Man: is this the queue for the bus?
Man: are you waiting for the bus?
Woman: yes. I am waiting for the bus
Man: you don’t happen to know, know when the bus is coming?
Woman: oh, which bus?
Man: the, well, sorry I’m new here.
Woman: oh, hi, no, I should have introduced myself. I’m yourself
Man: are you?
Woman: Yes. That’s my name.
Man: what’s your name?
Man: Geoff? Your name’s Geoff too?
Woman: Who’s Geoff too?
Woman: (Pause) Geoff too Me?
Man: oh no; Geoffrey! Geoff, to you that is.
Woman: I thought you were new here
Man: I am. That’s why I don’t know when the bus is. But I am trying to find out.
Woman: what? (Pause) is that Italian?
Man: no, I’m actually from Norwich.
Woman: A lot of double barrelled surnames in Norwich.
Man: yes there are. Sorry but I’m very confused, you didn’t actually tell me your name.
Woman: oh sorry, sometimes it’s very confusing, but my actual name is ‘Yourself’. The problem I have is that I assume a greater flexibility with the idea of what someone’s name could be, because my own name is quite abstract. So I’ve assumed your name is “new here trying find out”.
Man: but that’s ridiculous.
Woman: I know, but so is demonisation of immigrants.
Man: I think this is my bus.
I want to write a story of my life. Something that will mean something to someone, somewhere, someday. Presumably it doesn’t have to be profound. It just has to matter for a brief instance.
Revolution, anarchy and temptation are in the air, and all we can do is scream and shout. Jump from the roof tops and love every moment of existence.
So I have a short story for you. A man releases a balloon. Releases a balloon that flew over a city of great fortune and worth.
He had sat in his room for a while before releasing the balloon. Just sitting and wondering. Not sure of his own intents but still sure. He had looked over at the coffee table where on lay a copy of The New Statesman with his face serenely looking up at himself. His had been, if nothing, an ego boost. But now there was time to change and adjust to the new day.
So he released a balloon. Over the city. And it floated away moving on and on and on and on and on until it was seen by the whole city. The balloon measured fifty feet across and was bright red in colour. It was made to stand out. The man had made it to stand out. From his one man apartment above the cities hustle and bustle and daily grind.
He sat in silence and waited.
An older man on the street who worked occasionally but not always looked up and shook his head and then moved on.
A young beautiful “well to do” lady saw the balloon through red-tinted lenses and smiled in wonderment and rang her boyfriend.
A child in the street saw it and became excited.
His mother was less bothered, but still enjoyed its existence, only on the inside.
It didn’t matter. The other artists asked and the response didn’t come. But they would keep asking. And eventually they would get an answer. But they kept asking. And one felt as though they did not need an answer, only more questions.
‘It shows the banality of our existence through absurdest and disturbing quite beautifully our everyday life’
‘No, no, no, it is a representation of everything you hate inside yourself, personified in a huge red mess in the sky’
‘It represents a deity, visibly omnipresent and challenging all the atheists’
‘HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT?! It is an ironic take on the idea of god, shows how ridiculous belief systems are!’
‘Oh bother! What are you guys on about! He’s clearly taking the piss’
‘I think it’s ugly’
‘I think it’s beautiful’
‘You’re both wrong’
‘Who is that speaking now?’
‘I don’t think it matters’
‘Does it not?’
‘I think this debate is part of the art that the man wants us to be, we are part of the balloon by discussing it’
‘You mean we play a part in his meta-fiction?’
‘Don’t be such a wanker.’
‘No it’s fine honestly’
‘Well I don’t believe it is’
‘The balloon is an absence of ideas we can project onto’
‘Nonsense, it is the over-saturation of concepts, burgeoning out over the city, showing the uselessness of human discussion’
‘The over-busy-ness of the idea mind-set of the public’
‘the absence of ideas in favour of opinions given by deity-like celebrities dictating to us from their ivory towers of the internet platforms.’
‘I don’t listen to them anyway’
‘But you read them’
‘I read them, yes’
‘You do listen then’
‘That’s what matters here’
‘I don’t think it does’
‘Should I get coffee?’
‘What about beer’
‘Thank god, I didn’t want beer’
‘Why did you ask?’
‘The balloon is important.’
‘I believe it to be wholly unimportant’
‘Why do we always discuss art in such vague terms.’
So the critics kept on talking.
They drank coffee and then they talked some more. All the while the balloon sat there in the sky. Waiting. Bored.
The arts council hailed it has a national treasure. They demanded no one touch it or damage it. So of course others damaged it. Others came into the cities centre, where the balloon nearly touched the main intersection. They came with pins. They came with opinions. They came with masks and chants and joyous cry of anarchy. They didn’t mind the glasses and skinny jeans and expensive haircuts screaming
Don’t do it but only with their eyes because that is the only way they could express anything not through action, only through speech but only later.
They came in numbers.
The balloon was damaged. It deflated slowly over the city.
Gently landing softly over the tops of cathedrals and office blocks. Over pedestrians and the dogs of tramps. Over the news-stands on main street. Over important bridges and photograph-able landmarks. And the child ran into the streets because all was well.
The men in the office looked on angrily at first; then stopped working. Their own pent up rang from the sexual dissatisfaction driving them into the street. And they knew the only way out was to run and laugh and jump. The red balloon. The red balloon that stretched fifty feet across had finally completely deflated. And all was well. The traffic stopped that day. So did the work. The companies and the schools and the housewives and the mayors and the dogs of the tramps.
