Untitled Short Story

Joe was five foot six inches. He had brown hair and bright, piercing blue eyes. Freckles were scattered across his face as if someone had flicked a wet paint brush in his direction. He was handsome, nevertheless, and he knew it. He carried himself with confidence and appeared at ease at all times. It was a trait of his that unsettled others. No one can be that calm, they thought. But Joe was. He was born that way. 

He worked in a tall office block, almost identical to the other tall office blocks strewn across New York City. His office was more like the size of a cubicle. In fact, it was a cubicle – a haphazardly constructed makeshift room within a much larger room. When he worked during the day, this pint-sized space was shared with Becky, a slim brunette four years his senior. At night, it was Mark, a bearded fellow he avoided as much as physically possible. 

The company he worked for wasn’t important. His boss, however, was. Joe had worked there for five years and throughout that entire time, Joan had been his boss. He wasn’t so keen on Joan. They’d never hit it off. Joe remembered making an inappropriate comment at the most recent Christmas party that had soured their relationship even further. It had something to do with jellyfish. He’d suppressed it that much that that’s all he could remember.

See, Joe was an introvert. He found social situations hard, particularly those that involved alcohol and large rooms full of domineering, loud-mouthed people. And that’s what his office block was made up of – domineering, loud-mouthed people. He lived alone, and so only mixed with people at his choosing. But everyone needed to earn a living – Joe, included. It was the one time where he had to mix with people even at the times when he really, really, really didn’t want to.

And today was one of those days. Joe awoke around 6am, a few minutes later than he usually does. To anyone else, it wouldn’t have been a problem. But to Joe, it threw him off. For the past five years, he’d awoken at exactly 6am, following the same routine everyday, even when his schedule didn’t require it. At 6:03am, he sprung out of bed, crashing through his morning chores in the hopes of making up time. But it was already too late, and his day was now ruined. It was something he knew deep down inside of him. 

He left for work on time. His apartment was located within a large block of studio apartments. His was No. 23. He had neighbours on both sides, above and below. He shared his apartment with a cat he’d named Maggie. As he pulled his door to a close, he realised he’d left the key inside. It was too late to do anything about it now, he thought as he dashed outside into the cold New York City air. 

Usually, he’d walk the 2 miles to work. But not today. He hailed a cab, dove in and spouted out the address of his office in a crazy rush. Minutes later, he rushed into the bustling foyer. There was people everywhere – something that made Joe incredibly nervous. He made it to his desk without a minute to spare. It seemed like his late start to the day would be a minor inconvenience, so he began to relax.

Within minutes though, Joe had moved from his cubicle to his boss’ office, which was made up of real walls rather than the fake ones that lined Joe’s. He sat opposite Joan and listened as she told him that she needed to let him go. She used the term “company restructuring”, which meant absolutely nothing to him. He stayed silent the entire time he was there, which was 5 minutes and 49 seconds to be exact. He left, packed up his belongings and exited the building.

It was on the wet sidewalk of the office block that Joe had worked in for the past five years that he stood, shivering, his arms sore from carrying the box containing his things. He stood for what seemed like hours, but was actually more like minutes. He was flabbergasted, speechless. Questions whirled around his head and he felt dizzy. In a daze, her put the laid the box down and started to walk. He had no idea where he was going, but walking is exactly what he wanted to do.

He walked for hours. He walked through Central Park and towards Brooklyn Bridge. His mind had switched itself off. He’d automatically forged the connection between getting up late and getting fired and he couldn’t forgive himself. He was the reason he was now walking when he should be at work. No one else was to blame. Cars whizzed past him and people had to divert themselves around him because he was so focused, so unmovable in his tracks.

It took him a while to get to the bridge, but that wasn’t any concern to him. He was there. He’d reached the end point he’d set himself in those minutes he’d stood clueless outside his former workplace and he was now more relieved. For him, it had been a way for him to process the news. It was the only thing he knew. Walking was to him like heroine was for other people. It helped him relax, gain perspective and learn to process new information.

Walking had helped him through being bullied at school, the difficulty of moving out of his parents’ home after their sudden death and now his recent unemployment. He knew how all those people felt about walking who’d written the travel books he loved to consume. It made him feel human. No matter what problems Joe had, walking was the way to set them right, at least in his mind. And now, as he stood still staring towards the bridge, he felt okay. And that okay was as a feeling Joe had become familiar with. 

