Bohemia Village Voice  Bohemia Village Voice

For bohemians everywhere

John Gilbert

2.6 seconds

2.6 seconds was how long it took to fall 15 floors to the ground, just time to say a very short prayer.
It had been a depressing week for Talbot, starting with losing his job at the local newspaper. ‘Not enough initiative’, the editor said. This resulted in the argument of the century with his girlfriend, Eris.
‘We can’t both live on my salary’, she had screamed. ‘If scrimping and saving is where we’re headed, I’d be better off with you gone’. No sign of gratitude for the fact that he had turned her dingy one-bedroom flat existence into a life where screw-top, half-price wine was no longer the best she could afford.
Eris had hardly spoken since their argument and had taken to retiring to bed early each evening. By the time Talbot climbed in, she was either asleep or giving a virtuoso performance as a corpse. He knew better than to attempt intimacy when she was in this mood, although that was what he desperately needed to lift him from the pit in which he was currently residing.
But he had made a decision. He knew exactly what he was going to do to solve the problem.
‘I’ll make the front page with this’, he had declared to the raven that had taken to perching in the tree that blocked most of the light from their lounge.
‘No initiative? Better off with me gone? We’ll see.’
As dawn broke on a dismal Sunday morning he stood at the foot of one of two remaining tower blocks in the wasteland that had once been a thriving community. In four hours it would all be over. His problems would be behind him and his name would be in the newspaper again. Looking up he noted that there were 15 floors.
“Thank God there’s a lift,” he whispered to the black cat curled up in the corner of the foyer as he stepped inside.
“No point in killing myself on the way up,” he sniggered quietly as the lift ascended.
Reaching the top floor, he was pleased to see there was an access ladder to the roof. It would be easier to get the result he wanted from there than through an open window. He climbed out and made his way to the parapet, walking one way and the other to decide on the best location: the point from which he would get the maximum impact.
Time passed slowly as the crowds began to gather at the barriers. He checked his watch. 20 minutes to go. The charges would have been set; the engineers would have double-checked everything. He would ensure that nobody forgot this day.
Two minutes to go, time to get into position. Timing was crucial. He looked over the parapet, 15 floors down to solid concrete. Standing, he readied himself, took a deep breath and stepped forward. 2.6 seconds was how long it took to fall 15 floors to the ground, just time to say a very short prayer. He had never really been a believer, but now was perhaps a good time to start.
“Dear God, don’t let it hit anybody.” The last thing he wanted was to appear on the front page of the newspaper as the man responsible for killing a small child.
As the camera that had somehow fallen from his hands shattered below him, so did his dreams of capturing on film the demolition of the neighbouring tower, of regaining his job and proving his worth to Eris.


Bob’s Christmas

Huddled in a corner, Bob looked out through the broken window at the road below him and the seashore beyond.
This was by far the best vantage point that he had found, giving him a clear view and an escape route if he should need one. He could see the waves crashing on the beach, swirling up the incline to a foamy white death. He could hear the gulls screeching; none bothered him here, unlike the night he had spent curled up on a bench along the lower promenade.
It was two weeks since he had come home to an empty house. The family had taken him in the year before when they found him sleeping in their shed. He could be a nuisance at times, but just to move on without him – what was that all about? But he didn’t need them now; he would make his own way in the world.
The stairs up to the flats above the restaurant were dry and almost warm. Something to do with the vent from the kitchen probably, but of more interest were the bins in the back yard. It was amazing how much food people wasted and having turned out to be an expert bin-raider, Bob knew he would not go hungry.
As he looked forward to midnight, when he would sneak down to see what was on tonight’s menu, flakes of snow started to fall. The shrubs below his sanctuary slowly changed colour until they seemed to be imitating the churning ocean, as the wind started to whip across its surface.
This would turn out to be the first white Christmas for several years. In the morning many a child would wonder how Santa had managed to deliver presents without leaving a footprint, hoof print or sled track in sight. But for now, Bob just sniffed, pressed himself further into the corner and waited.
It was not long before he heard the crashing and banging of his supper being so carelessly prepared below him. Elsewhere in the world a red-nosed reindeer might be hoping for the odd biscuit on his rounds tonight, but a cold-nosed Bob had tastier treats in mind.
Creeping silently down the stairs he peered over the wall. Once again the bin lid had been left open, as if in the expectation of his visit. Stepping onto the wall, he jumped down.
Something must have distracted him at the last moment, for instead of landing neatly beside the bin he crashed against the side of it and ricocheted towards a large drum of greasy liquid that stood alongside. In he went; head first, shrieking in surprise and swallowing a mouthful for good measure. As he recovered himself, coughing and spluttering, the rear door of the restaurant flew open and a young man stepped out. Bob froze, was it possible he would not be seen? No such luck, the waiter stepped forward swiftly and easily grabbed the greasy, bedraggled cat by the scruff of the neck.
“So it’s you that’s been going through our bins,” Noel said in a kindly tone.
“My Dad thought we had rats. Perhaps you could stay for a while and make sure we don’t get any.”
Bob didn’t understand a word that was being said to him, but simply recognised that he was not being scolded. By the morning he had settled in with a new family and started to hope that some of the salmon he had seen being prepared would find its way into his Christmas dinner.

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