Imagine If You Could Run As Fast As This

I overheard this kid on the tram into Manchester the other morning. Look how fast we’re going, he said to his daddy. He hummed under his breath, then his small grey mittens tapped his daddy’s shoulder. I bet I could run this fast, he declared, then a moment later: I bet I could run faster than this.
When I heard that thought process it made me smile, because the boy was just a boy, and the tram was a tram, and people will never run as fast as machines.

Every morning, I arrive at the station just after nine. I’m always later than I meant to be, and I’m always listening to music to forget how late I am. I listen to one of two playlists, depending on my mood. The first playlist is called Faves Of Outstanding Beauty. The second is called Faves With Extra Sauce. I named the lists myself. The names make me feel a bit sick.

Sometimes I look out of the tram window on the way to work. There’s this electronic sign near Deansgate. It has a picture of a turkey on it. On Tuesday, above the turkey, it said In Six Days We Cook. I’m guessing on Tuesday there were six days left until Christmas. I think it’s supposed to be a play on In God We Trust. Somehow the turkey is God, and cooking is our religion.
I’m an atheist.

Normally I arrive at work at 9.36. I try to arrive at different times, but I almost always arrive at 9.36.
The first thing I do when I get to the office is go to the kitchen. I pour myself a coffee, which the permanent staff jokingly refer to as Rocket Fuel. The temporary staff drink so much it hurts.
Three out of seven of the temporary staff are underweight. I am not underweight. But I am temporary.

On the way to work, I sometimes think: what if this is it? What if this is the world? Just this strip of space I can see on the way from home into work, and from work back home – what if this is everything? These are the only streets, the only cafés, the only job centres, the only canal-side gastropubs, the only churches. And these are the only people.
Most of the time, I find this thought reassuring.

Yesterday was Wednesday. The electronic sign said In Five Days We Cook.
Before lunch, I shredded fifty-three sheets of paper. After lunch, I printed out ninety-five sheets. I said hello to eight people. I received two emails about weight loss methods that could change my life. I ate a cheese sandwich out of a tupperware box. I didn’t get a single text message.

The first thing I do when I get home is go to the kitchen. I pour myself a glass of wine, just the one, which normally turns into two, then five. The Rocket Fuel will always take the edge off the hangover.

Twice a week I meet up with a married woman I know. We talk about her husband and her children and how she hasn’t got time to hear herself think. We talk about how much better life was before it got like this. We talk about all the things we regret. We talk about all the things that make us sad. We kiss when we say goodbye.

Apparently, in four days we cook.

On the mornings after I’ve met up with the married woman, I can smell her perfume on my skin. It makes me feel ashamed. And aroused.

I often wish I believed in God.

This morning, I was waiting at the coffee machine, and I remembered that little boy on the tram, the one with the grey mittens. I bet I could run this fast, he’d announced to his daddy. I bet I could run faster than this.
And I remembered that what he’d said that day had made me smile. Silly boy, I’d thought, to think he could go that fast. To think he could go faster than this.
Today, as I helped myself to a fourth cup of Rocket Fuel, thinking about that little boy made me feel different. It made me feel disappointed. Disappointed because I’m thirty now, and I can’t remember the last time I imagined I could run as fast as anything.

Anneliese Mackintosh

Anneliese’s debut short story collection, Any Other Mouth, will be published by Freight in June. In 2012 she was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and her fiction has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Scotland, and published in Edinburgh Review, The Best British Short Stories 2013, Gutter and The Scotsman. Anneliese lives in Manchester.

anneliesemackintosh.com
freightbooks.co.uk

Portrait

Monk in robes eating instant noodles, flipping through sexed-up magazines:

No lotus bloom in your eye. No enigmatic love on your tongue.

You look like the watered down franchise of some once great faith.

And why should I expect anything more

from just a man.

David Wood


Train Station Tales

Early Sunday evening and Lenor scented students drift by, stuffed from a weekend of eating. Searching for a train to take them home, back to another week of toast and beer.

Then a sound from the distant past echoes through the station.

A confident metallic click, click, click of footsteps. I turn hoping to find someone wearing a star jumper and Birmingham bags with deep pockets.

Instead I find a man in a suit with a pull-a-long case and segs on the souls of his shoes, that there London bound.

Jo Hiley