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Blind Date - Final

by Zettel 

Posted: 22 August 2005
Word Count: 6578
Summary: Final version. Edited in line with your many helpful comments.

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

Blind Date

“23 minutes! He’s not a master, he’s a freak.” John chucked the newspaper to the floor beside the bed. Britain’s first Sudoku Grand Master smiled back at him. John looked at the clock by the bed.
“Shit – 3.30. I’ve got to get a life. That’s 77 minutes. Three times longer.” The Grand Master had taken 23 minutes. Bastard.

In things of the mind John was competitive. But liked to pretend he wasn’t. It’s a man thing. And his intellectual self-image had been dealt a serious blow by his failure to match the Grand Master’s winning time in solving the 6 sets of eighty-one sneaky little squares of numbers now interrupting work, TV and even sex, across the nation. Looking again, disbelievingly at the implacable clock beside him, he muttered,
“This is getting serious enough for Woman’s Hour to set up a help-line - Sudoku Obsessives Society or something. We need help from the big guns – Jenni Murray and some condescending female American Psychologist with a sexy voice.”

His mind was hunting for action now. He looked for something to distract him from the siren call of the incomplete ‘diabolical’ puzzle in that day’s newspaper. His will was in a downward spiral of rationalisation when his mobile phone rang on the bedside table and he jumped in surprise.
“Who the hell…?” He checked the time and relaxed a little as he remembered everyone was back, even Matt for once, who was sleeping off a day’s skateboarding, washed down with a few lagers. Phones ringing in the early hours had always freaked him out since that early call years ago told him his mother had died.

Warily, he pressed receive and just listened.
“It’s me” a woman’s voice.
“It’s Jo. I couldn’t sleep”
“I’m sorry but…”
“Who is that?”
“I think you must have the wrong…..” The phone went dead. He shrugged and returned to deciding what would dull his mind enough to sleep, rather than sharpen it into continued wakefulness. He had just succumbed to the lure of the ‘diabolical’ challenge when his phone beeped twice. Curious, he opened up the text message.

“Sorry 2 disturb u i wrang the wrng number so I cut it of didn’t mean 2 b rude.” John tapped a reply.
“No problems.” His phone beeped again.
“Nite nite.” He smiled. There seemed something personal, even intimate about this sign-off that was vaguely arousing. He tapped out.

Even a diabolical Sudoku paled before this.
“What are the odds?” he thought. “Female, sexy voice and totally random.” His accursed philosophical mind began to roam over the mathematical odds, but the writer in him was struck by the possibilities. This must be the most random way possible for two people to meet. Well not exactly meet, but at least make a kind of personal contact.

'Hey. Slow down fella. Don’t get carried away. She’s probably 13 years-old, can’t sleep because her braces hurt and thinks you look like Chris Martin.' But his imagination was off the leash and unconvinced. He told himself there was something adult about the abbreviated, code-like characters. And that voice didn’t sound 13. Luxuriating in a mind freed from the tyranny of Sudoku, he slipped off into a peaceful sleep; if not of the innocent, then certainly of a respectably constrained, inexperienced sexual fantasist.


Noon the following day. His usual coffee at the workman’s café run by Hanif who always looked vaguely amused at his regular morning visitor. Coffee with honey, not sugar, and an hour poring over a paper, putting numbers or letters in little squares. John liked the air of intelligent eccentricity he felt this gave him. He always had a bit of a laugh with Hanif and allowed his mind to roam into fantasy about the French woman behind the counter, with more than a passing resemblance to Julie Delpy. Secretly playing his ‘Ethan Hawke’ to ‘Julie’s’ Before Sunrise charm, John always accepted his coffee with a smile so exaggerated ‘Julie’ probably thought he was a good advert for care in the community. With that ineffable style with which French women seem to be genetically endowed, ‘Julie’ made and served the curious mixture of dishes that defines the English at breakfast: everything from the whole cholesterol disaster to John’s prissy little latté with honey. This disparity between his desired image and actuality, prompted John occasionally to order a double espresso and drink it at an outside table over an ostentatiously butch cigar. He had drawn the line at Gaulloises. He wasn’t going to re-start smoking proper after all these years – even for Julie Delpy. Shame they didn’t do cognac though.

