Idea For A Film
Norman Tartell has hooked himself up to a life-support machine which is rigged to cut-off should the phone ever ring. He figures that as far as bridge-burnings go, there are worse ways to ensure that you're never bothered by anyone ever again.
He's been bothered for a while by a three-pronged interlinked conspiracy against his happiness. It consists of an online social networking platform in which it's the 1920s and everyone's fabulous; a company who specialise in fixing leaks and the mascot from his local cinema who resembles an anthropomorphic red jigsaw piece. Each of them has designs on his girlfriend.
He remembers their first meeting. She ran the Scarlet Bistro, and one rainy afternoon he found himself entangled in her fairy-lights. It wasn't a pleasant place to be trapped. Threaded as they were through a meticulously trimmed hedge which bordered her patio, the more he struggled the more he was prodded and pricked by errant twigs and branches.
She had come to his rescue armed only with a smile and a pair of ELC-branded safety scissors. Over coffee, they had taken it from there.
But now she traded electronic kudos using a sunglasses-wearing flapper of an avatar wrapped in a lambs-wool shawl taking deep drags from a slender cigarette holder. She had the leak-repair company on autodial stored under Hotkey #3, and she was frequently spotted challenging corporate logos to races across the frozen lake.
But Norman's troubles had really begun when he paid a visit to his old flat to pick up his post. Pausing at the front door, he realised that by just closing his eyes he could still picture everything as it had been – right down to the patterns the dust made as they fell on the hardwood floors. Knowing that he wouldn't be able to stomach seeing previously precious floor-space being used in offensively different ways by offensively anonymous people, with a sigh he abandoned his misdelivered mail and returned home.
It was as close as he had come to his past in a long while. It was too much. He sat in the armchair in the corner and struggled to fight back the tears. A part of him knew though that at the very least, were he to cry it might open up the doors of communication. That might help. That might be a start.
But with a smile his mother cast a blanket over him. She had done it in jest, but it made him feel like a statue; a relic protected from the dust, from age.
Daring to take a peek from under the blanket, he saw that his entire family had gathered in an attempt to restore order to their cluttered household. They were trying to make it less like an exploded attic and more like a place in which they could live once more.
Joining in, amongst the old board-games and letters of recommendation he found a beaker full of diced livers on the mantel-piece. He could remember carefully slicing them for dinner years ago. Had they been stood on the mantel-piece all this time? Gingerly he sniffed them. They smelled fine, so he popped one in his mouth and savoured the acrid juices as they spread over his tongue like cracks across ice. He offered them around to his gathered family, but nobody else would try any.
They were, at that time, partaking in an experimental new shopping system in which all the local residents of an area had their own personal shelf in the back-rooms of the supermarket. Instead of shopping, you loaded any required wares onto your shelf a week in advance of taking them home. The supermarket then employed a surveyor to take stock of each of the different shelves. He would carefully write down everything which had been loaded and affix his report to the shelf-edge. When, one week hence, it came time to collect your wares, it was simply a case of presenting this report to the till, where it would be tallied and you would be charged accordingly.
Though inter-shelf theft and dishonesty was rife, the system was proving to be very popular with both the store and the customers. The government claimed that it would save billions annually, but never quite explained how.
It was Norman's turn to collect their gatherings from the shelf. Arriving, he found their shelf to be covered in dust. Several empty cardboard boxes were stacked alongside their usual beloved potted-cakes and tins of liver. Evidently, assuming the shelf to be abandoned, the store had taken to using it for their own storage.
The stacked wares having long since passed their use-by dates, Norman skulked his way home in a state of dejection. Walking down the high street he noticed several severe discrepancies between his mental image of the store-fronts and the actual picture he saw before him. The last time he had come this way all were dressed impeccably in their hats and scarves and galoshes. Beaming butchers picked by hand the tenderest loins of liver for their cherished customers. Librarians would declare via tannoy each book they found to have a happy ending. People would treasure each sip of coffee they ingested whilst sat for hours on the patio of the Scarlet Bistro.
Now, though, bright-red metallic sheets covered the fronts of all the buildings. The streets were clean and empty and Norman had to admit that the towering red edifices cast a commanding figure against bright blue skies. But it wasn't the street he knew. Everyone had been evicted for not using the public spaces as the architect had planned.
Across the street a panel opened on the front of one of the buildings revealing a screen on which a red anthropomorphic jigsaw piece winked at whoever was looking.
“It's going to kill the cinema,” said a voice. Norman looked and saw a rotund old man in a green trench coat and a flat-peaked hat frowning at the screen.
“It already has,” said Norman.
The old-man agreed and started talking about money whilst licking his lips suggestively. Fearing for the integrity of his sister, who Norman remembered had once taken to walking the aisles of the supermarket topless, Norman rushed home.
When he got there he found all rooms to be immaculate but empty. Dust blankets had been cast over all items of furniture to the effect that faded off-white ghosts stared back impassively from every room.
He called for his family, but received no reply.
In another age it would have been him applying the ice-skates and challenging that corporate logo to a race across the frozen lake. His feat would be performed at the violet-hour before a breath-taking sunset. With a grin he would overtake the steadfast corporate logo and, assuming it to be a red anthropomorphic jigsaw piece, would instead find it to be a pale-blue wrench painted to look like a postage stamp.
Their desperate race would take them through the golden 1920s pool party where, amongst the crowd, Norman would spot his darling flapper, cigarette holder in hand. Though her sunglasses would make it difficult to read her expression, Norman would nonetheless be able to read a glimmer of admiration in her countenance.
He was back. He was doing it again. He was here, he was now, when for so long he had been then.
And, on his victory lap, Norman would remember her hastily loading a tangled mass of wire into the alarm-box which doubled as her safety deposit box nestled amongst the leaves surrounding her patio.
Having embraced her immediately afterwards, Norman had never been able to see clearly the contents of this box. Now, though, he was closer than he'd ever been before. He would see. Any second now, he would know. For the very first time, all would be clear, all would be wonderful again.
But then the phone began to ring.
Nobody will ever know how Norman's story ends.