Sunday, 13 December 2009

The Burial of the Dead

The two of them looked north across the Thames under the cold, blue light of the winter’s morning.

Downstream, commuters flowed across London Bridge by foot, bus or car, like oil into an engine.

The thought left David drained.

“So many,” he said, “I had not thought death had undone so many ...”

“What was that?” asked Tom.

“Eliot. The Waste Land.”

Tom paused in thought.

“No Macavity: The Mystery Cat, though, is it?”

“It’s an allusion,” said David. “To Dante.”

He saw Tom’s blank face. “Like a cover version.”

“I see. Look, don’t start getting all profound on my at this hour. We’ve got a job to do.” He hauled his backpack on to his shoulders. “Let’s get a move on. Time is ticking”

David hesitated. He looked back at bridge, along King William Street. To where St Mary Woolnoth kept the hours with a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.

Thousands of small cogs in one vast machine, run for someone else’s benefit, the parts unaware of the whole. I had not thought death had undone so many. His rucksack weighed heavily on him. He felt sure people would be able to feel its pressure, just as he was sure they must be able to hear the blood pounding in his ears.

He sighed with resignation. For all the posturing, what was he if not a small cog himself? He hurried after Tom.

“You know this TS Eliot?” Tom asked. “What does the 'TS' stand for?”

“Tough Shit. He was famously harsh on his students, I think.”

David looked at this watch. It was 8.45.

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