Monday, August 26, 2013


He came out of the supermarket having forgotten what he went in for, holding only an apple. At the bus stop outside a woman was attempting to wrestle a small girl into a push chair. The child, whose hair was styled into discrete knots all over her head performed a can-can of resistance. He was a scientist now, he supposed, nineteen years old and up at Imperial doing physics. He cared more about pleasing his parents than his painting, and that, presumably, was what separated artists from dabblers, regardless of their ability. He wore shorts and a polo shirt with the name of his hall of residence embroidered on the chest. His name was Lee Chen and he had never had a girlfriend.

Richard Finch headed south towards the river in a convertible Saab he had bought for his father with his first bonus. It was too big for the old man's garage, the door sat at thirty degrees from vertical, nestling on the bonnet. The bungalow in Hove wasn't built to house a man with a large Scandinavian sports car so the big black thing had gone back to London, whence it came, replace by a silver grey Nissan Micra which Dad drove twice a week, to the cemetery and the cinema in Brighton. Finch saw the lights change ahead of him, accelerated and passed through the bollards before they were red, and across the junction to Beaufort Street.

The car missed him by half a metre, travelling at twenty metres per second and accelerating, its wing mirror still closer. Lee knew the driver had seen him, he saw a hand of apology raised almost instantly. He wasn't the type to shout. He was infuriated by that hand, though, there was something careless about it. The hand of someone who lived a life without consequences. Without thinking he turned and threw the apple at the back of the car. He misjudged the trajectory completely. The apple flew higher and further than he intended. Could adrenalin act so quickly, he wondered, almost certainly not. The apple descended in a shallow parabola and struck the driver on the left temple. He saw the man twitch at the steering before the car thumped irreversibly into a parked UPS van. Glass exploded, the car's airbag deployed with a great puff of powder and an unpleasant smell that was unfamiliar to Lee. The van's alarm sounded. People ran towards the accident. Lee walked.

The man's face was misshapen but he was breathing and alert. Lee stood and looked at him for ten seconds. He counted. Then he walked back away from the river, picking up the apple, bruised now on two sides, from the gutter.