Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

Playing for Time

Our party consisted of myself, my friends Duncan and ‘Dusty’ Paul (both fellow students at the University of Liverpool) and a recent acquaintance whom we had met through left-wing splinter groups.  His name was Geoff and he was small, nervous and of mixed Irish and Lebanese origin.  We were walking near the junction of Croxteth Road and Lodge Lane in Liverpool.  The time was about one o’clock in the morning.  Earlier that night, we had attended a political meeting in the centre of the city.  Duncan happened to be wheeling his bicycle.

Our animated, left-wing conversation was interrupted by the arrival of a passing Scouser with very dilated pupils who mistakenly took the fact that Duncan was walking beside, rather than riding, his bicycle as an indication that some mishap had befallen.  When we had explained to the man’s satisfaction that no injury had occurred, and the bicycle was in full working order and, furthermore, that Duncan could get back on it at any moment of his choosing and constitute no danger either to himself or other road-users, he then taxed us on the subject of our conversation, the gist of which had been to do with a campaign to oppose the closure of a local hospital.  The man vigorously agreed that this was a worthy cause and said that he was a Marxist.

‘Because you have to have a fochun ‘ypothesis of economics,’ he vehemently assured us.

Geoff then engaged the man in lively conversation for a further fifteen minutes, and I for one was chilled to the bone and thoroughly bored by the time we were able to set off again as a group.

Only when we got several hundred yards away, well out of earshot of the man, did we discover from Geoff that all the time he had been convinced that the man was almost certainly armed and was about to attack us.  As he had talked to the stranger, he had felt that he was desperately trying to delay the moment of an inevitable death.


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