Sunday, 13 September 2009

Becoming

This week's sentence was taken from Jack Kerouac's 'On The Road'.

It was:
'I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn't know who I was — I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I'd never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn't know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds.'

Because of the length of the sentence, this week contributors were allowed to not count it in their 500 word total.

Becoming

I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn't know who I was — I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I'd never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn't know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds.

Even as I shuddered and stretched and heaved myself up off the stained mattress I had to say it aloud to convince myself.
"I am Samuel Charles Mackinson." whatever the hell that meant.

Walking to the window the linoleum, worn down to the thread in patches, felt clammy against my bare feet.
The thin curtains were the colour of a bruise. Carefully avoiding the grease-grey stains from hundreds of hands I twitched them aside and looked the world square in the sunset.

Sunset always gets me.
This one took that filthy street of run-down tenements and flophouses and made it beautiful. I blinked until my eyes caught up with the glare.
A light the colour of apricots glistened on damp asphalt, glittered off broken glass, smearing gasoline rainbows across puddles and potholes; the tangled, rusting latticework of fire escapes cast jagged spiderweb shadows over cracked concrete and hot ochre bricks.
I breathed it all in.

Rush-hour. Pavement packed with people, the roar of traffic deafening even from three floors up. Cutting through it all, the banshee screech of the el train taking the bend at the end of the street a little too fast; a blaring, roaring and clattering cacophony.
Music to my ears.

I hit the sidewalk as sunset surrendered to a bright new world of garish green and ruby neon, its hum and sputter a mile-wide bug-zapper drawing in the nightflies, drawing in Sam Mackinson.
Day shift over, the city came to life.

Corner bar. Refresher. The coffee felt good, the scotch felt better.
Burning a hole in my pants pocket the crumpled brown envelope containing my instructions for getting here and most of the wad of cash that came with them, together with the key to a locker at the bus station.

I took my time and let the crowds thin.
The depot was deserted but for a ragtag of bleary-eyed overnight travellers, backpackers and sleeping bums; a vast shed, its darkness relieved by pools of sickly fluorescent lowlighting, the whole place rank with the stink of stale piss, exhaust fumes and delays.
Rows of lockers; pale green tin. I tried to focus; the events of the past few weeks coming together like a slow-motion car wreck and making about as much sense. A psychedelic whirlwind of flickering images dizzied me:

Sam Mackinson, fresh-faced fly-boy, running CIA opium out of Cambodia under Nixon's nose; a 'deniable asset' abandoned when the shit came down.
‘M.I.A.’
But somebody it seemed had not forgotten me - a guardian angel. Hustled across the Laotian border and out via Vientiane, smuggled to San Dago, I’d hitched cross-country and now here I stood in this filthy bus terminal: dazed, exhausted … nobody.
I looked at the key. The key to my future.

Checking all round I opened the locker and took out the briefcase.
The pistol was there. The money. The apartment key. A number to call and a name: 'Bartleby'.

Walking out into the shining night I knew who I was.

6 comments:

Vanda said...

Oooh, the plot thickens! I love this pulp. I can see it like a movie - back from the 70's when American directors made good gritty crime movies and political thrillers.

I totally agree with you on cellphones - they make things far too easy.

dive said...

Thank you, Vanda. I must really try to steer clear of trashy pulp next week though; I find it way too easy to write it and that makes me lazy.

I love old 'pulp' movies, too. I have stacks of black and white film noir on DVD.
This 60s and 70s period was great, too though. Just last weekend I treated myself to a Walter Matthau crime double bill with the original Taking of Pelham 123 and the immaculate Charley Varrick (I love that movie).

MmeBenaut said...

Oooh, sucked right in here Dive. What an amazing array of beautiful adjectives.
My favourite: the para starting with "Sunset always gets me"; especially "smearing gasoline rainbows across puddles..."
Beautiful writing, as always.

dive said...

Mme: Thank you so much! I think that style of writing is a lot more fun to write than it is to read.
Not being a trained writer I find it difficult to write flowing prose and I tend to get bogged down in descriptive adjectives, so it's nice to find someone else who likes them too.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

So you ARE going to continue and turn this into a book, right???

"Sam Mackinson, fresh-faced fly-boy, running CIA opium out of Cambodia under Nixon's nose; a 'deniable asset' abandoned when the shit came down." Great line!!

dive said...

Oops, Katherine! I'd written almost 500 words and then realised I hadn't even started on Mackinson's backstory so I crammed his whole life into one sentence.
I do love to cheat. Hee hee.