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Archive: Build-Up to an Overtake
Finishing up some new stories - popping this up in the meantime as I read it aloud a couple of weeks ago.
Walking behind someone slow is always extremely vexing. I speak not of the elderly or anyone else who has a perfectly acceptable excuse for limited motion - they do not need forgiveness. I speak instead of the shufflers and texters, the moochers and yawners, the scuffers and all of their like.
On occasions when I am trapped behind those such, I follow anxiously behind. Keen not to step on a heel or a trouser, equally eager to overtake and move on.
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Judging the moment is the difficulty. There will always be a gap, a brief crack of a window of opportunity. When no person or thing is coming your way, you must take your chance, and speedily accelerate into the available space.
Miss the moment and you are doomed, fated to walk forever at a pace alien to you, one that jars uncomfortably with the natural movement of the limbs and grates discordantly against the true rhythm of the heart.
‘What’s this?’ your left leg asks, baffled.
‘Indeed,’ continues the right, ‘we have places to do and things to be, come on, have at you, make quick at the next turn’.
‘Well - I’m enjoying myself,’ notes loyal chin.
But on narrow pavement or crowded lane, there exists a whole gaggle of individuals looking for that opening. Competition toxic brews.
‘Ho!’ I cry, in offer of contention.
‘Avast!’ shouts another.
‘Again I say, out of the way Susan!’ proffers a third.
We jostle together, cells of the same matter. Water slowly boiling, potential energy turned kinetic - we all crave steam release us.
But it does not. For the shuffler stops to tie a shoelace or buy pansies, and the path ahead remains too hazardous to broach. The gaggle becomes a silent mass of vibration, the mob behind me multiplies, its levels simmering.
The space between us reduces more and more until we are one and the same, but we cannot overtake - custom forbids it until space allows.
The moocher would pause as he raises his head, brushes self down, corrects his cuffs and pulls down his collar. Contented, he decides now is the time to move, to place one leisurely leg in front of the other once more. An amble, a perambulation, a gentle morning stroll. He may as very well be wearing a cravat or a kerchief, such is his cultivated air of a gentleman of ease.
How very dare he.
It’s vicious now, the mass behind. A grandmother brandishes an umbrella angrily, a small child howls in despair. Twin sisters quarrel. Someone’s pet newt has escaped. The man behind me has given up hope, and turns away, his dreams quashed and his notions buried.
‘I’ll meet my long-lost Uncle Pablo on another occasion,’ he mumbles softly, as he slips into regression.
I am not so easily dissuaded. I plow on, inspired by the possibility of showing this cretin what for. He has had his dawdling way for long enough.
Commandingly, daringly, inspiringly, I speak out -
‘Excuse me, mate, um - sorry, mind if I squeeze past.’
I check my watch quickly to demonstrate that I am merely in a rush, careful not to hurt the man’s feelings.
He looks at me quizzical, and moochily shuffles aside.
The hordes behind me barely believed it possible, but seeing an overtake in evidence, they now pour forth. The arrival of spring, a first drop lonely drop of thawing ice joined quickly by its multiplying siblings.
‘Out of the way, you devil!’ cries the grandmother, prodding him square in the nose with the umbrella. The small child howls directly at moocher as he passes. The father, appearing from nowhere, gives him a sternness. The twins bare their teeth. The newt hisses.
The moocher is swallowed whole now by the onrushing tide, a tsunami of humanity consuming and spitting him out whole.
‘Yes, yes!’ I cry, ‘onwards, friends - to freedom, then contentment!’
The crowd roars, and chants my name - I’m not sure how they learnt it.
I am raised aloft on shoulders now, in hope and celebration.
It is in these moments that I see myself true - as leader, no - inspiration. Most won’t have dared to make that first step - I deemed it possible and made it so. Some greater fate awaits me yet - let hordes and newts bear witness.
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