He was having an off day.
No reports came in.
The odds were heavily against it,
Astronomical, in fact,
But there you were,
Blue moons, black swans, a win
In a billion dollar lottery.
But it didn’t help his mood.
Perhaps he should stop wearing black.
Lighten up a little.
Wear something trendier.
T-shirt, chinos, loafers perhaps?
He had become something of a cliché.
What would his boss say?
Would he be let go? Demoted to Accounts?
He was not a pen pusher
But a man of action.
His shoulders slumped.
His scythe dropped.
He let out a sigh.
No one had died on his watch
Forgive me. I am not myself today.
I wasn’t myself yesterday either.
To tell you the truth, I’m really uncertain whether I will be myself tomorrow.
Or the next day. Or the next.
Where I’ve gone to, I just don’t know.
I have informed the police, the Missing Person’s Bureau.
They have put out an all points alert.
I take time off work.
I go looking for myself in bars, parks, in shopping malls.
I take photographs of myself to show them what I looked like.
Ugly bastard, someone quips.
Go easy, I say. He’s not a bad bloke once you get to know him.
The rest shake their heads sadly.
I go home, hang my hat on the rack and sit down morosely on the old lounge.
Ahh, there you are, I say, almost sitting on top of me.
I was here all along, he says. Where have YOU been?
Not a flock of seagulls
Nor a murder of crows
But a petulance of poets
Gathered in the conference room
Of the public library
Each champing at the bit
For their turn to read
Not really listening
But when their turn comes,
Oh the words, the words,
Such melody, such sweetness, such wit.
Was ever anything ….
Barely noticing that many who had already read
Had gone home or hit the bar
down the street.
They rattle on regardless.
Where’s the stage manager when you need him?
* ‘They never listened to one another; they were preoccupied with waiting for their turn’ [Jean Stafford: ‘An Influx of Poets’]
Once I was stuck in the moment.
It was like being stuck in a lift.
I was going nowhere.
Not even up and down.
There was no way out.
No alarm button to press.
I tried not to panic.
Tried smoking a cig.
Humming a tune
Studying a fly on the wall
Reciting my nine times tables
And then suddenly SNAP
I was out of it.
I don’t know how long I was in it.
It did have its moments
I must admit.
But you wondered if you’d ever
Get out and join
The flow of life again.
What seems to be the trouble , he asks .
I cough and splutter all over the place .
He gets the message .
Sits down to write the certificate .
There , he says , handing the form to me . This should do the trick .
I peruse it quickly .
There’s something missing, I say, why I had time off .
That’s right . If you had Alzheimers or a social disease would you want
people to know ?
Certainly not .
My point exactly .
But I thought you had to put something down .
No , he says . And if they ask , tell them to take a running jump . Better still , tell them to phone me and I’ll tell them to take a running jump . Only in stronger terms .
He stands up . Shakes my hand .
The next day at work I hand in the certificate .
He’s right .
They see the blank space but no one says a word .
I push it a bit further .
On the official form , the one you fill out yourself , where it says Illness I put down ‘See Certificate’ .
It feels good . It really does .
I’ve found a new way to treat with the world .
Please Wait to be Called,
The sign said
So I did.
I waited and waited
At the head of the queue
outside the pearly gates
And when, growing impatient,
I stepped forward,
St. Peter held up his hand:
“There seems to be some problem,”
“You’ll have to wait a little longer,”
I stamped my feet a little
When a light flashed overhead
& a door opened behind
& I was whooshed back
To the operating theatre where the surgeons
Had revived me
One step from paradise.
No one saw it coming. Least of all me. I was happily ensconced in a book when it EXPLODED. Such was its force that it blew the toupee off the man in front of me and propelled the stationary bus in which we were sitting two metres forward. The sneezer himself, a dread locked man in a canary yellow suit, whooshed around the aisle of the bus startling passengers until suitably deflated he flopped beside me flatulent as a whoopee cushion.