Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Monday, January 28, 2008


The fat politican rolled down the street. He licked his bulbous lips with the satisfaction he felt with the world and his place in it. Ahead of him a thin man in a long grey coat walked, slowly and melancholily. The sight made him even happier with himself.
He could do no wrong. In television appearance after television appearance he had committed the ultimate political sin; he had let his emotions show. But the audience loved him for it. His smug scorn for his opponents was apparently lapped up deliciously by the people. They adored his blunt contempt, his selfish arrogance. He need not hide anything any more. Having initially trailed in the polls, now he led. The newspapers that morning said so. People loved him.
He breathed in the cool spring air and looked, with an apprehension uncommon for him, in quiet wonder at the grey sky. Life was good. He could walk and walk and everything would be pleasing. The world was good. It was his. And this was his city, he felt like shouting. Indeed, outside of the sad character ahead of him, the road seemed empty. Basking warmly in his pleasant reverie, he was alone.
Or was he? Not far behind him, a soft, but sprightly fall of feet suddenly began. A hop. A skip. For some reason the happy staccato bothered him. So soft, but excited. As if the person behind had an anxious aim, but was trying to evade notice. It annoyed the politician, intruding on his happiness because it seemed to be another's happiness. This was his day, for him alone! Who was this person who shared this day?
Turning his head he stole a quick glance behind. Sure enough, a small jumpy character was close behind, a grubby, scruffy man in a tracksuit. He didn't like the look of him. Well, no reason to have him there. Let him have the street. The fat man turned at the next corner, on to a less populated street, and walked on at a faster pace.
The tracksuited man followed.
The politican felt a small stab of worry. What did he want? Was he following him? The sound of the man behind was even unhealthy. It was an irregular tread, a kind of anxious skipping. Not like a normal person, certainly unlike the politician's own strong stride.
He sped up still more and again, noting the upcoming intersection, readied himself to turn again. He did so, quickly. The man behind accelerated and turned the corner too. He is following, thought the heavy walker. It's me he wants. Damn, why do I refuse a police escort. I am an important man. I attract attention, undesirable attention. Naturally stalkers will target me. He turned another corner. And another.
It was hard to go any faster. His bulky frame was not used to so much walking, and he certainly didn't want to give his pursuer (yes, I am being pursued, he thought with a shadow of fear) the satisfaction of seeing him run. He had to evade him in some other way. Evade the man or confront him. He decided to stop. If the man still came on, he would face him.
In front of a glass pane, he stopped and stared into the shop, apparently looking at the merchandise. Was he coming? Could he hear any footsteps? He tried to catch sight of the pursuer in the reflection of the window, but he couldn't see enough of the street. He hazarded a glance. No, no sign of the tracksuited man. Muscles that had bunched up, now relaxed. Air escaped through his teeth, and he began to absorb his surroundings. He had been standing in front of a sex shop. Hastily, he tugged at his trousers and walked on.
In his haste to get away he had wandered into a poorer part of the city. Small, grimy houses faced poster covered hoardings. There should have been new construction behind those boards, but somehow after demolition, no one had gotten around to rebuilding. There were some shops as well, ones like the one he had stood outside, but few of them seemed to be open, at least, not yet. He shouldn't be seen here, he reflected anxiously, but then after a moment's reflection he relaxed. People love me. People love me no matter what I do.
The irregular hop and skip of footsteps started once more.
Damn him!
Self-respect lost in his panic, he began to run. And run. He panted, but refused to stop. He felt his stomach protest with pain, but he wouldn't halt. His lungs too burned. Behind him the hop and skip had morphed into a corresponding patter, a frightening speedy chase. Who was this man? What did he want? Ahead of him he seemed to see another fleeing figure, a thinner mirror image of himself. Pursuit was everywhere. The chase was everything. What is happening to me?
In his exhaustion and pain, he noticed an upcoming corner almost unconsciously. Without a thought, he turned it and stopped. He had to stop. Through the stinging of his eyes, he saw a desolate blind alley. He shouldn't be here, he thought. This isn't a safe place. But he couldn't run any more. He had to rest.
His eyes flew open as the knife pierced his stomach.
'Why?' the voice hissed. 'Why are you following me? Who are you?'
The thin man in the long grey coat stared hysterically into his face.
'Your partner has been following me for weeks. Now you. I can't stand it! Can't stand it!'
The fat man tried to speak, but no words entered his head, only a growing awareness of pain.
'Why do you hate me?' the man screamed.
The politician sank down to the pavement. He grimaced as the thin man yanked the knife out.
'I'll get your tracksuited friend too! I swear!' Tears flowed from the man's eyes. 'Why couldn't you just leave me alone!'
Grey coat flying behind him, the man, sobbing, ran off.
The fat man on the pavement gripped his belly trying to stop the flow of blood. It was no use. It flew in bright streams through his fingers and across the pavement. He watched the red lines run away from him. They sparkled like threads of rubies in the bright spring light. Glittering streams. Rivers. On and on, they ran and ran, his life, running away.



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