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Oranges and Lemons

by ornum13 

Posted: 06 May 2007
Word Count: 1216
Summary: Slice of Life

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Oranges and Lemons

“Is that young Lawrence the poet?” Michael says into the phone.
There’s a groan at the other end. “It’s old Lawrence”.
“I want to speak to young Lawrence, not old Lawrence, where’s young Lawrence?”
“Young Lawrence is….” Another groan.
“We know not where?” Michael offers.
“We know not where” Lawrence confirms.
“How about getting together?” Michael says.
“Getting together?”
“That brilliant café you said you found?”
“Might be an idea”
“Okay, but I’ll need to do a couple of things.”
“A couple of things? How long will a couple of things take?”
“Look, I said I’d meet you in half-an-hour so I’ll meet you in half-an-hour, okay?”
“Okay, okay. The art gallery? – then you can show me where the café is.”
“Nice one” says Lawrence.
“Nice one?” Michael laughs, “that’s a cool expression, man, what’s the cool reply?”
“You have to be cool to know” says Lawrence.

Michael can’t see Lawrence among the people contemplating the pictures. Then he spots him over in the gallery shop.
He taps him on the shoulder “You’re under arrest!”
Lawrence turns slowly, with his alert, gloomy expression.
Just then a woman in tight trousers and high heels pushes the entrance door open and sweeps in out of the cold, adroitly converting her tripping gait into a wiping-feet-on-mat action. Michael tries to think of a jokey compliment.
Then he turns back to Lawrence.“I’m illegally parked” he says, “I’d better move the car.”
“There’s an empty space where I left my scooter” says Lawrence.
“Can you show me?”
The space is still free when they get there. This brings Michael’s good mood to a peak. “Fortune’s warm smile is upon us!” he exclaims.
Lawrence mumbles something Michael doesn’t catch, except for the tone.
“ Don’t you think today’s a good day?” he asks.
Lawrence looks out over the flat sea “It’s a great day for the Irish” he says.

They walk along Fore Street, between the water and the granite geometry of the town.
“Just need to go in here for some fly-spray” says Lawrence. They enter a shop selling fishermen’s jerseys, Wellingtons, odds and ends.
“I’ve got a problem with flies an’ all” says the shopkeeper, “they don’t seem to realize it’s November.”

As they walk, Michael suddenly finds himself delivering a speech. Lawrence has only recently returned to Cornwall. He left after being evicted by yet another landlord. He went to Totnes for a while. Now he’s back in Newlyn, in lodgings again.
“By the powers vested in me” Michael intones “ I am authorized on behalf of the people of Newlyn to welcome you back to Cornwall and to wish you ….er,” – his eyes fall on the display outside a green-grocer’s – “ oranges and lemons and the bells of St Clements”.

The café is brilliant – a little alley ingeniously covered with Perspex so that light streams down onto white décor and spare elegance. Reading matter for lone diners: poetry and today’s Independent. Two women murmuring at the first table. One of them smiles at Lawrence. The owner greets him.

“This one alright?” asks Michael pulling back a chair.
“Fine” says Lawrence, and puts the fly-spray on the table.
The music is a blend of jazz and reggae.

“Knowing what you do of the owner” says Michael, “when she takes our order, do you think she’ll make a joke about the fly-spray?”
“She’s too gentle for that”
“Wit can be gentle, surely?”

Michael’s soup arrives first. Lawrence’s full breakfast isn’t ready yet. Michael decides to go ahead. He has seen many films in which the protagonist takes a mouthful, says something, listens to the reply, takes another mouthful, replies to the reply.
The soup is wonderful, complimented by thick, fresh bread.
The reggae constituent of the music is in the ascendant. The heart-beat rhythm reaches a peak of buoyancy.
“Is there anything, right here, right now, you’re looking forward to?” Michael asks.
Lawrence says he is hopeful about a meeting he is having later.
Michael points his bread at him “Ah, hopes! Hopes are specific and detailed as dreams and they pass like dreams.”
“That’s true” says Lawrence.
“So give me the details!” says Michael, “I detest evasiveness!” (A Peter Sellers quote he often uses.)
Lawrence regards him steadily.
The jazz and reggae, right here, right now, are starting to clash. Rain clatters on the Perspex.
“Know what I should have said to that woman in the tight trousers? I should have said ‘You’re a natural!’”
“Why didn’t you?”
“I …….. don’t know. Know what I sometimes think? Maybe I should be writing poetry.”
Lawrence says nothing. He starts goes through his pockets, finds a notebook, flicks through pages of scrawl to a blank page and rips it out. He pushes the page, and a pen, across the table.
Michael stares at him. “Well, I didn’t mean…..you know…..eventually…..when I’ve…”

After a pause he writes:
Surely there is no more witty reply
To grey sea and stolid granite
Than light and flimsy Perspex?

