Time is subjective. There are occasions when we want it to slow down or speed up. ‘Window Gazing’ explores one such instance. The story happens in just a few seconds but it unveils slowly through the magnifying glass of the narrator’s eyes in his ultimate moment. Words, Pauses, Noises is delighted to present MA student, Michael J Fleming, and his short story, ‘Window Gazing’, a part of The Fish On My Ear, a short story collection Michael published in 2012.
By Michael J Fleming
I could not have guessed, that so soon after slipping out of my apartment on that bright Autumn day, I would become something of a celebrity. Indeed, my first feeling was one of irresponsibility as I passed the Holt apartment, knowing at that moment the family would be sitting down to a healthy avocado salad. The Holt Saturday lunch was a confection that Grechen recommended every time she saw me creeping out to the pub. Of the four of them, Bob, Grechen and the two kids, it was only the eight year old boy who looked my way as I passed. I locked eyes with Kyle for a moment, as he was about to take a bite from his celery stick. He held it there in front of his open mouth, like a microphone. Strangely enough, years later I went to see Kyle in concert, in Brighton. By that time, Bob and Gretchen had come to terms with his career and life-style choices. It helped that Emma had qualified as a doctor and produced their two grandchildren. But it would be Kyle who cared for his parents in their declining years.
I moved on from the Holt’s place and passed the apartment where old Brendan Ladd lived. Although we were long-term neighbours, I had never actually been in Brendan’s home. Initially, I was surprised to see that my reclusive acquaintance had guests. But as I took in the scene, I realised that Brendan, who sat facing the window, had placed four mannequins around him. The two male mannequins were dressed in open neck shirts and jeans whilst the two females had each been adorned with dresses and wigs, one blonde, the other brunette. The party-goers appeared to be chatting with each other, giving the impression of a lively reception. Throughout the gaiety, Brendan slept peacefully, missing all the fun.
I looked up to see a lazy plane passing overhead, like a tiny brooch on a faded blue shawl. I took in the smell of coffee and warm bread from where I was heading, Mr Pannelli’s delicatessen. I liked Pannelli. He was a family man and he worked hard at holding on to his regulars. I heard a woman scream and a car screech to a halt. I wanted to turn and look in their direction but found myself unable to warrant the effort. I kept moving.
As I passed Rhea’s apartment I thought, Rhea my dear, why won’t you give me a chance? Why do you see other men when it is me that should be sharing that glass of wine? These thoughts were passing through my head as Rhea lifted hers. She caught my eye like a paparazzo catches his subject – unprepared and wanting.
And then I was away and approaching the Milton place, the blinds on the beautiful living room raised, permitting those passing to see the carefully chosen furniture and the tasteful decorations. I saw the Hockney and the elegant display cabinet with the pewter figurines that Maggie Milton lived only to dust. And the baby grand piano that Freddy used to play with such sensitivity. On the far wall, I saw the huge mirror. And there was me looking back at myself, eyes widened, hair streaming.
I thought how strange it was that my own face should be the final one that I would ever see. But I had forgotten that, on the front of his delicatessen, Mr Pannelli had an awning which he opened on very sunny Autumn days such as this. It was into that beautiful blue and white striped cradle that I fell, the chamois leather flying from my hand and landing with a splat at the feet of the screaming woman.
As you can see, some moments seem endless even when they’re so brief, a dichotomy that Michael captures in a wonderful manner. Though it may seem a bit grisly, this story embraces one of the wonders of the short story: to capture a moment of time and to create within that moment a narrative. Without the brevity of the short form this story would not work, nor would its wonderfully twisted ending have so much impact.
We hope you enjoyed this week’s installment of Words, Pauses, Noises. Return next week for the conclusion of our interview with Adam Baron. He’s got plenty to say on the subjects of publishing, grading, and the state of writing as an art. Tune in next week!