Exit Stage Left – chapter 2 & 3

by C Parke

The extract contains language that readers may find offensive.

Image: Hulki Okan Tabak

Chapter 2

I exit out of the back entrance to avoid the mass of people leaving the theatre through the front. I walked quickly along the pavement due to the heavy rain whilst avoiding the rowdy groups of drunk partygoers; it was Saturday night, after all. I was drenched but still happy listening to the ambient sounds of my home city. As the rain got heavier, I decided to take shelter underneath a bus stop; I was bound to arrive home late anyway, so an extra five minutes wouldn’t hurt. As I sat there at that bus stop, watching the rain pummel the streets, I started to wonder about the lives of the strangers passing me by, wondering about what they’ve been through and who they were, “Everyone has their own stories”, my dad used to say.

Anyway, soon, the rain cleared up a little, and I continued. After turning a corner, I saw a homeless man sitting on top of a piece of cardboard. Brown hair was hanging down each side of his head. His clothes were encrusted in the dirt, and sitting next to him was a plastic cup with a few coins inside it. I pitied him, and all these gits were walking past him like he didn’t exist. I couldn’t just do anything, so I pulled out my wallet and grabbed a spare ten-pound note, I handed it to him, and he said “Thank you, God bless you” in a thick foreign accent, and after that, I pressed onwards hoping he’d spend the money on food and not alcohol.

Whilst I was walking along, I became a bit peckish, dancing and singing for two hours straight will do that to you, I suppose. Thankfully, I stumbled across a kebab shop, so I ventured inside and ordered a doner kebab with beef, sour cream, onions, lettuce, and tomato, then scoff it down as soon as I get my hands it. The man serving me looked very solemn. I try not to judge him, in any case. He struck me as someone who worked long hours in a job. He finds it incredibly boring and probably had to deal with far too many rude, impatient customers and to be honest, I’d hate working at a kebab shop all day as well.

As I arrived at the train station, I tapped my oyster to get through the gate and noticed how I only had three pounds left, I knew I was due for a top-up, but I was too tired and too lazy to solve the problem now and resolved to do it the following day. By this point, I had walked through this particular station dozens of times and knew I could walk through it blindfolded. I heard the sound of the central line train arriving and dashed it, hopping on board just in time.

My phone was almost dead while on the cramped train, so I had nothing to amuse myself with. For some reason, I always end up on trains with assholes on them, a giant of a man behind me didn’t know that civilised people breath through their noses, so this man’s gross, warm breath for half an hour tickle the back of my neck. But I’m used to all this, being trapped in a metal snake crammed up against sweaty strangers, it’s a part of modern life in London, I suppose.

I get off the train, and after another fifteen minutes of walking, taking a shortcut through a muddy park, I finally arrive home. All the lights are off. My family are asleep. Indeed, I produce my keys from my pocket about and fiddle with the keyhole in the dark. I enter and then nimbly sneak up to my room, toss my clothes off then plummet into my bed, falling instantly asleep.

Chapter 3

I woke up around 10 am, but for about thirty minutes, I just lay in bed, unable to summon the energy to start the day, so instead, my eyes began to scan across the room. To my left is a poster of Muhammed Ali with the tagline at the bottom “Float like a butterfly sting like a bee, that’s why they call me Muhammed Ali!” In front of me resting against the wall was a guitar I had gotten for my birthday last year, which I’ve been practising on routinely for months, and yet I can only play about three songs to an acceptable degree. To my right is an oak cabinet plus a small TV. The room is painted a deep red, whilst my closets and shelves are a blistering white. Once I’m done lounging about, I force myself to head downstairs and make myself a bowl of chocolate Weetabix when Mum comes in to greet me.

“Morning, pet.” She says.

“Morning,” I say back.

“How was work yesterday, Daniel?”

“Same as usual, exhausting.”

“Fancy a cup of tea?” She asks.

“Yeah, thanks”, I answer. She heads on over to the cupboard, turns on the kettle and says, “But you know Daniel, I wanted to say you came in with muddy shoes again last night.” I roll my eyes and tell her, “Well, Mum, it’s not the end of the world, honestly.”

“Well, I bloody cleaned the floor yesterday and woke up this morning to find it ruined all over again. So, listen, if you do that again, it’ll be you cleaning it up, got it?” she threatens.

