David Milner

David’s stories have appeared in Duality Books, Friday Flash Fiction, Spillwords Press and performed on Resonance FM radio (UK). He was commissioned to adapt and direct his short story ‘Into The Breach’ for the 2021 Rise of the Resistance festival, screened at Bloomsbury Theatre London, Wellcome Collection and available online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yzuj1-DJeSc . For several years he has worked in the public sector, mostly with homeless charities, in hostels and supported housing units. David was a founder member of punk band Vee V V (Edils Records). He finds his stories while he’s out and about, or they find him… He lives with his wife and family in London.

#IDENTITY

“Maxine? Maxine…Wait.”

She should have been able to catch Maxine. Or keep her in sight. Maxine weighed in at 210 pounds to Maya’s 115. The cigarettes were catching up with her. She was all out of puff. At school she’d been a champion, a record breaker at county level in the hundred metre sprint. As fast as the wind was young Maya Sullivan, and now, at the tender age of forty-three, she could have used an extra lung to get across Tower Bridge. The smoking was doing her in, but Maya wasn’t giving up the habit. In fact, the more people pestered her to kick the ciggies in to touch, the stronger her resolve. She’d given up loads of things she used to love. She no longer drank alcohol, well nowhere near as much as she used to; she couldn’t remember the last time she got smashed, which was a shame. She no longer went out, not properly out to nightclubs, raves, squat raves, gigs, and she’d said goodbye to all the illegal stuff that made you go oooh. She no longer picked up men or went out on the pull anyway! Not that she thought herself above dating sites, not a bit; she’d tried, and road-tested plenty. It all seemed a bit anomic and cynical; the idea of an algorithm meddling with her elemental instincts turned her stomach. It was better to be lovelorn, or just single, curled up on the sofa with Antigone the cat and a packet of choccy biscuits, piggin out in front of the flatscreen with G.O.T. and old episodes of Friends, for company.

Not that Maya Sullivan had given up. She could plant her arse in a pair of skinny jeans and bat her lashes if she remembered to. It was more the case that her experience of love, romance, and the day-to-day reality of human interaction, seemed out of step with the rest of the world and cyberspace. Love was irrational, unquantifiable, awe inspiring and doomed to failure. She used to say that she was more Boob Tube than YouTube (until people stopped laughing!}. Nearing 44 she had a lot to learn.

These days she was streaming classical music (Bach and Mahler and any old sonata), tuning in to Essential Classics on Radio 3, all because she could no longer justify listening to the music she’d grown up with – Madonna, Soul II Soul, Andy Weatherall mixes, The Stone Roses. The music of her youth sounded the same – was the same, hadn’t moved a muscle, that was the point, and listening to it made her feel undignified somehow, hence the crying need for some justification, which she couldn’t find, no matter how she tried, so why was she even bothering.

Where was Maxine? How could she lose sight of a two-hundred-plus pound woman in a flaming red coat? She was going to call out again, but she didn’t want to embarrass herself in front of strangers on the bridge. She smoked her cigarette and stared over the wrought iron railings into the river for a bit.

Maya could understand why Maxine hadn’t chucked the two-timing rat. Maxine was thirty-seven years old, and there comes a time in a woman’s life when expectations need to be lowered, adjusted, suspended, or done away with completely, for her own as well as everyone else’s sanity. Maya understood. And Jason wasn’t a bad looking guy. He was attractive, in a perfectly ordinary kind of way; he had hair, a good job, and according to Maxine, everything else was in working order. He was nice. Plausible was the word that summed him up best. But to Maya it seemed daft that Maxine hadn’t confronted him with her suspicions. Maxine wanted concrete proof; like a cold hard slab of it was the answer? Proof will take you to a bridge and throw your arse right off it…

Maya had enjoyed these last few weeks with Maxine. Enjoyed them immensely, and now it looked like it was all over, if “There he is the bastard… Bastard…” was anything to go by. Honestly, Maxine had set off like a puma, all fifteen stone of her. Maya hadn’t even seen Jason amongst the small crowd on Tower Bridge. And a great help she was proving to be after all these weeks, staring into the turbid water of the Thames trying to get her breath back. Maya let the cigarette slip from her fingers and watched the tiny glow vanish before it hit the water.

She had so enjoyed these Wednesday nights.

“And if your suspicions are confirmed, he walks in here with some glamour puss on his arm, what then, Maxine?” “That’s why you’re here, thank you, Maya, to restrain me.”

Restrain her? Some chance. Wednesday nights had become a treat, something to look forward to. Staking out the cluster of bars and restaurants in the vicinity of Tower Bridge; the very same bars and restaurants Jason had taken Maxine back in the day.

“Are you sure about this, Maxine?” “Jason isn’t the imaginative type.”

And for reasons she didn’t care to dwell upon, Maya hoped that Maxine was wrong. They were two Miss Marples for the price of one, or Cagney and Lacey. Although in the Thai place they visited it was more like Butch and Bambi from the strange and filthy looks the waiters gave them.

“Can you…are you…her friend?” Maya wondered who the woman was at first. She was young, in her mid twenties, Maya guessed, pretty, blonde, blue-eyed, fragrant with perfume and, just about the same shape, weight and size as Maxine.

“You know Jason, my Jason?” The girl was saying.

“Yes, well no, not….” Maya began to reply.

“Come, come on…follow me…. She’s killing him.”

Maya heard Maxine before she’d turned the corner onto the cobbled backstreet….

“Like ‘em big, do you…? Like a big, hefty girl, do ya’?”

The big blonde beside her was shuddering with tears. Not that Maya could blame the poor cow. Pinned to the ground in his midnight blue suit her Jason was being pummelled (and pummelled royally) by two hundred and ten pounds of Woman in a flaming red coat.

“You piece of crap…. Get off on a big girl, do ya’?”

“Awhrghnah….”

“Coz this one won’t be labelled.” It was Maxine all over. She saw things in black and white. She was the perfect tee-off going straight down the middle, nothing getting in her way for long. It explained why Maxine had been promoted at work, over more experienced and, in some cases, better educated candidates.

“You hear what I’m saying? Do you, Jason?” Maxine was Magnificent.

A group of casually dressed men appeared, bottled beer in hand, phones soon out in a broad formation, click click…was Maxine about to go viral?

“This girl…won’t be…defined…by her Ass, Hips, Midriff and Tits!”

The men exchanged glances and prowled like seasoned paparazzi, as Maxine punched Jason’s face repeatedly.

“And I will never….”

“…Maxi…

“…Never, ya’hear me, you maggot?”

 “Pleee…”

“Be…someone’s Fetish.”

Well, if this was the last of their Wednesday nights, they were going out in style…

“Did you mean fetish?”

“I don’t know. I want a man to…I need a man to… See me. You understand, Maya?”

Maya wasn’t entirely sure she did and sighed instead for want of a cigarette. Shame they didn’t let you smoke in the back of a squad car.

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