Nothing, and then a bench. The bench sat as, I suppose all benches do, with an air of quiet, unruffled, self-assurance. The seagull, who had been dozing when the bench blinked into existence in an equally unruffled manner to that in which it now sat, was decidedly the opposite. Needless to say, he was extremely ruffled. So ruffled in fact that in finding his previously empty bank of grass suddenly occupied without a word of apology, he stumbled in a cacophony of feathers to the underside of a bench a few yards down the coastal path that he felt was a lot less whimsical. Whimsical benches just appearing willy nilly he huffed; what is the world coming to, next they’ll be falling out of the sky. Terrified by this thought, he retreated further under the bench.
Now sheltered from an onslaught of benches that could drop from the sky at any given moment, the gull regarded this new addition to the coastal path with growing curiosity. The bench still did nothing, in fact from all outward appearance it looked very much like an ordinary bench. The sun was somewhat less impressed; fatigued and frankly fed up from a day of constant battle with a group of vain French clouds it was flickering bad temperedly as it proceeded on a tantrum descent below the horizon. The French clouds, still transfixed by their reflection in the sea below, also paid little attention to the bench. In fact, it seemed as if the seagull was the only witness to this anomaly. Unfortunately, just as the seagull had steeled himself up to investigate the bench situation further a family came over the crest of the hill with newspaper wrapped fish and chips. One waft of the greasy smell and all thought of the bench disappeared from the seagulls mind. Falling benches were unusual yes, but fish was fish and ‘Old Ricky’s’ fish was the best. Putting on his best, I’m a poor hungry seagull act, he limped groaning across the path and swayed worryingly into the family’s path. You have to be impressed by the slickness of his act; less than a minute and he was being fed food straight from the wrapping. A job nicely done, even the French clouds spared a moment away from their reflection to look impressed. But then realising that they were wasting vital reflection admiring time on a scruffy seagull, they turned their attention back to the sea. Life on the coastal path, that had paused momentarily in the face of the extraordinary whirred back into motion, the bench becoming just one amongst many that littered the English town of Bournemouth.
As the sun began to peek over the horizon the next morning, seriously considering returning to bed for a lie in, a lone figure walking along the path to work barely noticed the extra bench. Like the sun, he hadn’t fully shaken the fond memory of being in bed from his mind and was far too preoccupied to notice the impatient voice at the back of his mind questioning the presence of the bench. A large mug of coffee later and the fog that had happily encircled his mind all night was starting to drip disconsolately out of his ears. Ten minutes later Detective Ewan Richards stared at his blank computer screen; his own haggard reflection stared back, a light mist still faintly visible about his ears. He stared harder, trying to see past his own face into the darkness beyond. Now, his reflection just looked constipated. Sighing in frustration he steepled his fingers, rested his chin on his hands and leant his forehead against the cool monitor. “Come on” he groaned, willing the computer to turn on. He didn’t dare glance at his watch, knowing that he had wasted far too much time already trying to telepathically persuade the eternally stubborn machine to whirr speedily into life. Whether it was the fog still prevalent around his frontal cortex or an inclination towards the fantastical Detective Richards concentrated an admirable amount of mental power on his telepathic staring contest with his unresponsive adversary. Unsurprisingly, the computer out stared him. Still convinced of the computer’s malicious mental acuity, Ewan could almost hear the electricity laughing at him as it slowly pottered along the cables, taking its time before it ever so slowly flooded the monitor. “And now” he muttered, “I’m going mad. Next I’ll be imagining the little buggers have just stopped, on their way to work, for a coffee somewhere near the extension lead”. Unbeknownst to him, the electrons do actually have a fantastic power smoothie bar just of the cable junction with the photocopier. Dragging his heavy head back from the screen, he was once more greeted by his own worn out reflection.
Richards moved his head fractionally in a gesture of acknowledgment as the office door swung open and a young figure walked in. Walked is possibly too general a term; swaggered is a more apt depiction of the movement that accompanied the motion of entering a room. However it accompanied the motion slightly too much as the figure misjudged the width of the door, as is so easily done, and the span of his swagger, so that catching his foot on the door jam, he careened head first into the room. The trajectory of his fall had deposited him, in a spectacular heap at the foot of Richards’ desk. One silvered eyebrow raised, he didn’t even attempt to hide the smirk on his face. It had been a perfect, farcical even, fall. The kind of fall that happens continually on children’s cartoons but hardly ever makes an appearance in daily life. Anyone, when faced with an irregularity such as this cannot help but be amused; all thought of the person’s wellbeing having flown from their mind. Detective Richards was no different; and anyway the tangle of limbs was moving and groaning, so he was quite certain that no serious damage had been done.
by Lisa Font