Adrian Slatcher Online

Adrian Slatcher writes poetry, fiction and criticism, and lives in Manchester.

BACKWARDS (a story for National Short Story Day)

When I was 10 I was 70. I expected everyone to do things for me. I was naughty. I changed my mind all the time, forgot what I’d just done, and was always hurting myself, falling down, getting caught on the furniture, starting fire. I wouldn’t change my clothes. I wouldn’t eat. And then I’d get a sudden craving for sweets or chocolate and complain and complain until I got what I wanted. But I was clever, as well. I was sly. When somebody came to the door offering something, I let them in, or told them to come back tomorrow, or if I received a message, I didn’t pass it on.

By the time I was 20, I was 60. I knew EVERYTHING. Life had taught me so much. I had a peculiar nostalgia, that allowed me to furrow my brow, pause portentiously, and suck on the air, whilst I tried to recall something that only I, with all my experience, could know. But I was also lazy. I didn’t want to do boring tasks or mundane jobs. I would find any excuse not to. I’d rather read my favourite books, or watch television. You wouldn’t believe how tired I’d get! A trip to the shops would see me going straight to bed on my return. I had an interest in girls – but pretended it was not worth my trouble. I was beyond all of that. I didn’t have many thoughts about the future. After all, what could it possibly teach me?

At 30, I was 50. I’d been through a bad few years, but was out of it now. I really wanted to start afresh. My diet had been terrible – I’d always a hundred-and-one calls on my time. Everyone wanted a piece of me, but mostly, this was fine, I could deal with it. I had abundant energies, but was sick of having to sort out everyone else’s problems. I was successful at my career – I’d worked hard – very hard, and deserved my position. Yet, there had to be more to life than this, I felt. I was ready to downsize – but was too responsible to do so. Family commitments weren’t ones I could give up lightly. But the woman I’d once loved…well, neither of us felt that way anymore. I was too young to be giving everything up. The next decade I’d be more selfish, get what I wanted from life.

At 40 there seemed some kind of equilibrium to my life. Others that I knew had long gone to seed, or were past caring anyway. Yet I felt top of my game. I’d made some difficult choices, and got myself in such a place, that I could turn my hand to anything. I had friends, but deliberately chose time on my own. Sex was great, but I could equally do without it. From being a virtual slave to the office, I could now pick and choose my projects. I still liked a drink, who didn’t? But it was in moderation. Older people admired my verve and energy, and younger people respected my experience and my confidence.

At 50, I was 30. I’d had a good few years, but things needed to change. A new girlfriend for a start – there were plenty of fish in the sea, and I reckoned I’d not got long left being a good catch. I felt my libido like I’d not done for a dozen years. It was encouraging me to take risks, give up my regulation haircut, grow it long; forget about my pension fund, buy a sports car. I hung around with people half my age. You’re only as young as the people you go drinking with. I tore up the M&S storecard and started splashing the cash. Life was suddenly a whole lot of fun again.

By the time I was 60, I was 20. There was a sense of liberation, all life to play for, but also a worry, that somehow I’d missed something, and made the wrong turning. You look backwards, you look forwards, it’s all the same really. I’d not got much – no money, no commitments, and my desires were vague and unformed. What kind of man had I been? I’d a certain inbuilt pessimism that came more and more to the fore. I guess friends warned me about it, but I was deaf to their entreaties. I locked myself away, or went on holidays by myself. Life doesn’t always come to you – sometimes you have to run to it. I didn’t feel I knew a thing, yet I gave the impression I knew everything.

When I was 70, I was 10. Nobody could tell me what to do. I wouldn’t listen to a thing! I had my own agenda. I heard them speaking behind my back. My family were at their wits end, but I was having the time of my life. Not a care or a worry in the world, and able to indulge myself, knowing nobody could do a thing about it. I was reckless – locking myself out of the house, disappearing for hours on end, worrying them sick. What did I care, after all? At my age – what else was there to be, but irresponsible? Everything would go backwards from now on, anyway. Until there was nothing of me left.

(c) Adrian Slatcher 2010. Previously unpublished.

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This entry was posted on December 21, 2010 by in Fiction.
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