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Breath & Shadow

Fall 2009 - Vol. 6, Issue 3

"Red Kowalski’s Bloody Strange Day"

written by

Adam Pick

It was at 14:45 precisely, on a suitably wet, windy and forlorn Tuesday that Red Kowalski became aware that his attempt to get through the day unscathed had failed catastrophically. His life wasn’t great in general. He was a social worker and lived in a horrid place. Considering this was meant to be a “luxury apartment,” the view wasn’t so great, nor the apartment that luxurious. Let’s face it--his landlord was so bloody devious, that if the apartment had developed a leaky roof in the bathroom prior to his moving in, it would have been advertised as having been fitted with a power shower. Make no bones about it; the flat was terrible, and his neighbours worse.


Directly above him lived a couple who were having something that could laughingly be described as an argument, but was in fact, something verging on Armageddon. To put it bluntly, Red Kowalski’s neighbours were nuttier than squirrel shit. Just thinking about his neighbours made his blood freeze, his head pound and his bladder leak worryingly into his “tightie whities”. The crux of the matter was the fact that the Jones’s were more than a little mentally impaired. Red Kowalski lived in constant fear of running into Mr. Jones whenever he ventured to the local shopping precinct. Mr. Jones was constantly running about the place naked and painted a bright and vivid shade of blue. Red had to admit he was rather curious as to where his neighbor kept his rolling tobacco. He could only think of one place where he could conceivably stash it, and since that was up his bottom, Red couldn’t for the life of him imagine it would do a whole lot for the flavour. Although, as incentives to give up the habit went, he had to admit that would be pretty high on the list.


Whenever the Jones argued something was inevitably thrown out of the window. Red, living as he did below them, usually endeavoured to avoid the said balcony. Today, Red Kowalski felt rather “devil may care” about life in general, even going so far to have had three garibaldi biscuits with his morning cup of roo bush tea. Oh, yes. He was living close to the edge this day.


The scale of this mistake became obvious when an indescribably old microwave came hurtling past his head, dripping its unidentifiable and distinctly green contents over his head as it rushed on by, heading for a rather loud and violent date with the ground.


Red forlornly scooped some of the gunk that was running down his face and had a taste. Mmm, cheesy. It really would not have been so bad, if it had only gone so far as unidentifiable gunk followed by the accompanying tumble dryer and a rather tasteful set of gold coated cutlery that came immediately afterwards. However this was not to be. When a small Pekinese poodle dropped by, yapping pathetically whilst scrabbling frantically at the air, it seemed as if reality had taken a surprise last minute holiday to the Maldives. Turning his head skywards out of astonishment, he was just in time to catch a bulky primrose leather Armchair with his teeth. This had the effect of throwing him through a couple of balconies and rendering him profoundly unconscious.


He was of course quickly admitted to hospital, much of which he did not remember. This meant Red Kowalski remembered none of the 4-hour operation that saved his life. This turned out to be a good thing, because that meant he couldn’t be embarrassed by the memory of waking up halfway through the procedure and asking for a garibaldi biscuit, scaring the surgeon half to death. The first thing that Red became properly aware of was feeling this huge nebulous presence above him and wondering if this was God. He was acutely aware that he had not even done so much as shaved that morning. And one had to admit, this was not at all a good position to be in when you were about to meet the big man upstairs, and be forced to admit that you were a pagan and even worse, to have to admit that all you had done with your life was become a social worker.


He tentatively opened one eye, thereby discovering that the presence was in fact, not God after all. What a bloody relief. He had thought he was in really deep dog droppings there. No, it was a rather disheveled, rheumy eyed old guy who seemed to be hovering somehow about one millimetre away from his mouth. At this point there was vaguely heard hurried footsteps and the voice of the nurse, calling “Cedric, don’t poke the patients!”


Obviously, feeling her work here was done, the footsteps faded almost as quickly as they had come. When Cedric drew himself up to his full height of three foot ten, he rather resembled a Smurf. Cedric then grandly announced that he felt reasonably sure that the two of them were ensconced in a supermarket. And he wanted to know why.


Red couldn’t resist pointing out that the women in nurse’s uniforms were in fact nurses. Well, unless the supermarket was holding a “fancy dress” work day today, at any rate. He also pointed out that since the large things making beeping noises were actually heart monitors and not overly large tins of baked beans, he rather suspected they were spending time in a hospital and not, as Cedric had first thought, the local branch of Morison’s. Although, Red admitted, it would be a rather interesting way of selling shredded wheat.


Something else occurred to Red. He was supposed to be walking his elderly neighbor’s dog right about now. Smiling to himself, he imagined trying to explain the situation. “Sorry Mrs. Harris, I can’t come round to walk your mutt today, because my house just imploded, and I have a rather large piece of what looks like number 23’s balcony imbedded into my Chest. Slightly melodramatic sounding, he knew. But since it was true, he didn’t much care. Old Hilda Harris was a miserable old bag anyway. It was only some misguided sentiment of community spirit which had motivated him to offer in the first place. Had she even offered him a cup of tea and a Garibaldi biscuit ? Hell, he didn’t even get a cup of cold water for his troubles. On reflection, the day had not been so great. All in all it had been a bloody strange day.

Adam Pick is a 29 year old Law student, mental health service user, and fiction writer. His influences are Douglas Adams, Stephen Fry, and Tom Holt. This is his first publication. Adam Lives in deepest, darkest, Leicester, above a steel yard with his black cat, Woodstock. E-mail him at

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