Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Cold Day in November.

Category: Issue 18

A Cold Day in November.               

Had anyone enquired as to when the plan came to him, Arnold might have said he’d always had it in the back of his mind.

At the age of thirty-nine Arnold was a bachelor. A small man, with thinning, dark hair and a mouth that was often pulled into tight prim lines. His lack of success with women had long since ceased to worry him. In his youth there had been a couple of flurries of activity in his sex life, but when it came to settling down none of the women reached the standard he desired in a wife. He’d settled into a daily routine that pleased him and became content that there was no one to question his movements.

On the eve of his fortieth birthday he felt himself slipping into middle age. He took stock of his past and saw a picture as smooth as glass, not a ripple of excitement disturbed his orderly existence.


He tossed restlessly on his old divan bed and a long nurtured fantasy drifted into his head. On this occasion the specific details, once fuzzy in his hurry to get to the main event, crystallised. Arnold gazed at the ceiling and reasoned he could make his fantasy into reality and he should do it before it was too late. With his mind made up, he rose shrugged on his dressing gown and went downstairs to begin preparations..

Needles of scalding water whipped his skin, bringing blood to the surface. Arnold hesitated, his hand resting lightly on the cold lever, his brow furrowed. Perhaps he could forget a cold shower today, he thought. His hand moved towards the fluffy towels. This is good. This is the first break from old rituals. He smiled and hummed tunelessly as he laid his shaving kit in a neat row along the vanity unit.

Early morning news from the kitchen radio rattled out the usual daily dose of doom. Interest rates were rising, house mortgages more expensive, two teenagers beaten to death outside their home. Arnold felt no depression; nothing could dampen his good spirits. He chewed each mouthful of granary toast one hundred times. Careful not to take any air into his stomach, he swallowed. To fart during his plan would be disastrous.

He stepped back and took a last look in the hall mirror at his perfectly groomed reflection, wiped a nonexistent fingerprint from his black coat button and, stepped out into the street.


Arnold strode through the empty park and breathed in the crisp morning air. Frost coated the wide expanse of closely clipped grass, and clung to the lower leaves and berries of the surrounding bushes like crystallized candy. He had already chosen his post, a small clump of bushes close to the path. He pushed his way into the thick greenery and waited.

The first rush of heady excitement cooled as time moved slowly, and the cold ate into his bones. He stamped his numb feet. The bushes shook, and it was clear that he couldn’t continue to move about, some one would be sure to notice. He stood in miserable silence as an east wind rose and poked icy fingers under his lightweight coat.

Thoughts of abandoning the project and returning to his warm house were beginning to form as a serious alternative to freezing to death in the bushes, when to his delight he heard footsteps crunch along the path. Arnold peeped through the leaves and saw a woman approaching. About fifty, stocky, with iron-grey hair and sturdy sensible shoes, she wasn’t exactly the nubile young thing he had in fantasized about during the past twenty-five years - but any port in a storm, he thought. Adrenalin shot through his body as he staggered out of the bushes on stiff, frozen legs.
The woman drew to a halt and eyed Arnold calmly. ‘Yes - what do you want?’
Arnold was disappointed. His big moment had arrived and it was not how he imagined it would be. She was alone in the park, a strange man had just stepped out of the bushes, and she should be shaking, white-faced with fright.

Arnold took a deep breath and flung his coat open. ‘Aha – what do you think of this?’ he said and scrutinized her matronly face.

The woman dropped her head to one side and studied Arnold’s waist length shirt, the trousers legs tied just above his knees and the pale, blue-white goose fleshed expanse between .

‘Well, young man,’ she said, stepping to one side, a derisive smile playing about her mouth. ‘If you were thinking of taking up flashing as a hobby, I’d suggest you think again and leave it to someone better - equipped.’
Arnold closed his coat and lips trembled.  ‘What do expect - It’s a cold day.’ he said

She pulled a cell phone from her pocket and without another glance in his direction she continued along the path. ‘I doubt that a heat-wave would improve the view.’

The words tossed so casually over her shoulder were a whip-lash to his pride and he flung himself forward and gripped her shoulder. ‘I’ll show you what this - this …’ He struggled for the appropriate word. ‘Equipment can do.’
The hospital ceiling wavered slightly as Arnold as he lay on his back in the emergency ward. Blood flowing copiously from his nose and mouth and the back of his head hurt. He touched it gingerly and discovered a large swelling.
A policeman’s head came into view.
‘What happened?’ Arnold said
‘Unfortunately for you, you chose retired policewoman Murphy to flash and she has a black-belt in Judo. Name and address, please.’
Tears mingled with blood on Arnolds face as his long-time fantasy disappeared. ‘It shouldn’t have happened like that, it should have been wonderful, exciting. The earth should have moved.’

The policeman shook his head and a smile played around his mouth ‘Well it did have just that. I heard you hit the deck pretty hard. Name and address, please.’
Tears rolled down Arnold’s cheeks as he gave the policeman his details. ‘You’re not going to handcuff me are you?’
‘No, but policewoman Murphy might, when she calls on you tomorrow. She said you weren’t half bad, once you’d warmed up.’