This short story is entirely fiction and is something I have written myself. Any and all constructive criticism is accepted (as long as it’s not rude).
Arthur Graham’s utterly hideous mustard yellow bowler hat with a peacock feather motif was carried off of his balding head by the wind. Whilst the wind was strong, it did nothing to drown out the shouts and pleas of passers by who saw his predicament and realised that this was their time to shine as the glorious hero who saved the day.
Though his tight grip on the worn metal bars of the side of the footbridge never faltered, he was still teetering on the edge. One slip and he would go tumbling down onto the busy motorway, where his alcohol and chicken korma filled body will be later scraped off of the tarmac. And that was what he was planning.
At forty-four he had done little, but had said a lot. He was a lecturer for Philosophy at a university, whose name he was too intoxicated to recall, and had spent most of his life ranting to students and writing opinionated publications about what logic dictates. But he was not married. He did not have any children (that he knew of). His only friend was a janitor who sometimes invited him to quiz night at the local pub, where he had proven many a time his head had been so stuck in the work’s of Aquinas and Dawkins that he knew nothing of modern society.
Yet today was the day that he realised he could not go on like this. Many they would have realised years ago how mediocre their life was, if they were in his position, and would have done something about it much sooner – or would have just carried on how they were. But for him it took one run-of-the-mill student, who cared little about the course, storming out of the hall after being made a mockery of by Arthur for his tragic essay, and stating the most simple but quintessential sentence he had ever heard in this context: “What’s the point?”
This echoed in his mind, causing questions to bubble up. What was the point of all this? Of pondering about the existence of God and the meaning of life? If God exists He doesn’t need Arthur to confirm this. He either exists or He doesn’t. End of. So what was the point of Arthur being there? For Arthur to be alive?
That is the reason he ended up downing half a bottle of rum after a few beers – for courage – and stumbling to the nearest footbridge where he decided his death would be guaranteed. Though the liquid courage did not help as he was still hanging onto the edge of the bridge two hours later, where he was finally noticed. But he was going to do it. At least if he did it he will know the answer to many of the questions he spent contemplating for most of his life.
He ignored the crowd – made up of four people, one child, two policemen, and a dog – that had gathered behind him, and their uselessly typical cries of, “Think about how many people who’ll miss you,” and “You have so much to live for.” They became a buzz of indeterminable noise in the background, and as unnecessary as the rest of his life. He stared at the grey of the ground in front of him, which he saw to be tarnished by humanity. Maybe death will be nicer. Certainly quieter than the stupid lorries with their irritatingly loud engines as storming along the road as if they own it.
“Look at the pretty birdy mummy!” a little girl said, pointing to the sky for her mother, who was too wrapped up on saving the life of a poor, innocent man to do much but say, “Ssh!”
Arthur followed the girl’s outstretched finger and looked to the sky, where he saw it. It was beautiful with colourful plumage that made its darts through the air seem like some sort of dance, which was in tune to the beautiful twittering song it sang effortlessly. Arthur stared at that bird as it flew away. He saw something in that, and he didn’t know what. All he knew was he wanted that bird.
He clumsily climbed back over the rails, where people began to cheer in triumph. He didn’t care. The policemen, who were trying to bargain with him before, rushed over and were asking him questions. He wasn’t paying attention. He just wanted to go. He tried to leave, but they pulled him back. He still didn’t care.
He turned to them, his alcohol infused breath momentarily stunning them. “I want that bird!” he drunkenly garbled before pushing past them and staggering off.
One hour and two vomits later Arthur found himself in a pet shop. It was the sort of pet shop where it’s best not to have a sense of smell if you were to work there. Luckily he did not plan on staying long. He dragged himself over to the till where a middle aged man, hair greying and eyes bloodshot, was staring at the TV hung up in the corner on the wall. It was obviously not there for the customers.
Arthur slammed his hand on the counter. “I want a bird.”
The man’s eyes left the TV, which Arthur only now realised was showing a football match.
“Don’t we all mate,” was his candid reply before he became engrossed with the match again.
“I want to buy a bird,” Arthur reiterated, “which sings.”
The man sighed. “All we have are parrots.”
Arthur was still was intoxicated, so he did what any drunk man would when in need of a bird that sings to save him from jumping off of a bridge: he took out his wallet.
Arthur’s house was less than pristine. Papers and books were scattered everywhere, covering most of the all wooden furniture, save for one overstuffed armchair and a small coffee table. Arthur knocked his copy of The Resurrection of God Incarnate by Richard Swinburne from the coffee table onto the floor and replaced it with a cage, containing a single male African grey parrot. He sat in front of him and stared. The parrot’s head bobbed up and down, and he emitted a high chirping sound. That wasn’t what Arthur wanted.
Five minutes later he still didn’t have what he wanted, and that’s when he lost it.
“Come on! Sing!” he yelled in exasperation, shocking the bird with the loud noise. “That’s what you’re here for! You are here to sing, and I am here to take advantage of nature by using all its natural resources and TO LISTEN TO YOU SING!” His rant made him pant for breath, again proving that he should exercise more. Not that it mattered now.
The parrot chirped again. Arthur sunk back into his arm chair and groaned, but the parrot cut him short.
“It’s a foul,” the parrot said.
“It’s a foul.” Arthur waited for the parrot to say something else. “We should’ve won.”
Arthur had a parrot that talks about football, and he has hated the game ever since he broke his arm playing when he was nine. And because he was rubbish at it.
With the parrot’s repetitive words – which had turned to cussing teams – following him out the door, he left for the pub. He was going to need a lot more alcohol if he was going to jump this time. Maybe he should choose a different footbridge too.
His walk to the pub was dreary, cold, and dull, just like the rest of his life. When he got there he didn’t bother to swap pleasantries with the barmaid as he usually did. He ordered his whisky and skulked in the corner, pondering over how much hitting the road from that high was going to hurt.
Arthur had not realised this, but it was a live night where musicians came to play in hope they were somehow ‘discovered’ in a bog-standard pub that’s only redeeming feature was its wide selection of lagers. A girl went to the stage, acoustic guitar in hand. She sat on a bar stool and began to strum out a tune. Her soprano voice was light and joyful, expressing stories of freedom and love through carefully selected lyrics.
Arthur’s eyes darted to her as soon as she opened her mouth. It was the bird all over again. He could practically see it flying through the air in a staccato manner, its movements sudden but graceful as it sung a tune which was completely dissimilar to the musician’s own, but somehow wasn’t.
A smile lit up Arthur’s face as he realised what this was telling him, what he must now do.
Six months later, in the very same pub, Arthur stood on stage, microphone in front of him and guitar in hand. A band made up of an overzealous drummer who was barely out of university, and a bassist who looked as if he came straight from Woodstock – and was probably old enough to have been there too – stood behind him.
Arthur bounced around the stage, too much for a man his age, but he didn’t care. Even though the instruments were not in synchronisation at all, and he was croaking lyrics that made no sense, he was having the most fun he had ever had. He had quit lecturing at the university, got a band together, and went on the road touring the UK and spreading his music to whomever he was legally permitted and paid to. He was happy, and that was all that mattered.