Saturday, 16 April 2011

Lost: short story

So, following on from my previous post, thought you might actually like to read the story from last night's Are You Sitting Comfortably. As I said, the theme of the evening was Lost, so I wrote this both with a view to what it would sound like read out loud (rather than on paper) but also as a fun way of seeing how many references I could get into it: how many different types of "Lost" I could talk about. How many can you spot?


“So the theme of the evening is ‘lost’”, she said. She was sitting at table in a pub in Soho Square, a pen held in one hand, a phone in the other.
“Lost how?” asked her best friend, at the other end of the phone.
“I don’t know. They didn’t say. Lost. Just... lost, I suppose.”
“And now you’re lost for words?” She heard the smile in her friend’s voice, and grunted in begrudging acknowledgement, forgetting she couldn’t see the face she was pulling.
“Ha bloody ha.”
“Well, OK, we’ll talk about it when I get there.” There was a slightly embarrassed pause. “I might be a few minutes late, I think I took the wrong exit from the tube and none of this looks familiar. I’m not really sure where I am...”

She was surprised by her boyfriend’s untypical enthusiasm.
“Lost?” he grinned at her, delighted to be asked. “I can totally help with that!”
“Really?” “Yeah, of course. I have a great theory about how they got off the island, what the reunion really meant, the smoke monster, the polar bear...”
She looked at him blankly. Was he even speaking English? “What?”
“Lost. Sci-fi, sort of, mystery, massive hit, lots of famous people in Hawaii...”
“Oh... right. No. Not that Lost.” He pulled a face.“In which case I’m losing interest. Boom boom!”
She elbowed him, lightly, wondering why she was dating a man who signposted his own jokes. She thought for a moment of that first boy she loved, the one who got away. He had told her he loved her then broken her heart with his denim blue eyes and his cheekbones and the strange, pale marble planes of his chest, so sparsely disrupted by hair that was so white it was translucent. She felt sure that he at least would comprehend her dilemma, listen properly to her question, because no matter how much he had hurt her, he had at least always understood her; but the boy, of course, was no longer there.

“The theme is lost. What does lost mean to you?” she absently asked her sister, then realised, too late, that her words were as knives and she wished she could stab herself instead. Her sister’s face closed as her hands, unconsciously, strayed to the belly that only weeks ago had been rounded and breathing with life, but now lay dead and flattened beneath her trembling fingers.

Her father, too, answered her question with his hands, but his was a more light-hearted regret as he stroked his bald pate with an affectionate gesture for the hair that had once grown there, and ducked her question with a rueful grin.

“The theme of the evening is lost,” she muttered, as she wandered around her bedroom, lifting books and papers and scattered clothes as she looked for the notebook where she kept her ideas, the sketches and poems and words that came to her when she switched her mind away from the world. But the notebook, like the ideas, eluded her. Distracted, searching, she didn’t hear the phone, then couldn’t find the damn phone, only picking it up as the caller finally rang off. Then the doorbell rang as well, but this at least she could find in time.

“Can we interest you in the word of Jesus Christ?” Oh, for God’s sake.
Well, she chided herself, they must think so. “No, you can’t. I don’t believe in Jesus Christ.”
The figures in dark suits looked at her with open pity. “It can save you from an eternity in the flames.”
“Honestly, I’m more interested in being saved from the next five minutes,” she snapped, uncharacteristically rude, and went back into the house.

A missed call – her brother – and she felt almost relief. She was in no mood for his dilemmas, his tales of debauchery and drama with his delinquent friends, who drank and partied and never grew up, and always needed a loan or a lift or a favour or a place to stay or, that one grim time, an alibi. She sighed and checked her voicemail but as ever, no message – did the boy even speak? – and consoled herself that if it was urgent the text would come soon enough. She went to resume her task, but, distracted, had forgotten what she was doing. Senility come early, she scolded herself with a frown, and went to console herself with tea.

“The theme is lost,” she told her mother, who smiled at her with the patience of one used to having a question repeated. Patiently, and louder, she did so.
“What do you mean by lost?” her mother asked, her voice frayed by age.
“Just... lost. I’m not quite sure.”
“Perhaps you could draw a maze?”

“Lost. Not the TV show.”
She had caught up with her brother, his hangover fresh, his attention torn between her and his X-box, where a pixellated battle raged on his screen. She watched, dismayed, as he mowed down civilians with a grimace of glee.
“What do you mean?”
“Lost. Lost! Just... lost!”
He turned to her, blessing her with his full attention for the briefest of seconds. “I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about... oh, hell! They killed me!”He turned back to the screen with a howl of dismay as his life was wiped out in a flash.

“The theme is... lost,” she repeated, staring at herself. And she wondered why she had been asking everyone but the only one who could answer. Smiling, she picked up her pen and her notebook, finally sure she would find her own way.