Swim

He’s clomping down an alleyway. The paving slabs are strewn with fast food containers, used needles and seagull feathers. He feels the vomit squeeze up towards his throat but swallows it down pretending that it’s just gas. A small man sits in a darkened, arch framed doorway scratching his bare arms. In spite of the small amount of light, it’s possible to know, somehow, that the small man has drawn blood. He repeats, under his breath and in short, stabbing exhalations, ‘Get me out, get me out, get me out, get me out.’ He’s sure that the small man is unaware of him standing there and so moves away. Sagging people dawdle past carrying bags, books, cameras. Out in the dying light of a dying summer, men sit outside a place called ‘sportsbar’. In a tiny road opposite, two girls are shouting at each other. Between them is a pram. In the pram are several large bottles of cheap, strong cider.

He allows his feet to meet the ground as he navigates down the steep hill towards the man-made lake. The notebook in his jacket pocket seems to pinch his covered flesh with every footstep. The book does not belong to him. It was given to him by an art forger who said he knew that over 70% of famous paintings hanging on the walls of the Louvre, Met, and National Galleries were fakes. And this notebook contained details of the methods of their fabrication, along with names and contact details of those who had worked upon them.

The art forger was, of course, a lunatic and, as soon as he became tired of describing the glazing methods favoured by Chardin, he broke, abruptly, into a deep south American accent and described, with an apparent genuine enthusiasm, the supreme quality of his mama’s blueberry pie.

So the man takes the notebook out of his jacket pocket and throws it into the water and watches small pages fly out like freed doves. When the bits of paper settle upon the still water he grows anxious. And then, in a quick moment of panic, he jumps in to the lake to retrieve them. Only, he can’t swim.

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