So, anyway, I sat down and put in my earphones and that was good because I couldn’t hear the bitching anymore. Dylan was providing palliative care. The blackened window showed nothing I couldn’t see anyway just by looking around me.
So I slipped into a reverie. About an idea I had for a story about a sad man who couldn’t work out why he was sad. He had everything going for him: a privileged background, comfortable surroundings, the respect of family and friends, but still he endured an overwhelming sadness.
He sat in a warm, comfortable study on an evening such as this. The fire burned intensely behind his oak desk and bounced its warm glow off the dark panelled walls. He slid open the shallow desk drawer with his right hand and took out his Service Revolver – a trophy from his War service. He often sat and fingered the weapon during quiet moments of meditation, when the household permitted them.
It was a Webley .38 and it had been at his side throughout the War, through thick and thin. They had shared many moments and he felt a greater affinity with the Webley than with anyone in the house and most of the people he encountered outside. His closest friends were dead and he had little time for reunions and listening to war stories. He felt perfectly self-sufficient.
The revolver was an ugly object, but had an inner beauty by design. Its job in the world was a simple one and it had been single-mindedly designed to achieve it as efficiently as possible. The result was lean and elegant, not pretty. It carried not an ounce of fat.
The gun felt heavy in his hand and, though the fire kept the room more than comfortably warm, its metal body was cold to the touch. He wrapped his fingers and thumb around the wooden grip and rotated the cylinder with his left hand. The precise click as each chamber aligned with the hammer brought a satisfied smile to his face.
He drew back the hammer until it locked then raised the gun to the opposite wall. His forefinger curled around the trigger. First pressure – little resistance. Second pressure – a slight stiffening. He released his breath, sighting along the barrel. Click. The hammer snapped home.
Outside, sleet rattled against the window. Rush-hour traffic rumbled past in the early evening mid-winter gloom. Placing the Webley back in the drawer, he got up and walked to the sideboard and poured himself a whisky from the decanter. He strode to the window and looked out to the busy street.
A news-vendor called out the headlines from the opposite pavement, selling copies of the Evening News to commuters hurrying for buses and trains through the sleet. The man leant on a crutch, balanced on his one good leg. The worn greatcoat had travelled the same muddy tracks as the Webley. Framed, straight-backed in the window, he sipped from his glass and lit a cigarette.
He didn’t fit in this street any more than the news-vendor. He put the glass down and strode back over to the desk, where he drew a sheet of headed paper from a drawer and laid it on the blotter. He took up his pen and began to write furiously. Finishing, he read the letter through until he was satisfied.
He pulled open the top drawer and took out the revolver. Then rummaged in the back of the drawer to retrieve a small pouch, which he unwrapped. In it were a small bottle of oil, a cloth, cord and some brushes.
He broke the pistol, easing out the cylinder, and began to clean and oil it. He looked down the barrel and through each chamber running the four-by-two cloth through them and inspecting them in what little available light the room offered. He expertly reassembled the revolver and spun the cylinder, then cocked the mechanism and watched the cylinder rotate. Click. The hammer snapped home.
He re-packed the cleaning kit and replaced it in the drawer, taking out a small grey cardboard box. He broke the pistol and unpicked the top flap of the box. One at a time, he pulled out six small metal cartridges and inserted each into a chamber of the Webley, before snapping it shut and placing the box back in the drawer. He didn’t expect to need all six rounds, but it would be a poor show to make a mess of things and leave the job half done.
He locked the desk and stood up. Taking his coat and hat from the stand, he walked out of the study then through the front door, down the steps and into the street – never looking back at the letter he’d left on the blotter. He hesitated only briefly, to consider whether to turn right towards the West End or left away from town, and was gone. Lost among the lost in the sleet and evening smog.
The train drew into the station. I knew it was mine, subliminally. I awoke from my day-dream. The gossiping women across from me had gone. I hadn’t noticed. Dylan had moved on several tracks. I couldn’t tell you what I missed. I stepped off the train and into London’s evening rush-hour crowds.
© Copyright Kevin Buckle 2013