The whistle blew and they were running, with a flurry of limbs and a gentle splattering sound...
You wanted a present, a perfect story, gift-wrapped with a shiny ribbon: a beginning, a middle, an end. A resolution - the kind neatly ties things up, not the New Year's kind that is made to be broken. I couldn't find the right kind of wrapping paper. I had to make do with something too bright, too garish, with big-footed clowns walking all over it. The bow was clumsy and too big. The words I wrote on the gift tag were cliched. But worse, when I picked up the box to hand it to you I heard a rattle from inside. I knew straight away: my story, carefully crafted over so much time, was too fragile and thin, and it shattered into pieces before it got to you. I thought about putting it back together again. Then I thought about sweeping up the fragments and throwing them away in disgust. Then I sat with them spread before me, and studied them. I grew to like them. They had jagged edges, they were chipped in places, but they made me smile. So I have started to put them together to make a new story, a crooked, misshapen one. There are gaps where sometimes the pieces don't fit very well, and the light shines right through them. There is an ending, followed by an introduction, a footnote. I don't think I will wrap it when I'm finished, or tie it up with ribbon, but I will offer it to you anyway: my imperfect tale.
It is hot, and humid. There is a slight breeze coming through the open window; my curtains wave half-heartedly. It is dark, but the light-blue of the earlier day has not yet faded behind the rooftops; chimneys and television aerials are silhouetted against it. A car is parked opposite, in darkness except for the metal hubcaps reflecting the orange of the streetlight. The street feels claustrophobic. The terraced houses have no front gardens; cars are parked on either side of the road, half on the pavement.