VANTAGE POINT

Chris R-0851 Image by Christine Renney

He repeatedly makes his way down and comes back up. He times his visits for when the place is at its busiest, at rush hour, early in the morning and again in the evening.
He moves through quickly, weaving his way amongst them, his progress almost frenzied. Once he is clear, he slows and pushes his way back.
He has established a routine of sorts and, loitering on the outskirts, he waits. He steps out a circuit beginning at the edge of the ring road and eventually taking in the grounds of the cathedral. When the grass verge begins to widen, he makes toward a remaining section of the old city wall. There is an iron railing and, clambering, he swings himself around it and steps down onto the narrow ledge below.
In his ragged and dusty clothes he leans back against the grey stone. He can see so much from up here. It is the ideal vantage point.

Most of them have disappeared into the buildings. He watches the others, the ones still moving in and out of the shops. The tableaux from up here always looks the same but it isn’t. Some of the shoppers leave and others arrive and he is all too aware that this is constantly changing. Only during the lunch hour, when the workers emerge from the office blocks, can he be sure. And it is important that he has completed his circuit and is back here by then.
But he still has a little time and he lifts the rifle. It isn’t real but a replica. Still cost him a pretty penny though and leaving it here is risky he knows. But he can hardly carry it with him and anyhow the fact it hasn’t been taken and is just as he left it, propped up against the wall, reassures him that he hasn’t been discovered, that nobody knows.
Pushing the rifle hard against his shoulder and crouching he takes up position. Pressing his eye against the telescopic scope he picks out first one shopper, then another, and another. CLICK, CLICK, CLICK.

SUSPENDED

Christine and I have a new post on Hijacked Amygdala .

hijacked amygdala

Chris R-0317.jpg Image by Christine Renney

Three or so hours ago it seemed like a good idea. Set off this evening and drive through the night, arrive home in the early hours and sleep until late. Manage to snatch back some time for myself. But it is only just midnight and already I am beginning to flag. The road ahead is bleached by the hard light from above. It has the jarring urgency of film and I have grown weary from its unspooling. I squint through the windshield, watching, because I must.

Motorway services aren’t ever entirely deserted, not even at two o’clock in the morning. There are a handful of motorists sitting as far away from each other as possible. The service area is cavernous and my every movement is amplified. The scraping of my chair as I stand and my footsteps as I walk back up to the counter for…

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CAGED

Christine and I have a new post on Hijacked Amygdala.

hijacked amygdala

Chris R-2-20 Image by Christine Renney

The bird had fallen down into their chimney. They had missed this, hadn’t heard its descent. Trapped and stalled but still attempting to fly, the bird bounced against the bricks.

They could hear the wings beating, its head and body bashing against the thin board that had been tacked in front of the fireplace.
‘We have to do something,’ she said.
‘Like what?’ he asked.
‘What do you mean, ‘like what’?’ she glared at him, incredulous. ‘We need to get it out of there, to set it free.’
‘How?’ From where he stood he studied the board. He couldn’t see any screws or fixings and suspected it had simply been glued into place and that removing it wouldn’t be difficult or particularly disruptive.
‘If we’re going to remove the board we need to get in touch with the landlord,’ he said. ‘It’ll pull the plaster away…

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SALESMAN

Chris R-0845 Image by Christine Renney

‘Door-to-door sales is a dying art,’ he says.
I don’t want to answer, to be pulled into this again but the others around the table are looking at me, waiting.
‘It’s just a job,’ I say at last.
‘A trade,’ he muses, ‘a dying trade.’
The woman sitting beside him, I think she’s his wife, sniggers and the others are now watching me even more intently.
‘Maybe,’ I mumble, then more forcefully, ‘but…I don’t know, maybe not.’
‘Oh, come on,’ he is almost shouting, rearing back a little in his seat, ‘shopping is so easy now, almost instant. The idea of buying from a little man on the doorstep with his samples and brochures in his little suitcase, it just seems, I don’t know, so……..’
‘Anachronistic,’ the woman, who may be his wife or mistress, says.
‘Yes, exactly,’ he laughs.
I shrug.
‘So, you sell vacuum cleaners?’ he continues, ‘and other “Electrical Goods and Appliances” – am I right?’
‘I sell a vacuum cleaner.’
‘Just vacuum cleaners?’
‘A vacuum cleaner.’
‘Just the one make and model?’
‘Yes.’
‘You don’t offer any choice or variety?’
‘No.’
‘Wow, it must be something special this vacuum.’
‘It is very efficient and has proved to be reliable.’
‘Okay, so how does this work? What exactly do you do? Obviously you drive around from town to town?’
‘I drive, of course I drive, but mostly I walk. I walk from house to house, street to street.’
‘Okay, so you knock on the doors and people invite you into their homes? They are taken in by your spiel – I suppose it’s as simple as that. You show them the glossy brochures and they make an order.’
‘There aren’t any brochures.’
‘Then how do they know what they are buying?’
‘I show it to them.’
‘You show them the vacuum cleaner?’
‘Yes.’
‘You carry it with you?’
‘Yes.’
‘Isn’t it heavy?’
‘No. Is your vacuum cleaner heavy?’
‘No, I suppose not. So, you show them how it works?’
‘No, not really. Everyone knows how a vacuum cleaner works.’
‘So what do you do? How do you make them believe that they want, that they need it, that it’s better than the one they already have?’
‘I can’t tell you that. Tricks of the trade, I’m sure you understand.’
‘Tricks of a dying trade,’ says another woman to my left, but she doesn’t snigger.
‘Okay, I’m intrigued. You must have it in your car, show me this vacuum cleaner and make your pitch.’
‘No, I can’t do that.’
‘Why not?’
‘I don’t sell to friends,’ I pause, just momentarily, ‘or to people I meet like this, outside of work.’
‘You don’t mix business with pleasure?’
‘No, never.’
‘Okay, I’ll buy one on-line. You can give me the details.’
‘There is no website.’
Incredulous, he glances around the table and realises that all the heads have turned and the focus has now shifted on to him.
‘The shop then,’ he says, ‘there must be a shop or showroom somewhere?’
‘No.’
‘Okay, the factory then, I’ll visit the factory.’
‘You can’t buy direct.’
‘And I can’t buy from you?’
‘Of course you can buy from me or from any one of the other Salesmen but only if and when we knock on your door.’