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Ecalsneerg

Arrowhawk: Turning Thirty (Birthday Vignette)

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9th September 2000

The Clyde flowed onwards, and nobody could ever stop that. Through the heart of Glasgow it went, passing by dog walkers on riverside paths and factories, warehouses and shipyards, some bustling with workers and some completely deserted. Probably a damn good metaphor for life, smiled John Fraser to himself as he sat on the bench, watching the river flow by, eating his sandwich. A red-haired woman walking past smiled at him, and he reciprocated in kind. Maybe he could have struck up a conversation, but he didn’t.

Running his hand through his messy black hair, John got up and started walking the other way, towards his workplace. Somebody had somehow found out that it was his birthday and put up some balloons. It was a nice gesture, considering nobody was really close to the man. He never seemed to go out at nights with them, or seemingly with anybody, yet he always looked tired like he hadn’t slept. Nice enough guy, yeah, but always distant in a way. Went and ate his lunch alone out by the river. Nobody was sure why, and nobody asked why. John was just… odd that way, they supposed.

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Christ, thirty, sighed John inwardly. Everyone had left him, having dragged him out to the bar and bought him a few rounds for his birthday. Why? I mean, it’s not like I’ve ever really tried to make friends with them. I guess it’s the flipside of that quirk of human nature that makes some of us commit violence and theft. It makes some of us be unnecessarily nice to compensate.

He ordered another drink. Famous Grouse, a good Scots whisky. He did enjoy whisky, but didn’t often give himself the night off to enjoy it without hindering his judgement. Tonight, his birthday present to himself was to let the costumed crimefighters of the city just get on with it. A man could only go so long without a good night’s sleep, after all. For how long can I do it? Hold down a job and train every day, and do what I do every night? He drained the last of the liquid in the glass, staring down into the bottom of the glass. If I tried to stop, could I? He looked over at the barman as he wiped a glass clean. Could I go back to a regular life?

“Same again, please.â€Â

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It was a few hours later, and he’d followed a somewhat traditional pattern of drinking. Have a few at each bar, eventually get all maudlin and then stagger off home. He paused, leaning on a wall with his eyes closed to listen to the sounds of the night. Cars speeding, youths shouting and jeering, people laughing and joking… every night, he heard it. Every damn night. For the past ten years. “I’m thirty,†he mumbled, â€ÂStill be able… t’do f’r long time yet…†His flat was just a few streets along now. He’d be able to go home and sleep.

Lurching away from the wall with a grunt, John staggered from side to side as he headed home. Hopefully the police wouldn’t pick him up, that was a problem he could do with not having to deal with. But he got to his door fine, thank God, and fumbled with the key until he got in. His home was a mess, with arrow tips lying around, an unstrung bow hanging over the back of the sofa and various items of miscellaneous… stuff seemed to be building up in piles.

Picking his way over all these trappings of his lonely life, the one he couldn’t give up, John Fraser lay down on his bed for the one night of the year he’d been himself and not someone behind a mask. And he slept.

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