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Tom Hogarth, 13 Jul '12

        'Experts Predict Fast Food Apocalypse' reads the newspaper on the table, folded over and in serious disrepair but still intact enough to get the gist of the ridiculous lead article. Fast food is the least our worries, the mildest of the horrors in the Pandora’s box of problems we’ve invented to plague ourselves with, as if life didn’t become difficult enough when we figured out currency and immigration laws. The corner of the paper is stained with what could be ketchup, most of the kitchen table spotted with similar stains and piles of crumbs. A large piece of broken plate rests in the middle of the table, like a kind of bizarre centrepiece.
         The rest of the apartment is just as bad, if not worse - it’s not dirty, however, and it definitely hasn’t been left to gather dust. This is the first thing that becomes apparent and at once it’s obvious that someone trashed this home: whether it got this way through a struggle, a search or both is not important. Shattered pieces of plates and cups litter the kitchen and what serves as a dining room, between the quaint little kitchen and the lounge.
        The lounge is even worse: television smashed, picture frames broken in half and dropped to the floor and the sofa has been flipped over, the frame looks severely buckled. The sofa looks expensive, fabric and only 3 seats but it looks comfortable, squishy. One of those sofas that you get worried about being swallowed by as a kid, the kind that would keep you safe from the lava floor. More of those ketchup stains around, on the walls and on the sofa.
        The door to the bedroom is wide open and the contents of the room easily visible from the living room. No going in there though: that room is the most destroyed of them all, the bed frame looks broken in several places and is blocking the doorway, contents of drawers and the cupboard are strewn all over the place. It looks like someone tossed a grenade into a laundrette, or gave a toddler a triple espresso and let him loose for an hour (equally destructive, depending on the toddler).
        The front door of the apartment is wide open too, swinging lightly to and fro with the breeze from outside. No point looking outside the apartment, this tour is just an excuse, just avoiding the inevitable. There’s a dripping sound coming from the bathroom, it seems absurdly loud but the rest of the apartment is eerily quiet. A familiar feeling again, like something too big trying to worm its way up your throat, along with a a tightness in the chest and the urge to curl up on the floor and cry.
        A strong gust of wind finds its way through the door and spatters the carpet with raindrops, the door to the bathroom swings open and clunks heavily against the wall. Staring through the doorway is the man of the household, sitting slumped against the wall of the bathroom. The bathroom and his clothes are painted and smeared with more of those ketchup stains, stains starting to look less like ketchup and more like that time at school when Jimmy Windell caught his hand on the swing set and had to be rushed to the nurse’s office.
        Ignoring the stains, the smell of death and cordite in the air, this was a neat man: blue shirt and smart tie, nothing too elaborate but fashionable and smart. He's wearing neatly ironed suit trousers, black shoes and there's a matching jacket hanging up on the front door, blowing about in the wind. Short, combed brown hair and horn-rimmed glasses complete the look and it's obvious this is a clean, respectable member of society: a hard worker and a good father figure. Handsome too, if it wasn’t for the ragged bullet holes in his stomach and the dead, cloudy look in his eyes.
        A similar look is taking form in the eyes of the small boy on the other side of the doorway to the bathroom, about 10 or 11 and all alone in this cold, broken home. Colourful pyjamas with picture of cartoon characters couldn’t take the edge off a boy seeing his father dead in the bathroom where he could just about see into the mirror to brush his teeth.
        I think my grandmother still has those pyjamas, though she couldn’t find them for me if I asked, if I could get her to remember me in the first place. I remember hugging my Dad, the idea that he was really dead and not just injured hadn’t sunk in yet, and discovering the pistol, sitting in his lap where his murderer had tossed it after, apparently, cleaning it. It was cold and heavy and made me feel dangerous, a strange feeling to a small boy of 11.
        Not such a strange feeling to a man of 27, checking the chamber of my Colt 1911 and easing open the door to an apartment not so dissimilar to that one from over 10 years ago. Revenge is a funny thing; you don’t really anticipate just how similar it’s going to be to the original incident. A strong gust of wind flaps the tails of my shirt about and I shake my head to dispel the images of so many years ago, cocking the pistol and taking a firm step through the door.

Comments · 4

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  • Tom Hogarth said...

    Not quite as happy with this one as my first burst, but I did write it during a car journey. Haven't had the time to look at doing audio versions of my bursts but I will soon enough. Again, I hope you like it.

    • Posted 5 years ago
  • Ross Tarran said...

    Liked how there is no dialogue (except that internal to the character), and how it takes a while to reveal who is describing the wrecked home. Thought it might have been a detective at first, investigating. Quickly cottoned on that it wasn't ketchup everywhere though!

    • Posted 5 years ago
  • Jamie Thomas said...

    This is really intriguing, and you are an outstanding writer. I find it interesting how for the majority, you built up a scene for us, and it worked really really well. Tension in all the right places and then to complete it by giving it a very deep and meaningful story at the end, well done. I can't wait to see what else you come up with.

    • Posted 5 years ago
  • Angela Watt said...

    Good build up and a surprise ending. Enjoyed this Tom.

    • Posted 5 years ago