Stopped. Slowed down and then it just ended.
And the man, the man who we knew all so well, he, he, didn't react. Just sat and started to stitch together a huge polyester giraffe.
And all was good. Critics wrote letter to the man and he wrote them lengthy replies detailing how it was a commentary on existence, and was to make people think and stop. And they didn't like that. So the man was angry. And updated his online internet forum thing saying he was unhappy. In an open letter in the New York Times addressed ‘to the critics’ it was articulate.
And well read.
And well wrote of course.
It was far better than this.
I wish you could see it.
But you can’t. Sorry?
(Originally appeared on Medium on 16/06/2016)
There are sometimes particular days, in which you make a series of decisions, try your hardest, and all around you does not go as planned.
I am assured this is quite normal. Apparently.
Quite like the time I woke up late one Wednesday morning, grabbed a swipe of coffee, two bananas with peanut butter and a yoghurt, before racing in for a meeting.
I had a series of logistical correspondences at work, before it came to my attend, when in a meeting about graduate retention, that the company I was about to sign with for a property for next year had gone into administration. But this was not a simple process.
It began with my work colleague Sam pointing out she had a dodgy experience with them. Then I decided, against better judgements, to take a trip into town, to visit their office, despite being told they never answer their door. Suspicious I thought.
So I took a Citybike down into town, only to slip on the wet road, and really hurt my precious side. I got back on hobbling, but my sheer determination to get to [redacted] Properties Ltd kept me going. I arrived at a [redacted] Street, on the hunt for [redacted] court, and after getting conflicting views from various local business owners I quizzed in the vicinity, I located the actual office. The kind woman opposite, from an accountancy firm exclaimed; “Oh, are you here to get your money too?” indicating there had been previous disgruntled visitors. Thus starts my time as an investigative journalist. I went to knock at the door, no answer. I was persistent, and hung around for a bit. The kind woman had told me she had seen people go in and out of the property, and if a white car was outside, they were in. A white car was outside.
After a while, I bumped into a guy, who happened to be looking for the same company. We exchanged numbers and promised to give each other a heads up if necessary. We’re going on a date next week now.
I speedily took an Uber up back to my place of work, the Guild, whilst doing so I did some extensive googling, updating my fellow colleagues, and checked on companies house, whilst my contact in architecture checked the planning permission for the nefarious [redacted]’s builds around the city.
I had been noticing a car following me for some time, white in colour, and tinted windows. It was the same car from [redacted] court! Quickly, I asked the Uber driver to take a sharp left turn, and head towards the Albert docks. He obliged, being a mere service person to the dreaded Millennials, of which I am one.
As I suspected, Tim Thompson, a pig like man, drew a gun from the car and cascaded a series of bullets from the back seat. I instructed to the Uber driver to turn into a submarine, and go into the Mersey. He advised this would mean a x3 surge rate, so I decided to swerve that financial decision, and bail from the car.
I was left outside the Tate Liverpool building, with a cheap white car speeding towards me. There was only one opinion. I was going to have to brace myself and go into the Tate. I had found my escape. It was art. I ran straight into the central exhibit, dropping my bag off in the luggage section. I hurtled up the stairs, to the Young British Artists section, and held my breath as to not breathe in to much bullshit. Rob pursued me on all fours, and I turned around to confront him, an explicit portrait of a vagina on one side, and nothing but Duchamp’s fountain separating us.
“What has happened!” I screamed “who are you? what’s going on???”
“That’s a lot of questions kid” he grunted back. “I’m Tim Thompson, and you don’t know what sort of shit you’re getting yourself in for.”
“This shit runs much deeper than you kid. I’mma turn you into modern art right now!”
“Can I have my admin fee back please” I asked politely. “And all my friends’ who were going to live with me?”
He let out a cackle and laughed and spat on the Duchamp. Without warning, he picked out a small hammer from his pig flap.
“There’s one thing you didn’t realise” he said, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. “There’s one thing you didn’t account for”
“What? Get on with it!” I shouted, annoyed as I had to get back to a meeting at 3:00pm.
“My previous an equally dodgy company did the fittings for this gallery.” he said, “They are all weak, and the screws are….cheap. MWahahaha!”
“Oh please god no.” I have never prayed to the lord before, but this day I did.
As he hit the side of the exhibit with his tiny hammer, the whole gallery rumbled. I quickly looked around the room. I noticed a spare tub of formaldehyde suspended from the ceiling. I knew what I had to do.
“Look Tim, over there! An unregulated section of the Market! Quick, before the local gentrified population gain an understanding of housing regulation and introduce local laws which really should be universal! Capitalise on the naivety!” I exclaimed, with a red face.
He moved quicker than lightning itself, and I used my critical thinking skills to cut the wires and drop the tub on his head. The formaldehyde was exposed to the air briefly, and, like all good formaldehyde, set without deterioration. I quickly put the exhibit up on BankerBay, the ebay for the silly rich, and got a quick 20 million, which I sunk into setting up a service to re-compensate tenants and pursue dodgy landlords.
I returned back for a 3pm meeting in the Guild.
Now, I reflect, after all this, on how all good things must be balanced by bad, and when you hear some news that just panics you, get imaginative with the truth.
All short stories written by Alex Ferguson.