I've been procrastinating all day by starting this short story...

Clean, Trim, Polish.

With the bus doors swinging behind him, Douglas K Briar began his silent list, avoiding a can of white paint spilt and abandoned on the footpath near the bus stop; the ghost footprints a clear warning to the vigilant.

Michael Douglas,
Kirk Douglas,
The writer Douglas Adams,
The comedian Doug Stone (who he’d never seen, nor wanted to),
Musicians Jerry Douglas and Douglas Yeo,
Douglas County in Oregon, USA.

There was one more but it eluded him. He dug his hands deeper into his pockets and pushed his house keys into his palm between the thumb and his finger. It would leave a mark, he warned himself, but not even pain of bruise could muster the final name. He began to count footsteps instead. He reached “eleven” before he inevitably paused and turned towards the window of Not Just Nails, the sharp tooth of a key biting into his palm again.

Douglas focused on the display in the window. A white porcelain hand, the centrepiece, reflected the late afternoon sun. Its fingers splayed into a flamboyant claw, on each a long painted talon, impossibly gaudy in colours that his wife’s weekly magazines would dub “hot” or “shocking” - each finger mocking the next. The design on the thumb showed cream clouds parting to expose a bright red wound of a sun and beneath it a Chinese barge floated on a lurid green river. On the index fingernail a painted fire bird was rising from swirls and sparks, the flames licking at the creature’s belly.

It was then that Douglas realised the enamel near the beak of the phoenix had been chipped very slightly – perhaps - he thought, when they shut the blinds the night before. He checked again by moving his weight from his left leg to his right, following the light as it exposed the small crack. Yes, the seal was broken. This confirmation gave him a tiny shudder of delight.

With a tiny jolt of of electricity Dougla's eyes flicked to meet another set staring back at him beyond the porcelain hand. Startled, he thrust the head of the key into his thumb to stifle his cry. The boy with the oriental eyes looked at him dispassionately for a moment and then sat down at his table, folding his arms and leaning forward to blow cool air into a cup of tea he'd been carrying.

To be continued...

I'm off to Trin's birthday dinner tonight. My stomach still feels a little queer so I might just have to sip warm lemon juice and not stay long. Bloody being ill.

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