Live Review: Laura Marling (The Caves, Edinburgh)

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Tucked away on Niddry Street under the South Bridge is The Caves, a cavernous venue that last night played host to singer-songwriter Laura Marling.

Marling, who recently turned 25, is due to release her fifth album next month and her show in Edinburgh was part of a string of intimate gigs around the UK.

Taking to a brightly lit stage not long after half past 8, Marling stormed into False Hope, the second single to be released from her aforementioned new record Short Movie.

It was a storming entrance, stirring the audience into action. The new, electric-tinged feel she’s adopted was hit on immediately and the sounds reverberated around the tiny venue.

Marling powered through new songs and refitted old ones to suit. Of the old, The Beast and Rambling Man scored big, while Warrior and I Feel Your Love signal big steps forward.

As storming as her set was, Marling dialled it down for a three-track solo, including What He Wrote and new song Walk Alone that highlighted her stunning abilities as both a vocalist and lyricist.

The banter between tracks was kept to a minimum, typical of her performances. She did, however, spark up when it came to explaining to odd inspiration behind another new song Gurdjieff’s Daughter.

But then when the music is as spellbinding as it is, there’s no need for banter, and anymore would have threatened to ruin the hushed atmosphere that enveloped the tiny venue.

For the audience were there to see the young, yet hardened songstress sing songs rather than tell stories. And boy did she sing to the rafters and beyond, closing with the new albums title track.

As encapsulated in a night of sheer mesmerising marvel, hers is a talent that knows no limits. And no matter how socially awkward of shy she may be, she sure knows how to command an audience.

Laura Marling will release her new album on March 23.

A Long Way Down

I recently finished reading A Long Way Down, Nick Hornby’s novel about four individuals – Martin Sharp, Maureen, Jess Crichton and JJ – who meet atop a building called Toppers’ House on New Years Eve, each with the intent of committing suicide. I hadn’t planned on buying this book. I’d actually gone into the bookstore in search of Michael Faber’s Under The Skin, to read before the highly praised film version is released in March. But I was pleasantly surprised by what I ended up with.

A Long Way Down isn’t the book I expected it to be – it doesn’t follow standard narrative conventions (it unravels over three chapterless acts), nor does it quite live up to its quirky setup. Yet the writing is sharp (the best part is the acute, significant back-and-forth dialogue that exists due to the odd bond the characters share), and the fact of the matter is is that the narrative becomes more and more interesting as the plot thickens, the characters are explored further and Hornby settles into the episodic, back-and-forth structure.

And, for all its witty observations, it’s also quite heartfelt, especially towards the final act, when, amongst other things, a hilarious intervention is staged in order for the characters to understand more about their problems and the effect these are having not only on themselves, but on those around them. It, too, looks at the subject of depression itself, and how quickly even the littlest of problems can escalate into matters which lead some to contemplate death as the easiest – and simplest – escape route.

It works on Hornby’s favour, however, that the novel never delves too deep. He never lingers on the deeper moments for too long, always inputting a zany plot device or uncomfortable, cringe-worthy set piece to both keep things light, and too provide forward momentum to the overall narrative. It goes to show that, even when you’re searching for one book in particular, it pays to take a chance on another, because you never know how much fun you’ll have as the misadventures of four completely different individuals changes their minds about living their lives forever.

I’ll read Under The Skin eventually.

New Avenues

Hello, and welcome to So Says I.

I’m Jamie Neish, and I’ve spent the past four year’s establishing myself as a dependable, knowledgeable and reasonably articulate film writer and reviewer. During this time, I’ve brought into existence a successful film website, Centrefolds & Empty Screens, and written for other outlets willing to feature my writings, including film websites and my local independent cinemas monthly brochure.

It’s always been a craving of mine, however, to have another platform, one that I could use to comment on aspects of life outside of the film world. I plan on continuing – and hopefully bettering – my film writing, but over the year’s I’ve felt like it would be beneficial to me, both as a writer and as a person, to separate myself somewhat from that side of things, and show people that there’s more to me than film reviews.

So, if you’re keen to discover a little more of what I have to offer, then please, by all means, follow So Says I. I’m not promising to update every single day (though that is my aim), or to provide life-changing content, but you never know, it could make for an interesting read every now and then.