He imagined he was Christ, he wasn’t Christ but he imagined he was Christ because being Christ was a great deal more interesting than being Jonathan Craig Brewster Baynes of Whitchurch Avenue. Jon wasn’t mad, he was simply bored. Very, very bored looking out of the front window into the depths of Whitchurch Avenue.
The church at the northern end of the avenue was haunted by the ghost of the 16th Century nun and monk who had been executed for love and buried just outside the grounds, their souls leeching as one into the River Whit. Everybody knew that. Everybody knew that since they were four or five years ago. It was a distant, dull story by the time you hit 20 years old. Christ, or Jon was 32.
The pub at the southern end of the avenue was haunted by men.
Jon sighed deeply and looked at the house opposite. Partially concealed by a beech tree, which was denuded by the season, the house opposite was almost exactly the same as Christ’s. The only major differences were the colour of the front door – black not red – and the curtains in all the windows, they were blinds. It was inhabited by university students, quiet ones probably geographers or economists he guessed. He was on nodding terms with two of them. It was a nice neighbourhood, most of the burglaries happened to the students in another part of town, about 1,000 metres away. Most things happened 1,000 metres away.
Jon or Christ imagined being a burglar, dressed in black. A sleek burglar not a desperately fucked-up, lonely drug addict in search of something, anything, to sell irrespective of that things emotional capital. Jon imagined shimmying up the house opposite’s drainpipe, leaping to an upper windowsill, dropping past it and hanging on by his fingernails, hauling himself up and levering the window open with a specialist tool he’d designed himself.
He imagined rapidly and silently pulling himself into the room. He imagined himself crouching down and exploring the room with his superb night vision. He took an iPod and left an iPhone with a better collection of music before flicking his business card (the Jack of Hearts) onto the sleeping student. He then simply and rapidly made his exit. This time he dropped from windowsill to windowsill and then to the ground before sprinting off to his motorcycle and into the night.
Meanwhile, back in his real world, he waited and looked out of the window. Shortly he was joined by his massive black cat, ‘Shorty’, who had woken up and needed company. Shorty was a rescue cat who had grown in just a few weeks from fluff-ball into room conquering giant with no sense of personal space or cat reserve. Shorty may as well have been a dog. He growled at Christ, who tickled him under the chins before returning his gaze to the Avenue where two students were having an argument beneath the denuded beech tree.
“Well, cat, it looks as if they’re having a set-to over there.” The cat growled and slapped Christ on the cheek in what passed for a playful swipe in its head.
Indeed the students were by this point yelling at each other – the bobbles on their Where’s Waldo stripy bobble hats bouncing around like tiny boxers, punch drunk and way past retirement. Their Pokemon backpacks dangerously close to flying off their duffle coated backs. Each student was skipping about, dancing from foot to foot trying to prod the other in the chest.
Christ’s house was so double glazed that it could have been used in a hazmat emergency so neither he nor Shorty could hear what the argument was about.
“Whatever it is, it’s got them well and truly revved up and ready to rumble,” Christ told the cat, who nodded and purred at the sight of such cute conflict. The problem for the students was that one of them was a gangly six feet three and a bit tall which the other was touching five foot. Most of their argument, therefore was getting lost in the void. This didn’t stop them attempting to slap each other in the doggy-paddle style familiar to those unfamiliar with actual punching.
Christ looked away. He imagined himself as the peace maker. The man of wisdom and consoling sentences. Two sides to every story. Look at this from the other person’s point of view. In the great scope of history, is this really worth all your energy and all this violence?
If all that failed, one punch, just one punch and it would have been over.
The cat left the room, tail up and smug. The next sound was the cat-flap slamming shut.
Christ returned to looking out of the window into the avenue. The students had disappeared, possibly to discuss rocks or Malthus. Maybe their argument had been about Media Studies and Critical Theory? More likely, he thought, it was about which Pokemon was better.
Winter birds, magpies – they never left – flitted from bare branch to bear branch. A small car drove towards Churchend. The wind got up, then calmed down and the slamming of the cat-flap indicated the return of the cat. Hours passed. Hours were yet to pass. Jon turned the television on: Hitler, Hitler, Cooking, Quiz Show (Winston Churchill, Arsenal, Star Trek), afternoon soap (slap, kiss, weep, fall), a movie (Shaun of the Dead), a based on a true story movie (slap, kiss, weep, fall, brave battle with spinal injury, god, wedding, bliss), sport, sport, sport, cooking, sport, Hitler, Vietnam, gossip, news, news, news, sport, Nazis.
The students came out of the house as Hitler was giving a badly subtitled speech. They were holding hands and had changed into different hats: knitted vaginas. They walked towards the pub, which they wouldn’t enter, instead heading to the Retro Video Games Cafe and Hangout as far as Jon could imagine. He’d read about it in the local newspaper.
The wind picked up, blowing the mulching leaves around the dank puddles. The vicar cycled along the road, on his way to the pub, as the sun set behind the beech tree.
Jon turned around and wheeled himself into the kitchen. Two hours to go until someone arrived to help him bath and go to bed.
“It’ll get easier,” they’ll tell him and then leave.