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Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Homelessness of Kenneth Fleetwood - Chapter 2


The orange was a beautiful but frustrating mistress. Kenneth turned it in his hand, letting the faint afternoon sunlight dance across its mottled surface. The skin looked wet, inviting, like something you could slip into on a hot day.

And yet he knew how the engagement would end, with sticky hands and a wet chin, rinds to be deposited in the bin, eventually choking birds when dumped as dehydrated rusks. He'd read about the problem on the internet. It wasn't all porn, you know.

He began to peel, his thumb smarting as it dug beneath the thick skin. He should have packed a knife.

What the world needed was a pre-peeled orange enclosed in a water-tight bag.

Kenneth stopped. He grinned despite being in a public area surrounded by people in blue suits.

It made perfect sense.

Bagged peeled oranges would be healthy for little ones and convenient for business people. The technology had been unleased on boiled eggs. He'd seen them in the shops. But no one had thought about further applications.

"If there's a box, I am thinking outside of it," he murmured triumphantly.

Kenneth searched the pocket of his jacket for his pen and small notebook and jotted the idea down. Might be just the ticket. Salvation. Like Armageddon for Americans or unpasturised cheese for the French.

As he often did, Kenneth imagined himself rich, able to have a long lie-in, ordering takeaway Tikka Malasa every night, with garlic naan. He would get those fancy entrees, the mini chicken tikkas and bhaji, instead of rationalising the cost and the fact that one man shouldn't eat that much rich food.

If anything tasty were in the flat, he'd eat it. He could finish a roast chicken in his sleep. Fruit and Nut bars died in appaling numbers. Crisps didn't stand a chance of seeing daybreak.

If he were rich, he could share the extra entree bits with the butler. Or the pretty Asian maid, Moora. Or Maanika. Or Madhura. Something with an M.

Kenneth liked Asian women. They were exotic down to their DNA. He also liked how M sounded coming off the tongue.

He checked his pocket watch and embarked back to his desk, tumbling from Neverland with each footfall. Seven minutes and thirty-three seconds later, he arrived - more than two minutes off his best time.

He blamed poor lift efficiency. People didn't cram in when they had takeaway salads and coffees.

His in-tray was listing dangerously to starboard, threatening to capsize onto the floor and take all the hopeful yet discouraged jobseekers down forever.

He righted them as best he could, the top file sticking to remnants of citrus too devious to come off.

"Been wanking?" Spiv said.


"You've got bits of tissue on your jacket."

Kenneth looked down, his face colouring. "Oh right. I ate an orange. You know what the world needs, don't you?"

"A good kick upside the bollocks."

"Yes, well... No..."

"This isn't one of your loopy inventions?"

"They're not all bad," Kenneth began.

"A kettle that makes gravy. A cat shaving kit."

"The kettle idea is quite good."

"Like I said, a bollocking. Looks like you might get yours. You've got a Pickle incoming."

Spiv darted away as Kenneth turned to see Maggie "Pickle" Johnson walking his way. She was like a turnip bi-ped, round and a revolting shade of yellow-white with bits of purple in all the wrong places.

Kenneth hated turnips. Most people did. They were simply too polite or indoctrinated by childhood nostalgia or cultural propaganda to admit the fact.

"Just getting back to it, Pickle," Kenneth said, preempting.

Maggie thought the moniker a term of endearment, but the lads had come up with it in the pub because she walked around like she had a gerkin shoved up her back passage.

"Not why I'm here," she replied.

She held out a manilla envelope. The skin around her eyes was creased in such a way as to look dangerously gleeful. Much more of this and the epidermis might crack and fall away.

"This my bonus?" Kenneth said.

"Even better."

He kept his hand back, like one does from an aggressive goose.

"Come on, take it." She smiled. "It's been nice."


"It's your redundancy, you idiot."

Kenneth's tongue went thick and he felt heat. For a second, he thought about hauling off and giving her one in the mouth. He wasn't that sort of man, but...

That's out of line, he thought. Out of line.

The walls metastisised to liquid - Kenneth's legs giving way to the vibrations.

West Ham United. Founded in 1895 by workers from the Thames Ironworks. FA Cup winners 1964, 1975 and 1980. Most goals in one match, six, achieved twice: Vic Watson, February 2, 1929 versus Leeds United; Geoff Hurst November 19, 1968 versus Sunderland in front of a young Kenneth Fleetwood and his soon to be deceased father, Archie Fleetwood.

The repetition of facts made difficult moments endearable.

The walls reformed into solid three-dimensional space. Telephones and voices washed through his auditory canals.

Kenneth was aware of citrus stickiness between his fingers. He looked up at Pickle.

"You know what the world needs?" he began.

Everything would be alright.

Surely, everything would turn out fine.


1 comment:

  1. Right. OK. This is a much better opening. Loved the orange detail. Makes me wonder - do you need the first Chapter? Could you merge some of it into this one? It's worth considering.

    One question: surely, what with unemployment rocketing out of control, the one place your job is secure is in the jobcentre? I mean - isn't that the one place they still need staff because it's the one place with increasing numbers of clients? Maybe you'll deal with this issue later - just thought you might like an outside reader's perspective at this point.

    I like where this is going.