Foreword to "Shortcut"
In weaving, warps interlace with wefts, don't they? Now, how could life's very fabric hold, if peoples's lives didn't intertwine, huh?
N.B.: I don't know the first thing about London. All place-names are fictitious, or rather arbitrarily given.
Lastly, I used the bulk of the lyrics of "Happy Together" and some of "Mr. Tambourine Man" without permission. Since what I (we) do is non-profit, I hope no-one really minds. I express my deepest respect to all the artists involved. Credits for "Happy Together": Music & lyrics by Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon. Credits for "Mr. Tambourine Man": Music & lyrics by Bob Dylan (Source: Wikipedia).
Carl's pager rang. Break was over. He gulped down the rest of his doner kebab, stood up, wiped his oily hands on his jeans. Pressed the "Acknowledge" button, mounted his bike, headed for the outgoing-mail depot, at the ground floor of his courier company.
Geoff was already out on the pavement. He was holding a fair-sized buff-coloured envelope. Carl looked at the delivery address, opened his mailbag, put it in. "See ya, Geoff" he said over his shoulder as he rode off.
"Mind the traffic, lad. Thick as jelly today, it is" called the older man after him.
It should be a fifteen to twenty or twenty-two minute business, depending on the traffic-flow. He'd use the pavements, when pedestrians would be few, bus-lanes if no bus or taxi was in sight – damn, those taxi-drivers, a crude lot, wankers most of them, he thought – and… yeah, how about some music?
Took the handlebar in one hand, fumbled in his jacket pocket, pressed the 'Search' button of his MP3-player. Grabbed the headphones that had been dangling around his neck, pulled them up into place, the pads tightly covering his ears. He would have none of them earbuds, they were meant for techno or dance-music aficionados. At home, at the office, in the street, when it came to listening, he'd have the big set crowned on his head. Geoff had often warned him, isolating all sounds of the street could be dangerous.
The player tuned in "Radio Rock Bottom". Good, oldies, no misogynistic hip-hop. Or is it "pimp-hop"… The song already playing was at its end, sounded like… of course, Hammond organ, the Bach-like melody… "Whiter Shade of Pale".
"Next song from back then" the deejay broke in "from 'The Summer Of Love', yeah, I know you've guessed it from the very first notes, it's The Byrds singing 'Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man'. Enjoy, don't be square, yeah…"
He headed for the general direction of his destination. Watching the cars go by, he immediately read the signs: slow traffic at Huckleberry Junction meant even slower traffic along Disraeli Lane which in turn meant a near jam all around Salisbury, including all side-streets. But – quickening thought – this meant not worrying riding down a one-way street to take a good time-saving shortcut, the nearest of which was… Right, Colesley Close. That's one left, through the bollards, up twelve stairs… Blast, twelve stairs!
"…take me for a trip upon your magic swirling ship…", swirled, though mono, the Leslie-processed psychedelic sound inside Carl's head.
"Nothing doin', babe. Stuff Colesley, I'll find another route! Oh no, I won't be shouldering my bike, not today, no Lance Armstrong stuff" Carl murmured and changed his course. His eyes darted here and there, looking for passage through the stopped cars, taking in the street signs.
"I'm ready to go anywhere, I'm ready for to fade, into my own parade…"
He stopped short. A sign on his left read 'Lucerne Parade'. He took a look at the street and the jammed cars there. Then again at the sign. "'Lucerne Parade'? I'd swear I knew all by-streets…". His look trailed through the curvy little street. "Blazes! Through here I can reach Colesley Close without having to climb any stairs. But how has it ever escaped me?..."
Raising his eyebrows in bafflement, he doubled-back a bit and rode into Lucerne Parade. It was narrow, he barely had room to avoid hitting cars' bumpers. Some one hundred yards up, he turned left into Colesley Close. "Tambourine man" was sweetly fading out.
"Yeah, right, still on the other side of the pond, still in '67, y'all dig, a far-out tune from 'the fastest movin' band in the land', you hep? It's the… Turtles, singing 'Happy Together', yeah, ain't it groovy?…"
"Hmm, I kinda like this one, sure I do" thought Carl und turned the player's volume up a bit.
"Imagine me and you, I do, I think about you day and night …", Howard Kaylan started singing and Carl immediately chimed in, loud and clear. There was a blue Ford almost blocking his way. He swerved a bit to the right, found passage between a taxi and a crane-truck.
"…it's only right to think about the girl you love and hold her tight" attested Kaylan, as Carl pressed onward, singing along in abandon. A BMW 520, a Rover 620, a Mondeo. "Damn, downtown during rush-hour with your… whales of cars! That way we gonna get rid of the smog?" thought Carl but sang gaily along "…so happy together".
The thought of his girl made him sing louder, tending to go off-key. "If I should call you up…". Kept at bay from a Porsche, a scratch would cost him his daily pay three times over. "…invest a dime…". Dodged a Volvo, skirted a Toyota Corolla. Then came the chorus, where the whole band, including mercurial frizzy-haired Mark Volman, would proclaim:
"I can't see me lovin' nobody but you for all my life
When you're with me, baby, the skies'll be blue for all my life"
The sky today had been a very bright blue, all right. Much better than delivering under London rain. Or London drizzle, for that matter. More cars ahead.
"Me and you and you and me…"
An Opel Omega estate car, a Saab 9-5, a little Citroen Saxo – "hey, this guy must vote Green" –
"No matter how they toss the dice, it had to be…"
…a Range Rover, an Escort, an Orion, a big Mercedes – "have mercy!" –
"The only one for me is you, and you for me, so happy together"
…that was it, end of traffic jam, "let's shift up and go deliver, we got a full day ahead".
Late at night, after he'd made love to his girlfriend, who was now resting her head against his stretched arm, he very feebly tossed in his sleep and a barely perceptible smile bent his lips. His body's resources, him having pedaled no less than 30 miles at work and having just copulated for a quarter of an hour, were exhausted. What prompted him to smile was not exactly a dream, was rather a still picture, having welled up from who knows which unfathomed well of his unconscious. Or it could have been faces or scenes he'd ridden by in the street, seen at a window, in a car, sorted out and photoshopped by his subconscious for his edification or enjoyment.
In his dream two girls, two young women, a brunette and a redhead, were sleeping side-by-side, face-to-face. They, too, were smiling in their sleep. They seemed so happy together.