The path outside the station was a sheet of ice set at forty five degrees. A ski slope. Andy kept well into the side, planting his feet firmly in the flattened mounds of snow near the wall. He managed to get down to the road without breaking any bones. The area hadn’t changed, the detached houses were still affluent, although the college was further away than he remembered. The razor wire along the top of the fence was a surprise. He watched the padlock on the gate gleam larger as he approached. He’d been expecting the security to be tight, it was the Christmas holidays, but not like this, like a prison. There was a pillbox. A man in a dark blue bomber jacket stepped out of it. His head was shaved completely bald. ‘Can I help you?’ he said.
‘I hope so,’ said Andy. ‘I used to be a student here. Years ago. I was hoping I could come in for a look around. You know, memory lane and all that.’
The guard examined him.
Andy was so close. Through the gate he could see street lamps in the driveway. A camera was fixed to each one.
‘Sorry,’ said the guard.
‘I’m a writer,’ said Andy. He wasn’t going to let it end like this, just as it was starting. ‘Google me. I’m doing research for a book. I’m sure you can keep an eye on me if you let me inside.’
The guard thought about it then asked for details. He went back into the pillbox and tapped his little computer. He murmured as he read the information on the screen. ‘Have you written all this stuff?’ he said.
‘Yes, I have,’ said Andy. ‘I’m not a criminal or anything.’
* * *
This excerpt from 'Chicken Soup' is taken from my new collection of short stories, A Man's Hands. You can read the story in its entirety here and here. There is also an extremely thoughtful review of the book on Jim Murdoch's blog, The Truth About Lies.
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