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The Tidy Town
The light breeze swept lazily through the boulevard causing the newly-budded leaves to sway on their branches. The sun shone down from the turquoise sky on to the spotless grey pavement (this year’s Tidy Towns competition had made everyone in Scapsville virtually obsessed with cleanliness). As the day heated up, I felt as if today might finally mark the start of spring. Little did I know what mark that this day would truly leave on the town.
Making my way towards the newsagents, I couldn’t help but notice how completely out of hand this year’s Tidy Towns had gotten. Pristine white houses with immaculately-cut lawns, devoid of any children, lined the boulevard. In fact, if you didn’t know any better you’d swear that no one inhabited any of these carbon-copy residences. Scapsville may be cleanest town in the country but it’s also the most lifeless.
John the newsagent smiles half-heartedly as I enter through the open door of the store. He bends over from behind the counter and unceremoniously drops the pile of newspapers onto the counter.
“Have fun” he says sardonically and returns to his usual position of laying back in his swivel chair, waiting for a customer to come and spend their hard-earned money on his over-priced goods. I lift the heap up from the counter, well used to his caustic remarks, and exit back into light spring breeze.
Being a moody teenager, the paper route gives me the perfect opportunity to brood about the state of the town and how cynical they all are being, while at the same time being fully aware that I’m not exactly an ambassador for world issues either. It still bugs me though, that for two whole months of the year they town goes berserk and has a conniption every time you walk down the street with a pair of muddy sneakers. Not to worry about the economy, poverty, or the environment, the town finds it perfectly prudent to spend all its time, money and effort scrubbing stop signs and debating over the perfect amount of flowers per pot. Not to mention the litter-bin to square foot of pavement ratio that’s recently become the talk of the town (Gadaffi who?).
These mandatory debates occur every Friday at the Town Hall, moderated by Damien McDonnach the head of the Tidy Towns committee. Basically, Damien suggests an idea to the town which they all accept with gusto, all except Mick Henderson that is, who opposes everything that comes out of Damien’s mouth. You see, Mick is the scorned ex-member of the committee who was fired for his radical ideas (prohibiting children from playing outside) and is now out to seek vengeance for his usurped role. The only thing is, Mick is still desperate for the coveted award and can be seen regularly in the town centre scrubbing down the pavements with industrial-grade bleach. Nevertheless, if an idea comes from the mouth of Damien it’s sure to be protested by Mick. And so went today’s meeting:
“All in favour?”, a resounding “Aye!”
“All opposed?” , the omnipresent, singular “Nay”.
After the meeting adjourned, I hung around to snack on the food left behind on the tables as everyone slowly filtered out of the hall. Mid-way through a Danish pastry, I overheard heated voices coming from the room to the side. I couldn’t quite make out what they were arguing about but there was no mystery as to who the voices belonged to: Damien and Mick. Whatever it was they were fighting about, Mick seemed to be the more vocal. Damien might be a little O.T.T with the competition but at least he’s level-headed. The voices started to rise until I heard one of them (Mick) kick something, probably a chair, across the room. “Fine!” he shouted and turned the knob violently and proceeded to thrust the door open and storm out of the hall without so much as a glance towards me. Not wanting to seem like I was eave-dropping to Damien (although I had been), I left the hall as quickly as I could but not before taking a couple of custard-creams for the road.
When I arrived home at 4 o’clock the sun was still high in the sky so I took my favourite book outside to read on the decking. Although I’m not one to re-read books because I can’t quite get myself to get sucked into the world again, this particular one is the exception to the rule. I get transported inside the book each and every time I read it.
Then sun is parching my throat so I decide to buy an ice-cold frappuccino at the local coffee-house so I can read my book al fresco.
After making my way down the town, I pass Mick sitting down at the side of the pavement wearing a white t-shirt and brown khaki shorts, drawing some sort of a picture with jumbo chalk on the sidewalk. He seems much calmer than he was during the confrontation at the hall. It’s kind of eerie to see such a sudden mood-change. The drawing is a landscape of the town under a setting sun. It’s really quite beautiful and meticulously drawn. This piece of street-art may give us the winning edge for the competition. Despite all his vices, maybe all he really ever wanted was have a tidy town. Looking back at him while I’m heading in the direction of the coffee house I crash into a delivery guy carrying a stack of paper coffee cups. The cups go everywhere. They’re blown by the breeze down the road, in the gutters and, of course, all over Mick’s drawing.
In an instant, his face shifts from halcyon to livid. He springs up off the pavement and starts advancing toward me, roaring about how Damien had sent me as a saboteur. I suppose I was mistaken to think that I had been mistaken about him. I try to clarify the situation and tell him not to make a mountain out of a mole-hill but to no avail, he keeps on ranting. I notice Damien marching down the street in our direction with an irate look on his face. He starts to pick up his pace as he nears.
“Leave him alone, Mick” he orders.
“You!” Mick snarls, “You’ve been out to get me from the start, haven’t you!”
As he says this, he shoves Damien in the chest quite forcibly which causes him to stumble backwards and trip on the jumbo chalk strewn across the street. Damien falls back and with a horrible crack, he splits his head open on the side of the pavement. We stand there aghast as blood starts oozing from the motionless Damien and forms a sickly red pasty liquid with the chalk and begins to run down the street.
Then sun begins to set over Scapsville, the cleanest town in the country, now stained with a river of red.