TUESDAY: Just an Analogue Guy in a Digital World


Copyright is held by the author.

SAMMY IS feeling low, lower than he can ever remember feeling before, so low in fact that there is nothing to his life now beyond this distressingly mad habit. This maddening habit of simply pounding the streets of this god-damn town, this god-damn hole of a town by the edge of the sea. A town that has never ever felt like home, a town in which the maddening rents of his hometown had dumped him in all those years before, hell it had been decades now, and from here well he can’t even dream of escaping, not now, not in this lifetime at least.

His home, his one solitary room, in just another dump of a house that most see as nothing but a blot on their immaculately manicured lives has been bleed dry. Every book has been read, every movie has been watched and every piece of music listened to and now with it all devoured, loved and cherished there is only this. This life, this existence, this . . . whatever the hell you’d want to call it, this is now all that remains and to think, at school, he had been the one all the teachers had said wouldn’t amount to much because he was just so damn normal, well not anymore could they say that. Pounding these streets now he is about as far removed from normal as anyone could ever get without some kind of major hassle from the authorities and as he walks his head spins. Musical anthems kick out the jams as stanzas of angel-headed immortal poetry float on by lost in their own magnificence whilst the undiluted filth from some of the degenerate fiction he’s devoured never fails to turn him on as the streets become his stage to live out his cinematic dreams.

“I’m walking here, I’m walking here!” he shouts at no one in particular as he crosses yet another empty road, recalling Dustin Hoffman’s legendary Ratso screaming at a taxi driver in the amazing story of the midnight cowboy who made the bold move to New York City during the last days of the long summer of love that was just about to turn to hate but here, well here, Sammy knows it’ll always be different. Here he can walk all day until exhaustion comes to sweep him into the most uncomfortable of beds and if it wasn’t for his maddening mind he’d never get any excitement. It is only his mind that can produce the magic his life so craves, his beautiful drug – crazed mind, and as he walks he spies any opportunity he can to create a scene. A speeding police car can be bought to a halt almost as instantly as he steps out into the road, ‘throwing [himself] into the road to escape all this hideousness’ as the magnificently deranged Withnail would have it in his own maddening tale but around here people know. They know that after all these years these streets, these roads, are as much his as they are any car user and if they spy him ahead they know they just need to show some god-damn patience or risk the wrath of the demented screaming in their face.

As Sammy pounds these oh so familiar streets he can’t seem to shake the feeling that today, well today, ain’t going to be like any of the other days he’s spent stalking these streets and as he walks into his one regular stop he can immediately sense an uneasiness in the air.

“Oh how are you today Sammy?” a voice in the fluorescent flooded dining hall for the poor and the dispossessed asks him.

“I’ll just have my usual please,” he manages to say as the only words to leave his mouth that day struggle on out.

“Sure Sammy, is there anything else you fancy today? Maybe a doughnut?”

“No, no thank you,” he responds feeling an embarrassed shiver crawl up his spine.

“Hey what’s all this shit!” a harsh violent sounding voice explodes from within the dazzling light, “How come you’re giving this lowlife all the attention, I’ve got work to get back to, I bet this fucker . . .”

“Now calm yourself, Sammy is a long-term customer of ours. He has special needs that he knows we can deal with and really is a couple of minutes out of your lunch hour,” she says dragging out the final word to emphasis his selfishness, “so important?”

“Oh yeah I’ve seen this special case around town. What’s so fucking special about him then?”

“Yeah I thought you wouldn’t be able to come up with anything, you’re almost as pathetic as him in your horrible uniform, you look like a ridiculously old school dinner lady!”

“Now that’s it, get out! You can’t come in here and start talking to our staff and customers like this!”

“Yeah all you scum floating at the bottom stick together don’t you? Come on Sammy tell me what makes you such a special boy?”

Sammy simply stands there speechless but with a million different thoughts flooding through his mind all at once. One of those voices speaks to him, grabbing him by the neck, and the next thing he knows he is towering over a figure laying prone on the floor.

