This week, we dip back into the pool of prose within Kingston University with a piece by Catherine Franklin, debut writer to Words, Pauses, Noises. ‘The Magpie’ stumbles about the throes of mental disillusion in this short-story about one human’s compulsion for objects.
I have a photo of a man whose name I don’t know. I’m a hoarder, a magpie; I collect things I don’t need. It started with something I heard on the radio; a soothing voice explained how she was unable to walk past a discarded scratchcard on the ground, just in case it was a winning ticket that had been overlooked. And once I’d mimicked this, clapped and triggered the avalanche, I couldn’t stop. I also couldn’t bring myself to throw the scratchcards away. I pinned them over each other on my noticeboard until the pin wasn’t long enough and I had to start a new pile.
Receipts came next. I didn’t need them, but I couldn’t bin them, just in case they would be of some use some day. Consequently I’ve kept every receipt for everything I’ve bought in the last five years. I have thousands, tens of thousands maybe; more than I could count. It escalated until I was keeping and collecting just about everything.
There’s always that temptation, but I’d never set out to steal. When the opportunity is there, however, I just can’t turn it down. It began on a bus. A woman bent down , picked up a glinting silver key and held it out in front of me. She asked me if it was mine, but it wasn’t. My mind said no, but my lips released the affirmative. I had no use for this little key, but I slid it into my pocket after thanking her and later blu-tacked it to my bedroom wall.
In this way and through fortunate serendipity, I’ve gained a mobile phone, three wallets, four umbrellas and twenty eight train tickets, amongst other obscure objects. Piles of jewellery crowd my bedside table, and I’ve accumulated enough scarves to wear a different one every day for a month. I have a photo of a man whose name I don’t know and it’s the most prized possession I’ve uncovered in all these years. I found him in a wallet nestled between bank notes, removed him and sat him behind the transparent window in my purse. Continue reading