Day in the Life (999 words) by Chris Green
Like Tara Browne, the subject of the classic Beatles song, Dale Charmer might be described as a lucky man who made the grade. Dale, too, may not notice that the lights have changed. But unlike Tara, no crowds of people will stand and stare, and Dale’s accident might not even make the news. The only witness to his running a red light in his red Lotus and crashing into a truck, let us say, is Mark Friday. Unfortunately, Mark has no media connections, so the event will go unreported. And Mark does not know how to write a song, so Dale will never be mythologised in popular culture.
In which case, I need to big-up Dale’s profile to make him a suitable subject for a short story. A day in the life – up to 1,000 words, the brief says. To make it work, I need to tread carefully. But there are prerequisites. Dale cannot survive the accident. This would render any comparison between him and the dead Guinness heir, Tara Browne unworkable, and any comparison with Lennon-McCartney’s timepiece would end there with a heavy hint of bathos. Should he survive, there would be no story to tell. I need to follow the libretto of A Day in the Life fairly closely.
Heidi suggests it would be wrong to merely mirror the circumstances of the story and change the name. I can’t substitute Tara Browne with another young rich socialite trying to impress his model girlfriend with his recklessness. Let’s say instead that Dale is a secret agent waiting for a mission. An underworld spy perhaps, or a hitman in between contracts. An undercover cop, or something along those lines? There again, with all the tacky series on Netflix and Amazon, these themes have probably been wrung out recently. A currency trader or a hedge fund manager? Heidi shakes her head. Tara blew his mind out in a car. Maybe that’s not something a banker would do. Some work is still needed here then. Moving on, maybe Mark Friday might believe he has seen Dale’s face before but not be really sure, providing another point of reference to the song. Dale would be someone in the public eye. A household name, but not a pop celebrity. Someone from the House of Lords to echo the song lyric?
Heidi is still shaking her head. She is not sure the assignment refers specifically to the Beatles’ song. It could be interpreted in other ways. Heidi is a college lecturer, but Beatles aren’t on her syllabus. Also, she says, that sad though it might be to a lifelong fan, younger readers may not have even heard the tune, far less be familiar with the lyrics. A fair point, but let’s see how we get on.
Since the International Times concert at the Roundhouse last month, Dale has felt restless. He is not sure what it is, but something is eating away at him. He has started supplementing his daily recreational drug use with a chalk-like powder called Stuff he buys off Vic Crowley in Covent Garden. As he drives along Kings Road with Vogue cover girl, Rose Pink in his new red Lotus, Dale is having difficulty with his coordination. This is what Stuff does, apparently. This is why people take it. This is why Dale takes it. He seems to like having difficulty with his coordination. The problem is it’s not a good fit with road safety.
Heidi suggests that this is the same plot. I concede the point that it might be similar and tell her I will make a few amendments. It needn’t be a red Lotus, perhaps. Or Kings Road.
As he drives along Tottenham Court Road in his new yellow Porsche, Dale is having difficulty with his coordination. But as it is nearly 1 a.m. there is very little traffic on the road. Dale is able to step on it to impress his girlfriend. As he approaches the junction with Salisbury Avenue, he accelerates. He takes it up to ninety-five. Look how fast this little beauty goes, he says. He doesn’t notice that the lights have changed, They are now red. Rose’s warning comes too late. Dale does not stop. He cannot stop. The Porsche ploughs right into the side of a Seddon Atkinson truck. Rose Pink is thrown from the vehicle, but Dale dies on impact. Mark Friday who is walking home witnesses the accident. He has been to the cinema in the West End to see How I Won the War starring Michael Crawford and John Lennon. It would be John’s only film role outside of the Beatles.
After a fitful night’s sleep, haunted by the horrors of what he saw, Mark wakes up, gets out of bed and drags a comb across his head. While drinking his morning cup of tea, he realises he is late, and he has to run to catch the bus. It is a Routemaster. He makes his way upstairs and smokes a spliff to calm himself. He has a few pulls on it and drifts off into a dream about a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies and a girl with kaleidoscope eyes. Realising he has strayed into the wrong song, he comes to. He notices someone has left a newspaper on the next seat. A headline on the front page catches his eye. It is a story about holes. Apparently, there are four thousand of them in Blackburn, Lancashire. Nearly as many, the report says, as it would take to fill the Albert Hall.
Heidi acknowledges that as far as it goes, what I have written might be considered creative and fulfil that part of the brief, but the overall plot lacks originality. I need to add something to make it exceptional. But I notice I am rapidly approaching the requisite word count. This gives me just enough time to bring in the orchestra.
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