Ryker never allows the use of his forenames or the title of Mr; that would take up too much time. At school they called him Road Runner and beep-beeped each time he passed. In middle age he’s trying very hard to avoid endlessly repeating to himself: time and tide wait for no man, and, I’m late, I’m late for a very important date as he rushes hither and thither. Self-service in a restaurant is the only way he can cope with eating out. He does his weekly supermarket shop after midnight using self-scan to avoid queues. Someone once told him he should be a time and motion analyst. What an absurd idea, he thought, Watching others going slowly, no thank you!
He wears an analogue watch on his left wrist and a digital watch on the right as well as carrying a fully wound clockwork stopwatch in a pocket. His smartphone continually bleeps, like a frantic washing machine at the end of its cycle, reminding him of what’s next.
His workplace lexicon includes such phrases as the truth is, I’m tasked with, the direction of travel going forward, let’s get this done by yesterday and, if you want it done quickly ask a busy man.
His sexual relationships are quick. He fails to understand that premature ejaculation is not acceptable to everyone. He eats ready-meals too quickly and has a subscription account with Amazon to ensure he never runs out of Gaviscon tablets; he sees heartburn and indigestion as necessary penalties for living in his fast lane. His consultant tries to persuade him to change these behaviours.
Ryker realises that his cancer, which he calls Benito (after Mussolini), grew slowly like Japanese knotweed – a horrible invasive species – he holds it in contempt for its torpidity. As he knows they can’t dig out the weed’s roots what’s the point in changing? He now spends most of his days out and about being urgently busy doing very little.
His Coronavirus advisory letter from the NHS tells him he’s extremely vulnerable, and required, for his own safety, to self-isolate and shield himself until he’s told otherwise; the prospect could not be worse. With huge effort he doesn’t run about his house screaming, Fuck! Fuck!
Ryker hasn’t made time for self-reflection until now. He suddenly realises he’s a caricature of a caricature, a Mr Busy.
Living alone he has only himself to consult. He’s been too speedy to make friends and lacks a family. He discovers the people on help-lines are wonderful but talking about dying doesn’t help.
He talks to himself.
He stands in front of his bathroom mirror medicine cabinet. Okay, Ryker. What have you got to say for yourself?
I’ve wasted too much time.
No, you haven’t taken enough time. But it’s too late to start now. Time to deal with reality. Best be quick about it. He opens the cabinet door, sees the stockpile of bottles and says, That’ll do the trick.
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© Phil Cosker 2021
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.