“Okay, fine, sorry it won’t happen again.” I apologise in defeat. “Good, here’s your tea, oh and by the way, don’t forget we’re having that skype call with Granny tonight. She needs the company.”

“Yes, I know I always remember.” Mum left the kitchen as I finished my breakfast.

I head into the dining room, where my younger brother Gabriel is busy doing his maths homework. I feel sorry for him as he goes to this prestigious private school that sets him a lot of essays and practice papers to do at home. Mum makes him do a further five hours of studying a week, but the thing is, he’s only a kid. He’s twelve. When Dad talks to Mum about putting too much pressure on him, she always responds, “Well, you and I pay a fortune to send him to that school, so he better makes damn good use of it!”

At the same time, he’s been rather annoying recently; he talks about wanting to be treated as more of an adult since he’s going to be thirteen years old soon, and yet he’s still unable to finish his broccoli at dinner and still can’t go to bed without a nightlight.

As I walk by, he asks, “Hey Daniel. How do you calculate the area of a circle?” I pause for a moment, and after digging through the recesses of my mind, I respond, “Pi times the radius squared.”

“How much is pi worth again?” Gabriel also inquires. After another moment of brainstorming, I tell him, “It’s worth 3.14.”

Finally satisfied, he says, “Oh, thanks.”

Pleased that I still remember my maths lessons from my teenage years, I keep walking, but Gabriel also asks me, “Hey Daniel? Do you want to play PS4 later?”

“Yeah, sure, why not? Finish your homework first, though, or Mum will give you hell for it.”

“Yeah, I know. Stupid bloody maths,” he mumbles.

I leave Gabriel to his own devices and see my dad sitting on his sofa chair reading the newspaper with his favourite mug at his side, the one that says Man of the house. (A mug that he doesn’t let any else use.)

“Morning Son, did you sleep well?” he greets me

“Okay, I suppose. Hey, did you record the Vargas vs Miura last night?” (Vargas and Miura are two professional boxers.)

Dad affirms, “I did, with the pre-fight discussion and all, I accidentally saw who won in this newspaper, but we’re still gonna watch it. I’ll put it on around 3 o’clock once I’m done with all my paperwork. Sound good?” I nod and say, “Sounds great, Dad.”

I sit down to watch the morning news on the telly when Dad informs me, “Oh Daniel, I was looking online the other day for any potential new homes for you, and I found this lovely studio flat in Epping, it’s the perfect size for someone living on their own. I bookmarked the page on the computer if you want to have a look later.”

My parents and I have been talking recently about my moving out. I suggested it to them because I want to be more independent, I’ve never lived on my own before so it would be a new experience plus it’s a bit embarrassing when I tell people I’m still living with my parents when I earn so much money for my age.

I’ve been to Epping before, and it’s a lovely town, so I tell my dad, “Oh really? Thanks.”

Dad puts down his newspaper and requests, “Daniel, I nearly forgot, my knee’s playing up again, so could you be a pal and go to the store to pick up my medication for me?”

“Sure. I’ll get it now, so I won’t forget later,” I tell him as I’m putting on my shoes.

“Cheers, buddy.”

I grab my coat and hop on my bike to hit the road. I decided to take the long, scenic route to enjoy the ride thoroughly. I arrive at the pharmacy and pick up Dad’s pills; I see one lady wearing a face mask inside, which is weird. It’s not like she’s performing surgery. She must be paranoid of bacteria or something. Anyway, I leave the store and promptly head back home.

Nothing much happened in the afternoon aside from playing video games with Gabriel, watching the boxing with Dad, and mowing the lawn for Mum. It was an uneventful day, but it was exactly what I needed after the past few weeks.

After dinner that night, we had the skype call with Grandma that Mum mentioned earlier. Grandma developed multiple sclerosis or MS many years ago. She struggles to walk and finds it difficult to speak. She often slurs her words. I remember Mum explained to me once that MS is a condition where your body’s immune system attacks the myelin sheath of your nerves, meaning they can’t transmit signals correctly, leading to symptoms like spasms, strokes, and the inability to use specific muscles. Mum’s also been insistent we call her regularly as Grandad passed away from cancer last Christmas. This might sound a bit horrible, but I have to smile, nod, and pretend to know what she’s talking about whenever I don’t understand her. The five of us talked about the usual, the weather, how big Gabriel’s gotten, how things are in Ireland. We said our goodbyes, and after, I immediately called it a day since I had work tomorrow.

To be continued…

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