The Man Who Became a Silhouette -A Short Story

“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”

William Shakespeare, The Tempest

As the last raindrops of a heavy storm pittered and pattered on the grey concrete sidewalk, a light flickered on in the first floor window of an old rundown cobblestone apartment building. A dark silhouette of a man walked past the window, as he disappeared and seemed to go down a flight of stairs, shouts, screams and noise of furniture braking erupted. The noise reached the bottom floor, the door was swung open and Jimmy wobbled out, a thrown metal plate flew past him, hit the door and clattered onto the ground and made him duck involuntarily. He picked up the plate and threw it back inside as he shouted, “you bloody missed!” As he closed the door another projectile banged on it but this time was followed by the wicked sound of glass shattering, he cursed then shut the door tight.

The heavens opened again as the almost ghostly figure squinted his eyes up at the grey sky while he hastily rummaged through the pockets of his well worn brown jacket. Finally relief, he pulled out a packet of cigarettes but half the packet was soggy and damp, coaxing him to shout profanities in quick succession. He looked back at the door in contemplation on whether he should go get another packet, “not worth it” he ruefully concluded so he pulled out a cigarette, picked out his lighter, lit the cig and after a hefty heave, scratched his unkempt hair and lumbered into a lethargic walk.

As Jimmy strolled he passed by a rudimentary park made by the surrounding residence, it was fitted with two goal posts sticking out of the flat brown ground surrounded by patches of unkempt grass. This place stood out to Jimmy like a provocative middle finger to the unbothered politicians who constantly ignored the peoples plight. A bunch of kids were playing a bit of football and raising dust, while a group of older kids sat by a bench smoking. As Jimmy looked on he remembered the time he once went for football tryouts, it was for some grassroots club and he was a sprightly and lanky kid, full of energy and eager to learn, he wasn’t half bad either. Too bad he stopped going because no-one was ever bothered to take him anymore and the neighbor kids always stole the little money he had to make the trip. So the dream died as quickly as it had risen, snuffed out by dismissive guardians and bullies . A bitter taste stung his mouth so he spit out the cig’s buttress, stomped it and went on his way.

 A few minutes later Jimmy arrived at a pedestrian crossing on an intersection. On the road next to him in a small red car was a woman and a man, they listened to the music on the radio and the woman seemed to laugh emphatically at a joke the guy told. “They must be one of em couples,” Jimmy thought with a snag of contempt. As the light flashed green he remembered this one girl with pretty sea green eyes who he once went out with, pretty face, nice smile and a good job, they were going steady till one day she came home early from a run and found him swiping cash from her handbag, he never saw her since and all he could remember was her disgusted expression. He was jolted back from his flashback by a honk from the couple in the red car, he swore profusely at them not that they noticed amidst all their joy and banter, so he walked across the road and went on his way.

As Jimmy was about to cross another street a car swept past him and splashed what he hoped was just water on him it’s sharp odor prickling his nose, dampening his cigarette and his mood remarkably further. He passed a home decor store with string lights, he stopped by the store window to look at the television inside, it showed a mother with her sons and daughters sitting in front of a cosy fire. He remembered his own mother, small and frail with a weak but kind smile, when he was in college he left school to take care of her when she was diagnosed with cancer. She died months later and the git of a stepfather ran away in the middle of the night with all their money, “bastard!” he frantically shouted at the television as a salesman came on, he banged the display window several times until he exhausted himself. He turned round and saw two policemen looking suspiciously over at him so he left before they could “inquire“.

As he continued walking he felt the cold seep into his jacket and make him shiver. While stopping to rummage for another cigarette Jimmy noticed a poster on a street lamp pole advertising a writing gig for amateurs. Jimmy stared at the poster for several heartbeats, Jimmy used to write, he used to like to write, he used to write for his mother and the girl with the sea-green eyes and pretty face, “maybe I should give it a try” he thought so he stuffed the paper into his torn jacket pocket and went on his way a bit more emphatically.

As he got back home he looked up at the shoddy cobblestone building, it looked to Jimmy like a man made symbol of lost hope, erected by lost dreams and tired, under paid souls worn down by the stigmas of society, it was surrounded by foul smelling sewage water and decorated with a filthy sidewalk. He looked down the road were two men in the shadows followed an old man in the distance. He looked up at the sky then down at his raggedy shoes, he scratched his wet and unkempt hair, the sharp smell of tainted sidewalk water shocked his senses. He took out another cigarette, failed to light it so he threw it in frustration, like an animal backed into a corner with no way out he spun and looked around with desperation and sadness in his eyes, he wanted a way out, he wanted peace but he could not find it so he dropped his shoulders and kicked at nothing.

The feeling did not subside but like every other occasion he forced himself to fumble on, when he got to his door he took out the writing gig advertisement, he stared at it for several heartbeats before sighing in resignation,”not meant for someone like me,” so he threw it onto the filthy sidewalk, opened the door and went inside. As he went upstairs noise erupted, shouts, screams and noise of furniture braking. By the window a dark silhouette of what had once been a man emerged and passed, then the light by the window flickered off. The cobblestone building firmly planted to the ground, was dark again.

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