“Fuck, fuck!! What the fuck just happened?” the voice pleads as he climbs back to his feet but by now Sammy is already comforting himself with his lunch of a veggie pasty and soup as the embarrassed alpha – male slopes off back to the street and his ever so important job. Sammy can picture the scene and it makes him smile for the first time in an awfully long time, so long in fact it actually makes his face ache a little, as he imagines.

“Hey, how was your lunch? Fuck mate, what happened to your face?” they will ask him and Sammy knows the truth will be spun with the skill of a Westminster spin – doctor to convince all that it was he who was the victim and Sammy the demented psychopath hell – bent for mayhem but right now none of that matters as he finishes up his lunch.

Walking back out onto the street Sammy again feels the tug of something unusual in the offing but what it could be he has no idea of but, as he walks, he can feel it pulling him in like a moth to a light in the night and all he can do is hope. Hope that this inkling won’t end in anything like the confrontation back at his usual lunch – spot as that, well that, was almost too much for his poor battered mind and body to deal with. But as he walks he can sense it, something, whatever it is, calling him in and as he feels himself walking towards a previously long-forgotten charity shop, one that had fallen off his radar many years before as a place to find anything even remotely interesting, he senses that today, well today may well be a little different. Pushing the door open he finds himself walking pass the shelves of books, the boring dull lifeless books read by the infuriatingly dull yummy mummies from the Hanoverian nightmare of muesli mountain at their reading groups, continues on pass the DVD and CD piles until finally he spies it sitting there in the corner of the store and he simply can’t believe his eyes.

What sits before him is a rare thing of righteous beauty, an Underwood typer in all its magnificent glory, like a time – capsule from a past now long gone, but, for some inexplicable reason Sammy knows, he just knows, he’s got to have it and, with that, he moves on in and begins to look at its immaculately preserved keys. There is a nearly blank piece of paper ready for him and as he presses down on the ‘h’ key he can feel the overwhelming power to just grab it and run but, well, fortunately he ain’t ever been that kind of low-life. Instead he turns his attentions from the dazzling beauty to one of the volunteers on duty. Suddenly memories, memories he’d assumed had long been forgotten, long been eradicated by the decades of rampant drug abuse, begin to flood his mind. The memories of childhood weekends spent alone in the corner of his room working on the earliest form of the word he knew, stories of a maddeningly horrifying school daze and long summer holidays when he never saw the sun but wrote every single day. It all floods back to him and he knows, he just knows, that this machine, this magnificent righteous beauty of a machine could, just about, save him from the life that has come to rule his routine, the maddening routine of walking, hell stalking, these streets like some kind of grim reaper.

“I’m interested in getting this…” he says pointing at the burning object of his desires, his one last true love, and after a minor piece of negotiation, in which he ensnares a free ream of paper, he is out of there and, after a quick examination of the sky above, he takes the decision to simply walk home. The sky is threatening a downpour of potentially biblical proportions but as he walks he suddenly realizes there is one precious thing missing from the night. Hell night, right now it could well be a lifetime of this, and that is something to get his juices flowing and what better thing can there be than a bottle of some cheap cruddy rogue, a river of wine to sail on down.

Remembering all the now dead legendary drunks he loved reading he soon comes across an off – licence and is through the door like a bolt of lightning from the sky. His eyes immediately scan the bottom shelf and, somehow in 2023 UK, he manages to spy something miraculous, a four-pound bottle of wine. He grabs two of them and takes them to the cashier who grimaces as he places them on the counter.

“Good luck!” is all he says as Sammy pays for them and leaves the shop now only yards from his front door and the grand opening of a new life, a new way of being, of living or maybe it’s all his stupid mind playing tricks on him, again. Right now he isn’t sure but realising, as he pushes the key into the front door, that he has gone too far already he knows almost immediately what it is he needs to do.

