Mr. Charcoal Grey-Suit

Andy walked down to the station to catch the 7:20 into the city as he had done for the last ten years. Ahead of him he noticed the adjacent backsides of Mr. and Mrs. Glum – as he called them – who waddled along slowly in a forlorn heads-down manner. Andy reckoned he’d catch up with them just as they reached the station yard.
Behind him he heard the clicking heals of Mr. You-Haven’t-Got-a-Hope-Mate in conversation with his neighbour, Miss Almost-a-Tart, an eighteen-year old office girl. She listened out of bored politeness because she needed the lift.
“I take Practical Woodworking, as you know,” Mr. Haven’t-Got began. Oh! She knew. What fascinating article this time, she thought. “I’ve just read a fascinating article about the various housing joints found in the A-frame wooden roof sections of old English barns.”
Andy snorted. “What sort of chat up line was that?”
He felt he knew them all, a procession of familiar people who, weekday by weekday passed this way exhibiting the same mannerisms and character traits as of old. But in the limbo between home and work Andy knew little about them in reality; where they lived, what kind of work they did, their real names.
Except for talkative Graham that is who told him and the rest of the carriage his life history two or three time s a week and Maggie from his amateur theatre days. They caught up on each other’s news about their mutual friends; married, divorced, moved away, moved back, re-married.
Coming towards him going against the flow as it were, he spotted Mr. Charcoal Grey-Suit, also a regular. He would soon turn left down a side lane to Futuristic Forms research laboratory long before Andy got there. They had never passed each other in all that time but recently Andy couldn’t help wondering about the strange irregular gait the fellow exhibited – even at a distance. His curiosity aroused, Andy resolved to break the habit of a lifetime and leave home the following day a few minutes earlier in order to observe him closely.
Next day Andy indeed got to within 20 metres of Mr. Grey-Suit before the latter turned off. Andy monitored the way he walked; long purposeful loping strides, heavy on his feet. The movement of body could be described as dogged, robotic even. One imagined nothing much would stop him pounding the pavement in such a resolute manner.
To Andy’s amazement something did – the chap himself, who stopped taking loping strides to adopt short mincing steps. In an instant he became light on his feet, up on his toes, ballet fashion, the changeover seamless and with delicate self-choreographed grace rounded the corner.
Andy paused to watch. Before long Mr. Grey-Suit reverted back to the loping stride again with consummate ease.
“How eccentric!” thought Andy, “Or, perhaps he’s landed a part in a play, out of character and elected to rehearse it in public – nigh on perfect, it seemed. But who is the real Mr. Grey-Suit – cave man or twinkle toes?”
The following day, Friday, Andy started out even earlier. He timed it well. They passed each other by for the first time. The dark brown dull eyes of Mr. Grey-Suit looked straight past Andy, the tight downward tilt of his mouth refusing to acknowledge Andy with even the tiniest twitch. Then Andy’s heart missed a beat as Grey-Suit altered his stride to quick short steps as before.
What happened next changed the course of Andy’s life. From behind Grey-Suit’s stolid staring irises and piggy-small pupils light blue sparkling combos slid and glided like skates on ice right up to the corners giving delighted Andy a very favourable look over. These second set of pupils – somewhat dilated – invited Andy’s own eyes to linger on them for as long as his pounding heart desired.
At the same time Grey-Suits dour mouth broke into a lively coquettish smile. Darling little dimples appeared. Dry grey lips moistened, reddened. The change lasted a single sublime moment, one wonderful frame in an otherwise monotonous film sequence whereupon the blue iris slid back behind the brown one, reluctant, summoned back. The mouth plummeted again. The impression it made on Andy lasted. He wanted to be lured by winsome smiles and to be dashed to pieces on cherry lips.
Grey-Suit turned left, loping, resolute and robotic.
Andy spent the rest of the day in a daze. He kept blinking to recapture the dazzling look. It gave a new beautiful meaning to the phrase, “shifty eyes”.
