Clouds of Glory

Clouds of Glory

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(short story of 3052 words)

Comedy – General Literary – Humour Comedy Literary Literary – General

by Lawrence Freiesleben


Back in the early 1970’s, three ten-year old friends go up town to cause trouble. “The first thing I heard from outside was half-shouted laughter. Shadows moved on our wavy glass. The aluminium letterbox flapped as I wrenched the rain-swelled door open. I knew who it’d be. The time was right. “Comin’ up tahn?” One of them asked, grinning, the other thinking it with a half-smile but looking sideways down the street, uneasy. Kev was always like that. Like all the worst of his past was about to catch up. Happily uneasy though. Adrenalin always flowing. Always on the watch for opportunity . . . Mark grinned again, twitching his arms in his cherished plum and black PVC jacket. He often claimed it was leather, I didn’t mind. My uncle had reckoned leather was silent: “PVC sounds different,” he’d asserted dismissively, probably narked at being shown-off through a gap in the curtains, asleep on the sofa, some weekends back: “That’s my uncle!” I’d announced outside the house to a few mates. But what did he expect, my mother’s brother? At least I’d said it with pride. It wasn’t as if you could see anything but his head. Up in London he worked at Heathrow, and this fact along with the rarity of his presence, made him a minor god . . . and basically, (dog ends circulating in his mug of cold tea), he always lounged till noon on Sundays when he stayed with us; delaying till the whimsy to rise overcame his inertia. Only then, after occupying the solitary bathroom for what seemed hours, would he be ready to head to the pub – him and my dad. Oblivious of time, there they’d soak until the Yorkshire puddings sank and our dinner was dead. Dinner my mum made specially for his visits. Leather or not, Mark was my friend, and I believed him. True friends try to believe. Even when they take the piss or know you are lying, they believe underneath. It was only a few months old then, that jacket. New for his birthday. I can see it clearly in a photo that survives. Feels like we must’ve been teenagers. Impossible that we were only ten or eleven. When you go back in memory, you throw the stone of yourself into that past sea, and as the stone sinks, you leave with the ripples that wave out forever – seeing what you couldn’t see at the time, aware of the potential inside other families you knew, yearning towards those you couldn’t know: other generations, other family trees . . . “Just goin’ up town,” I shouted upstairs to the liers-in, probably all still asleep, modifying tahn to town in case mum was disturbed enough to reply and slow us down. It was things like that – that caution before speaking – which heralded another degree of separation. The underground of parental aspiration, the tests and codes, the underlying ambition: books on the walls, the changing paintings. All the silent, drowning whales in the room. . .”



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