Slumping down in his one chair, he opens one of the bottles and takes a swig from it. It tastes like rotten grapes scraped from the underfoot of the pickers but as he pours himself a good measure he doesn’t care. A drink these days is a rare treat and right now he doesn’t care if it tastes good or bad as long as it does the old trick of making him feel better, of bringing some comfort to his otherwise horrid existence, to somehow convince him he wasn’t on the verge of jumping out of his own skin to avoid the mess he’d long convinced himself he’d made of his life.

Hell, he thinks as he pours some of the disgusting rogue into a pint glass nabbed many years before from an old boozer Sammy used to frequent, it’s too late now to change any of that shit. As he looks at the typewriter sat on his desk he knows only one thing is missing and as he prepares the ubiquitous weed he knows the moment is coming and as he places the pint glass and ashtray on his desk next to the typer he knows the moment is now.

“With a tortured mess of a mind ruling his every move Sam Kent is descending into a new circle of hell as, consumed by a grief so fierce, he is convincing himself there is no way out. There is no way out of this all-encompassing fear, this dread, that she, the one who had been his world, is gone and now, no matter, how loudly he rages at a love gone sour there is nothing he can do about it” he types and as he looks back he reflects on all the great words he’s read, all the great openings to great novels he’s read and he knows this is it. He is suddenly gripped and as the words flow out of him, as if the machine has somehow taken possession over him, pulling him along with it as a machine would instruct a worker, the wine and weed flow into him and it is a potent combination, a heady mix and as the words keep tumbling onto the page it is as if time doesn’t exist. Everything before is inconsequential, only now matters, only this matters. The pages pile up until, finally stunned at his output for one session, he pauses and looks up at his clock radio which, to his shock and astonishment, tells him it is now four a.m. The two bottles lay empty on the floor as the ashtray nears overflowing and there is only one thing for it now, it is either the bed or the madhouse. Tonight Sammy isn’t sure either way but as his bed is closer he opts to climb from his chair, pull all of us clothes off, climb under his duvet and sleep, dreaming of what may yet be. As the night passes an image keeps coming back to him, a foot that looks remarkably like his stepping out onto a sand-covered paradise of a beach that looks as blue as a Californian sky but by morning the night before had mostly been forgotten, almost all of it in fact.

Climbing from his bed to begin his morning ritual he pulls the discarded t – shirt and boxers shorts off his decomposing carpet and onto his already rotten smelly body but as he moves to the kettle he spies something in the corner of the room. An ashtray that looks like it hasn’t been emptied for about a week, there were certainly enough spent roaches, and two empty bottles of wine but most miraculously the Underwood, the machine, from which a near fresh piece of paper with only a few words typed on it sits. He inspects that sheet first.

Not bad, he thinks as his eyes scan over towards a maddeningly large pile of paper and as he yanks them off the desk he can’t believe what he sees, what he reads. Where, he thinks, have all these pages, all these words, god-damn, where had they all come from? He is convinced that even if his life depended on it he could never really remember what the hell had happened but clearly something had been achieved last night and as he pulls the first page from its pile he begins to read and he suddenly he is gripped. He doesn’t know where these words have come from, he has no idea how he got these words down but he knows that this is it now. He sits and he reads and as his clock rolls around to midday his morning routine has been completely lost but as he finishes up he knows. He knows this is it now, this is going to be his life from now on and as he finally climbs from his chair and moves towards his kettle he can feel the opening of a new chapter appear in the story of his life. As soon as breakfast, a rather late one granted, has been devoured he is down to the nearby shop and the routine is born as the afternoon, then an evening, and soon a life is changed as the pages pile up as the days carry on outside his room, his castle where his imagination rules everything, where it is the king and he’ll follow it all the way to the end of this whole tragic saga of a life.


Image of Bradford Middleton

Bradford Middleton lives in Brighton, England. Recent stories have featured on A Thin Slice of Anxiety, Yellow Mama, Locust, Workers Write: Tales from the Bar and he’s been short-listed at the Jerry Jazz Short Fiction Prize.  His most recent book of poems The Whiskey Stings Good Tonight . . . was published early 2023 by Alien Buddha Press. 

1 comment
  1. Reads like something by Michael Crummey, and that’s no insult!

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