Tomorrow being Saturday Andy would normally have stayed at home but he needed to finish off a report: a scientific paper on the vast atomic space that existed in matter – any matter including metallic structures and human beings – despite appearances. So he walked down to the station to go to work, albeit at 10 am, albeit dressed smart casual. He missed the usual procession of commuters. Instead a few shoppers ambled to the station in their own carefree time or only went as far as the local precinct.
No sign of a charcoal grey suit. Instead someone in a large loose-fitting grey pullover and baggy trousers approached but quickly crossed the road when dark brown piggy eyes caught Andy’s. His loping stride lengthened even further, a deliberate act to distance himself, ape-like arms swinging back and forth.
No sooner had solid foot clumped onto the pavement opposite however than stride changed to sweet little steps – Andy no longer regarded them as mincing. In addition to the blue eyes and red lips a fetching arm rose, despite the bagginess, to give Andy a brief sad wave. Andy recalled Tennyson’s description of The Lady of The Lake – “pale white, mystic wonderful” but she didn’t hold Excalibur aloft. Before Andy could return the wave, cross the road regardless of traffic, kiss the arm a million times the vision turned back to stone.
Even after the previous day’s delirious experience the rush of utter happiness took Andy by surprise. Cars blew horns and drivers cursed him as he stood in the middle of the road mesmerised. Almost hit by a cyclist he came to his senses. He said, “Stuff work!” and went in pursuit of Grey Baggy-Trousers, who had reached a little square in front of the shopping precinct.
Grey had stopped in the very centre the square and after a while his body started to make weird stretching sounds. They increased in volume accompanied by grunts and cries as though caused by something or someone being pulled apart. An almighty struggle ensued leading to a tug-of-war, a puff and pant, a side-to-side squabble. It reminded Andy of children fighting over sweets. “This one’s mine”. “No, it’s mine.”
A crowd gathered, formed a circle round the agitated figure. They thought street theatre had come to the precinct. They cheered and laughed as the figure performed a kind of contentious line dancing routine.
Andy hurried towards them and pushed his way to the front. The figure stepped from side to side – loping stride vied with short step for supremacy. Wild arms inside the pullover waved, seemed to multiply. Legs kicked each other harder and harder. Deep voice chided. Higher voice rebelled. The violence increased and the wider and wider side-to-side movement push and pull tested garment stitch and seam.
“He’ll split his trousers soon,” hoped the delighted audience. Others started to chant, “Split! Split! Split!” and “Who ARE yer, who ARE yer?”
The person-shaped piece of elastic reached its limit with the inevitable likely to happen any second. The crowd became silent held it’s joint breath.
Then with a final sudden breaking “f-f-flopp” the figure split in two, each grey-pullovered half parted, fell to the ground exhausted, heavy half and light half alike.
No! Wait! Not two halves – two wholes. Whole pullover, whole trousers and of course two whole, if disparate people. The crowd gasped then applauded. “Marvellous! Superb entertainment! Where’s the cloth cap to put money in. No, make that two cloth caps!”
Andy held his hands on his head as amazed as anyone there. They had all witnessed the impossible, a superlative illusion of cell division – not of a single cell but a whole cellular body. The two halves recovered strength, arose to wander off in opposite directions. Andy smiled. Cell division it may have been but identical cloning could certainly be ruled out.
One strode off and his long legs loped, down-turned mouth set, arms swung. More than one in the crowd made monkey calls.
The other hurried off with those short, sweet steps, blue eyes flashing in the morning sun. The crowd parted on either side to let each separated “entity” through.
A train arrived at the station, halted then moved off when a whistle blew. He’d missed the train, he’d lose his job – the report critical. He didn’t care. He chased after those short delightful steps, shoved his way through the crowd for the second time. Twinkle-Toes had vanished. He bumped into Mr. Haven’t Got A Hope who looked up from an article about “Utilising your Plunge Action Router” and told Andy, “She went that way. She’s in there,” indicating New Look.
“She?” echoed Andy.
Haven’t Got explained, “A person in possession of the correct apparatus for suckling a child is usually referred to as She.”

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