Happy New Year to you all.
The George Condo Short Stories Competition came to a close before Christmas, and the results are in! We had hundreds of entries, and the standard was excellent across the board. Thank you to all of you who entered.
This week we’ll be uploading the four runners-up to the Hayward Gallery blog, with the winner as chosen by George Condo, will be announced on Friday. Today we feature our first two runners-up – Peter Higgin-Jones and Sam Baggaley.
J. by Peter Higgin-Jones
Jesus sat in the ‘Reduced-To-Clear’ section of the supermarket aisle, among the damaged goods and expiring meat. He looked rather pleased with himself. I hesitated to approach him, unsure of how he would react. But it had, I reassured myself, been several weeks since that messy business at the church, and I could tell by his stoned look of disconnection that he had started taking his medication again.
‘Hi,’ I said, as cheerfully as I could and not at all like someone talking to a grown man, wearing a white, ladies night-dress, with his arse in chiller-cabinet on Christmas Eve. ‘How’s it going?’
I looked at him, waiting for any flicker of recognition. He had long, greasy, black hair parted in the middle. Multi-coloured streamers weaved in and out of it, as if his brain had recently exploded, like a party popper.
A month ago, he was different: angry; volatile; a swarm of hornets behind his eyes. We sat in there on Tuesday afternoons in the musty basement of the church: the junkies, drunks and people-who-talk-to-God. Out of sight – and most definitely out of mind. He’d picked a fight with Angel – a black woman in a pink cowboy hat – and the constabulary were summoned.
I was about to walk off, when I noticed that he was partially obscuring a box of Christmas crackers. I looked around. The security guard was over by the cigarette kiosk, his back towards us, speaking into his walkie-talkie; probably calling for the police. I reached around J, into the buckled cellophane box.
‘Merry…,’ I said, brushing J’s hand with the cracker, hoping he’d grasp it. He didn’t. ‘Happy birthday,’ I added, sarcastically.
Suddenly ashamed, I tossed it gently into his lap, and left, before the sirens came again.
Untitled by Sam Baggaley
It’s his birthday. I’ve had my share of birthday blues to know that it’s a struggle to come to terms with that extra year being loaded on, waiting to see if your knees buckle under the weight.
“You know you’re old when you can’t die young anymore.” I tell him.
James’ head dropped at this comment and I could sense him sinking deeper into a place I was all too familiar with. My next insight is as useless as the first. “Nostalgia really begins when you realise that the world makes no attempt to cement your mark on itself.”
His face appears briefly, with a cynical grin, he see’s the transparency of the truth. I can’t help but be reminded of bottomless pit of nostalgia I have wasted so many years in, so I continue
“When we’re young the world is vulnerable in your hands, we can manipulate it and experiment with it. Seas will part for us to dig in the sand beneath and the wind will stop so we can hear a whisper. But after you’ve had a taste for it, it leaves you, alone and cold, isolated and trying to catch up to a changing pace that is so fast you begin to question whether you ever had a grip on it in the first place.”
James looks deeper into my eyes than he has done all day, but before I can continue, he speaks his first words of the day to me.
“But….” The pause is too tense and I feel like the air between us might crack.
A voice breaks the moment
“James honey, time to cut the……Oh, you found Mr. Giggles.”
The voice continues
“James why don’t you go and find your friends. Mr Giggles, I mean Tony, please don’t smoke around the children.”
George Condo, Jesus, 2002. Image courtesy Luhring Augustine © the artist