it’s the new pictures: a spiel in medias res

by uzwi

He rang the bell three times & banged the doorknocker twice in the time it took me to get down from the top floor. “We’ve just had the new pictures done,” he said, as if we’d met previously, maybe in some pub, & discussed it all, & I’d asked him to let me know the moment they were ready. I had no idea what he was talking about. He stood bent at the neck a little, as if the doorway was too small for him & he had to peer under the lintel to look inside. He was dressed in a yellow short-sleeved shirt and he sounded a little like George Formby. He was in a rush. It was as if he had rushed to get here & now he was already rushing to get away. At the same time he was insistent. As soon as he saw I was 60-odd, he raised his voice a few decibels & shouted, “The pictures? The new pictures?” At this time I had not had a chance to speak. I had jogged down three flights of stairs at the end of the afternoon, which is not my best time, & I had left behind the last reasonably promising sentence of the day, the upshot of which I knew I would forget if someone encouraged me to take part in a conversation. “I’m sorry?” I said. “The pictures!” he shouted. “It’s the new aerial pictures! Of your house?” “Ah,” I said. “No thanks. Really.” He stood on the doorstep, acting as if I had forced him to look down under the lintel to get a glimpse of me. “Are you going to close the door in my face?” he shouted as I began to close the door. He was appealing not to me but to the street at large. When I got back upstairs I had forgotten not only the ending of the sentence but why I had been writing it in the first place. I was glad to be a man aged 60-odd, because if I had been a woman of that age he would not only have shouted at me as if I was deaf & stupid, he would have got a foot in the door & called me “petal”.