“Can I have a pen?”
“I want to write some verse with just four lines, all with a single rhyme, ending with words like cry lie sigh and die.”
“That’s a peculiar thing suddenly to want to do. Hmmm, here’s a pen in my jacket. Do you mind if I use your loo?”
“Yes, it’s upstairs, the first door on the left. Thanks for this pen.”
There was a sound on the stair, the voice ceasing as its owner headed towards the loo.
The new owner of the pen sucked its end – judging by the sound – and started to write. In the silence, the scratching of the nib was louder than it should have been. The distant noise of the loo being flushed above was the only disruption to any concentration of thought. There was, for quite a while, no sign of anyone returning to the room. Only a pen falling to the paper as whoever guided it gave up writing.
No-one could be bothered to look over anyone else’s shoulder – as the well-scored lines of verse blotted within the growing darkness, but soon to fade even further. In any event, the pen had settled diagonally across the lines, concealing some of the words, given the context not otherwise filling them in. The loo had long since ceased even the most imperceptible of hisses before the water-hammer in the pipes clunked. Allowing only silence as the final victor.
As in an imagined old cinema, a light from an usherette’s torch – a strong beam filled with ancient cigarette smoke – approached tentatively from the door to the table where the pen still sat diagonally across the verse it had written. The oblong mirror on the wall began to grey out like some past image of a cinema screen coming to fitful life – a silent uncoloured-in cockerel crowing ... and the 1953 Coronation, equally in silence, taking its dreary masquerade.
With the usherette having completed the showing of any late-comers to the vacant seats, the flickering screen revealed the lines of verse, as completed by the memory of those who had watched the newsreel back when everything seemed too easily forgettable in colour yet forever memorable in black and white.
Mouthing the words meticulously:
Let we people cry
Let you others lie:
Let sadness sigh
That deaths don’t die.
Time has its own force of austerity. The only sound is the loo flushing again.
But there was a fifth line non-construable from context. A line about William and Kate Middleton, perhaps, in some soon-to-be-forgotten, never-to-be-recorded, barely reachable future.
Then, in darkness, the pen rolled to the floor with its own unexpected clunk.
Don’t ask me why.