“I know it isn’t poetry but…”
“Getting there” Lawrence says.

Lawrence works on his breakfast. He maneuvers the yolk onto his fork, and into his mouth intact. He leaves one square of fried bread on the plate.
“Now you write a poem” Michael says.
Lawrence considers. He tears another page out of the notebook. He writes quickly. And pushes the page over.

A confusion
Of cues, signals, hierarchies, dreams, eyes.
The compressed spring’s
when the child reaches home.

“Blimey!” says Michael.
Lawrence smiles faintly.

They go over to pay. Michael likes the owner for having to ask them what they’ve had.

They are back on the sea-front.
“Those are the rocks where people dive in every day at lunch-time” says Lawrence pointing, “I wonder how long it would take me to swim to The Lizard.”
Michael stares at him. “That’s like swimming the Channel. You’d need months of training.”
Lawrence turns towards him, his eyes inky depths. “Do you know something?” he says, “you’re face is completely closed up.”
Michael blinks. “Okay” he says, “I’ll open it!” He makes his eyes wide and pulls his lips back from his teeth.
Lawrence laughs.
They carry on walking.
“You were right” says Michael, “that was a brilliant café. What’s it called?”
“The Strand” says Lawrence.
“The Strand? Do you think that’s a good name?”
“Yes I do, it’s…. it has cachet.”
Michael informs him that strand is an Old English word meaning beach. He personally wouldn’t call it that, he’d call it something like, you know, The Forbidden City.
Lawrence grunts.
“What would you call it?” Michael asks.
“The Strand” says Lawrence.
“If you couldn’t call it the Strand?”
“Oh, I don’t know! The Blade of Grass!”
Michael sees that the lawn grass has given him the idea. He points at a lamppost. “Don’t you think a better name would be The Lamppost?”
Lawrence frowns.
Or the “The Yellow Line” Michael continues gleefully, pointing at the double yellow lines running along the road.

They reach the car park. Michael gets into his car and rolls down the window “Nice one dude!” he calls out.
Lawrence is involved with his crash helmet.
Driving home Michael vows that he will do something to stop Lawrence being kicked out of yet more lodgings.

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Comments by other Members

Solstice at 12:36 on 29 May 2010  Report this post
This is my second read on the site, I just joined today. Really enjoyed the flow of this one. I love how you integrate visuals, music, minor characters and sensations of the environment to bring the setting alive. I'm not only convinced by Micheal and Lawrence but warmed by thier relationship and the picture you've given us a of thier history and what may come next. Not easy to do especially in such a short amount of words and you've definately achieved it. Poetic in places! I love "The reggae constituent of the music is in the ascendant. The heart-beat rhythm reaches a peak of buoyancy" Cosmic musical experience!

I notice one typo; "Michael sees that the lawn that has given him the idea"

I look forward to reading more of your work and would really appreciate your review once I've got some of my own up.


ornum13 at 09:15 on 30 May 2010  Report this post
Thank you, Solstice, for those kind and considered words.
I wrote that piece quite a long time ago and ever since I've had difficulty following it!
Well, if I did it once, surely I can do it again?
Wish there was a magic formula.
Take care
(thanks for pointing out the typo!)

Solstice at 14:38 on 30 May 2010  Report this post
I've no doubt you could do it again. I think it's just a case of getting that spark of inspiration and then letting your words keep that flame warm throughout the piece?

Just keep going! Is it a writer's block you're experiencing? If so, I find that stream of consciousness or word association helps to flex the writing muscle; so I'll start with an object (try starting with something concrete) and then let it flow out into more abstract ideas, writing for about five minutes or setting myself a limit of four sides of A4. It's amazing what kind of ideas you can come up with. Of course some prefer to take more time over ideas, but I'm talking about those desperately dry periods!

Good luck!

ornum13 at 07:37 on 03 June 2010  Report this post
Thank you again, Solstice.
I learned about free writing from Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, and it's helping me now in the ways you suggest. I've got a story on the go, at this stage working on the characters and seeing where that takes the plot. I don't believe in forcing it, Alice Munroe apparently takes 6 months per story, but too much delay sometimes means I don't finish the story.
Must be strict with myself!

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