Ben Fitton

Retail Therapy

Mr. HighSt sits in the pub like an art installation. Thin, as if he has been given birth to by the cracks that filigree the old wall. He’s got me a beer and saved me a seat though I hadn’t intended to stop by. I can’t stay; I have somewhere important to be; something important to understand. I sit down.

‘Yours,’ he says, moving to face me as he speaks, without increment, like a trap shutting. Not thirsty, and having given booze up for lent, I drink deeply. ‘Going shopping?’ he asks with a too-wide smile that has the look of torn fabric.

‘I’m off to see the astronomer,’ I say. This is a small town, there’s only one. He nods his narrow head, languorous ups and downs that, with an increment I can’t discern though I’m watching carefully, become a shake.

‘The stars tire of being watched,’ he says. ‘They told me, and so I told him. I told him how our watching is caustic to them. I told him that they don’t burn brightly for us, they do so for themselves, and that their luminescence shouldn’t be equated to a surrender of privacy.

‘But he wouldn’t listen. He got adamant with me, would you believe. It’s fine; he won’t be missed.’

He leans close, his face a stigma around which sharp and numerous limbs suddenly flower. I notice at least three sets of stained knuckles as well as a pair of wings that shimmer like an oil slick. ‘Will he?’

‘No,’ I say, really meaning it. Forgetting even why I took an interest at all. ‘He won’t.’

Mr. HighSt sits back, penknife limbs dissolving away like Sunday night promises on a Monday morning. ‘So, going shopping?’ he asks.

I shake my head. Then, remembering that natty Alexander McQueen skull-handled umbrella I’ve been eyeing is currently a third off in Harvey Nichols, find myself nodding.

‘Yes,’ I say, quickly finishing my drink and standing to leave, fuelled by a sudden, nebulous adrenaline. ‘I believe so.’

Through a filmy window I see rain clouds loom and coalesce with unnatural speed. ‘I should hurry; the shops shut soon.’

‘Oh, you don’t have to worry about that,’ says Mr HighSt. ‘You never have to worry about that.’


Ben is a copywriter for a friendly global corporate mega-giant. He is inherently scared of the act of fiction writing but has overcome this on a couple of occasions to have work published at and Maudlin House. He’s also on that Twitter malarkey as @RodneyGodstick.