By Cooper King
Part 1: the Bus Journey.
There were three things I saw that I don't think I'll ever forget. The first, seeing an old woman take off her hat, and a little live baby bird being under there, chirping, holding up its head and opening it beak wide, hoping its mother would drop worms in. There she was, just walking down the street with this little thing balanced on her head as I passed by on the bus. I turned my head to watch her, peering through the condensation until she was out of sight.
Then I turned my head back and saw the second. Her almond-shaped face, large brown curious eyes, pink glossed lips and hair cropped very short, like Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby. And she was looking directly at me, inches away. She must have been turning to see the bird lady too, from the seat in front, but she was still looking when I had finished, and suddenly we were there, close enough to kiss and I breathed in the mint on her breath. I smiled and she smiled back, but she didn't turn away.
“That was...” she said.
“Yeah,” I know... just... crazy” I said.
“No,” she said. “Well, yes, but also, wasn't it... Margaret Thatcher?”
I gave a little laugh, one that I hope didn't come out as malicious or belittling to her, but just from surprise. “Ha. No, no, I don't think so”
“I'm sure it was.”
“I'm pretty sure I'd have recognised her” I insisted. “Even with the bird on her head.”
“Bird?” she said.
“Yes. The little bird that was... under her... hat” I trailed off, realising she didn't know what I was talking about.
She had a... bird... on her... head?” she said.
“Are we talking about the same woman?” I asked.
“Well, I'm talking about Margaret Thatcher, who was just sitting next to you on the bus. And you're talking about a woman with a bird on her head, so... we're probably not.”
“No. No. I guess we're not”
There was a very awkward silence. She studied me quizzically for one last time before sighing and turning back to face the front. I could feel my face burn and I felt annoyed, like she judged me! I wasn't the one with the bird on my head for God's sake, and why wasn't this traffic light changing? Shouldn't the lights have changed by now?
And then I saw the lights had changed, who knows how long ago, but we still weren't moving, because there she was, the Iron Lady, holding up the traffic, as she stood in the road right in front of the bus, bending over and regurgitating worms into a baby bird's mouth which sat on the head of an old woman kneeling beside her. I'll never forget it.
Part 2: Missed Opportunities
I woke up with a shudder after troubling dreams that I already couldn't remember. I lay in bed for at least half an hour more, desperately telling myself I wasn't enjoying lying there and that I had to get to work or I'd be late again for the fourteenth day in a row. Eventually I made my way up onto my elbows, and then to sitting on the side of the bed. My pyjamas were still moist from sweat and I could smell them. I peeled off my top and dropped it on the floor. With my half-open eyes I looked down and was depressed to see my belly sitting on my lap like a bald and apathetic pet. I stumbled into the bathroom and sat on the toilet, really just to have an excuse to sit for a while longer.
The bathroom scales looked back at me as I sat, the two glaring red zeros on its display outstaring me easily, and I looked away, ashamed and judged. Once the toilet was flushed I knew there was no way of putting it off any longer and stepped out of my pyjamas and onto the scales to watch its eyes roll.
I jumped as a loud alarm sounded from the scales and a flashbulb went off. "Winner!" was scrolling across the screen again and again. And then from somewhere inside the scales came a familiar voice. It was the voice of that northern quiz show host, the one with the endless enthusiasm and all that personality.
"Congratulations. You've hit the jackpot weight. One million pounds and a holiday of a lifetime to the Four Seasons resort in the Seychelles. Don't Delay! Take this print out to your local post office to claim your prize today!"
I watched as a piece of paper printed out from a slot I'd never noticed before on the front. On it was a picture of me just seconds before from the scales point of view. Short legs, a withered little penis, a pot belly, double chin and a startled ruddy face. I sighed. I could never take it to the post office of course, which was a shame, because I really could have done with that million, and a holiday would have been a delight.