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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 15 page 02

fiction

man running toward end of pier

Somnia

by George Aitch

The hotel is a large boxy square facing the beach, much like the other boxy squares either side of it. The aged, flaking paint is peach-coloured and ugly. The windows, though equally old, are scrubbed and the frames careworn. The resulting effect is that of a treasured family mongrel having been groomed for a show. It is, by most measures, a standard seaside hotel. In front of it line up the usual assortment of ice-cream vans and candy floss vendors. Seagulls perch on the hanging strings of multi-coloured lightbulbs arranged along the seafront.

A middle-aged man strolls by with his hands in his pockets. Although windswept he is not weary and is neatly kept, wearing a hat that matches his jacket. There is nothing about him of note, he could be anyone. Before reaching the pier which extends out into the waves, he leans against the chipped white paint of a railing in thought.

The sky is blue and clear, one of those lovely English seaside summer days where it is possible to ascertain exactly where the water meets the horizon. Upon checking his watch, he discovers that his watch has stopped. This is of no consequence. He cannot recall why he needed the time in the first place. Was he supposed to meet someone? All in all, he is uncertain of why he has arrived here.

Nor is he sure why he stopped in front of this hotel in particular. There is nothing special about its facade to draw him in. Neither had he received a recommendation from a friend. If you or I had walked by this person on this sunny afternoon and asked him for direction, he would have been unable to help us. Though he was not aware of this fact yet.

A blonde woman walks along the pier towards him, child in tow. Through her sunglasses she smiles politely at him in greeting and he returns the gesture. Passing on, she pauses to inspect the prices of ice creams available before deciding against and leading her offspring away. Still the man leans on the railing and looks out to sea.

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