Speak, Dance, Steal by Tim Frank

If you want to make it in this world you need to speak: debate the rings around Saturn, discuss the sounds of northern soul, converse about Banksy.

Then just dance. Move. Move! Flex those glutes, tear off your Tommy Hilfiger t-shirt – in the club or as you freak out to the sounds in your souped-up Hyundai.

And then you must steal: Braeburn apples from the local grocers, nose studs from flea markets and leather wallets from the strip.

Let me lead you through the London city streets that merge into streaks of neon light. Take you to the bars, the dives and the speakeasies; the ones where the gamblers and the coke heads get obliterated as they choke on their own depravity and globs of blackened phlegm. But look at the twisted blood vessels in the whites of your eyes, your hunched shoulders too. At least try and crack a smile. I’ve got a reputation to maintain even if you don’t. Take a seat, the colour has drained from your cheeks. Here’s some water. Waiter! Some bread and butter for my poor friend. Are you diabetic? No? No. Listen, I’ll be honest, you may be having a panic attack, okay? It’s not so bad, just take it easy. Breathe. One. Two. Three.

It’s getting cold in here, take a jumper from my bag, wrap up tight. How about a cigarette? Warm your lungs with some nicotine.

Luckily, I’m sure we can stay in this building for the night. Our beds are comfortable and I even recognise the staff. And yet something’s not right, though I don’t know what.

Suddenly the memories start flooding back. I know now, yes. We’re trapped. The waiters are not just waiters, the staff are no ordinary staff. They have unreasonable demands. They want to control our dreams – give us nightmares about bodies who cannot move, figures that cannot speak.

Yes, hello. Do I know you, sir? Are you my father? Please leave us alone whoever you are. Can’t you see I’m trying to educate this young man? Hey, hey! Take your hands off me, I’m not tired and those pills don’t look like my vitamins. My friend, I’m sorry, things are starting to unravel and I feel a little bit confused but I have one more piece of advice for you, for what it’s worth. Light comes in many forms but don’t mistake a caged lightbulb for the rising sun. Please think on it for a while, that’s all I ask.

I’m starting to feel sleepy now and I don’t know where things are headed, but I do believe we can fight our way out of this mess. So, promise me when I wake we’ll meet on the front steps of The Rotten Egg pub and sit all day on the roof terrace. We can gaze at the shapely girls in the cafeteria across the street and drool as they cross their legs this way and that, knowing soon enough they will be ours. I’ll buy you one drink after another and our minds will sink into a boozy haze. Then we will make our mark on this town. It’ll be a long time coming and we’ll have truly earned it.

Tim Frank’s short stories have been published in Bourbon Penn, Eunoia Review, Menacing Hedge, Maudlin House and elsewhere. He is the associate fiction editor for Able Muse Literary Journal. 

Twitter: @TimFrankquill