, reflection of society. Beautifully expressed, Mark.

  2. field of thorns

    Mark, another great piece! The old man, sits so close to the edge of almost being obscure. This is his world, and for a moment we are part of this world, until he falls asleep again. Wonderful!

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