Love for Intellectuals

(c) P.M. Kroonenberg

(c) P.M. Kroonenberg

We speak in code. We generalise, but we are talking about ourselves. Men means ‘our men’. People means ‘me in particular’. Our wishes for our future and the way we see our lives now are encoded in the latest book that seemed so true, or our new theory on love. That is how we talk.

“All relationships have problems that can’t be solved,” you say. “You just need to find a way of living with them.”

“I think people are always searching for grace,” I say.

We sip our peppermint tea, which makes you feel so healthy, our cranberry juice to ward off cystitis.

In the coffee bar where you spent every afternoon of your youth – or was it beside that fruit stall selling nothing but lychees? – the curtain is rent and your eyes wide with fear tell me about you and him. I have seen you speechless with love and helpless with misery. I put an awkward arm through yours. I have theories, lots of theories. But they are really about me.

I want to write your life in curves and flourishes and give it a happy ending. Instead, I buy you a chocolate croissant and we hope for the best.

For Ellie

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A Quiet Night Out

2009_09_18_P1755RietOchtendrood

(c) P.M. Kroonenberg

Detective Inspector Kay loved stake-outs. Those long, quiet nights sitting in his squad car, eating Ben & Jerry’s. Usually the most exciting thing that happened was a dog barking or a suspicious car pulling up outside the house in question. This night was shaping up to be another good one. He’d brought his dinner (chicken and chips, no ketchup) and he had a couple of tubs of Cherry Garcia in his ice box on the back seat for after.

Staring out over the black water, gently lapping at the sides of the canal, a sudden movement caught his eye. Kay sat up straighter, slowly chewing his chips, his eyes now trained on the curve of the canal, partly hidden from view by an overhanging willow tree. Yes, there is was again. It was a light – a lantern probably. Slowly, the barge he had been waiting for but not expecting slid out from under the willow tree, heading for the lock.

“Blast,” Kay muttered. That was the end of his quiet evening in the car. He should radio for backup now, get other cars in, then there would be floodlights, shouting, gun-waving, the arrest, the paper work. The detective cast a regretful glance over his shoulder at the icebox. No Ben & Jerry’s tonight.

His hand hovered over the radio for a moment. Then he turned around instead, reached inside the ice box and grabbed a tub of ice cream. As quietly as he could, he opened the car door and took up position by the side of the canal. He could see the barge and his mark clearly now by the light of the moon. Kay took aim and with a mighty throw launched the tub at the man in the barge. It hit him square in the forehead and he dropped into the water like a sack of potatoes.

Detective Inspector Kay dusted himself off and watched approvingly as the barge drifted off course and ran aground in the reeds. It would keep till morning. He got back into his car and reached for his second tub of Cherry Garcia. As he tucked in with great relish, he decided it had been worth the sacrifice.

Detonate

Detonate

I think she was about to set off a bomb.

I was watching her through the peep holes that I had cut into the two a’s in ‘Daily Mail’. Don’t give me that look, that’s official MI5 endorsed spy craft. Anyway, she was looking all casual, as if she was just another student earning a few extra pounds propping up a sign to some place that sold some stuff. But I could see from the intensity with which she considered her phone that she was not just checking for messages or looking up train times. I could see her thumb tremble, hovering over the OK button. She was completely immersed in a moment, a decision.

Time stretched unbearably.

My leg was starting to itch. My elbows hurt.

Then she looked up, her eyes sharp.

I lowered my guard and my paper, my mouth shaping a silent ‘No!’ as her thumb finally made its choice.

Click here to see the prompt for this story.