He got out his mobile phone and tapped out a message.
“U mind if I put u in a story? Nothing else.” He went back to his crossword. He still jumped when his phone beeped a few minutes later.
“Christ! that was quick,” he thought, and with a mixture of anxiety and expectation, opened his message.
“In a story? U don’t know me.” He tapped back.
“That’s why it’s a story.” Message sent……….. Beep beep.
“Ok then.” He smiled and replied.
“ta” ‘Julie’ brought him a second latté. In response to his witless grin, she affected an indulgent Hanif-like smile that said – 'this guy should get a life.'
Beep. Still he jumped.
“By the way whats ur name?” John pondered this for a few moments then replied.
“I write under the name Fitz.” His mind was racing. Although this passed for exciting to a philosophical Sudoku and crossword addict, his ‘think-ahead’ mind started churning. He almost willed his phone to silence. Unsuccessfully.
He frowned. ‘This is going to get tricky.’ After a few moments he texted back.
“That’s against the rules.” A few moments later,
“Plz” He felt oddly irritated and thought 'A couple of vowels would have hurt you?' After thinking a moment he hit the keys again,
“Its more fun this way. Bye for now.” He wanted to think this through a bit, so tried to suspend the contact for a while.
“Bye. But if u told me I suppose id let u no.” John decided to let it go at that and try and process all this. He was relieved when his phone stayed silent. He suddenly panicked,
“Ohmigod. If this is an under-age kid, it looks just as if I’m grooming her.” He finished his coffee, said goodbye to Hanif and ‘Julie’ and headed for town, resolving to put his new friend right out of his mind.


Midnight. John wondered exactly when his ability to sleep at will, first deserted him. He had made a radical decision to limit himself to the Sudoku’s and crossword in just one paper, and was struggling with the last two cryptic clues of the crossword, his daily ration of Sudoku already completed. When his phone beeped he nearly fell off the bed.
“For Christ’s sake – get a grip.” He scolded himself. Warily, he reached for his phone and opened his new text.
“Hi. U awake?” Tap tap,
“are you m or f”
“Here we go again” he thought, but opened his message screen,
“m” A few minutes passed and John thought she’d gone. Then…beep.
“ok whats ur name or what am I meant to call you. Im male and 20 if u wana no.” John went cold. With a mixture of anxiety, disappointment and relief he texted,
“There’s a mistake here. I thought you were f. sorry, u being m is not my thing. Bye.”
‘Now just leave it at that’ he muttered as he hit the send key. But no,
“Joking, just making sure ur strait im f.” Despite himself John smiled, thinking, 'interesting' Tap.
“And tricky. How old are u?”
“Cant say. breakin the rules.” John laughed.
“Touché. Nice 1. Nite.” He still wanted to think this through more.
“Gd nite.” It took neither Sudoku nor an unfinished crossword to keep John awake now. His mind was all over the place. And perverse as ever, his film-obsessed brain started dwelling on Play Misty For Me, - was he setting up a potentially homicidal stalker? 'Oh for fuck’s sake, John – listen to yourself. She’s probably a 7 stone, 70 year-old ex-headmistress with an arthritic hip and a long black hair trailing from a facial mole.' But a predatory Jessica Walter, a shock-haired Glenn Close and a boiling rabbit, kept pressing in on him as he fell asleep and had dreams to make Dali blanch.


“Nite nite hun.” It was past 1 am when this subversive little intimacy sneaked into John’s bedroom announcing itself with those 2 urgent beeps. He felt like a nervous teenager trying to ask for a date. ‘I was ready for second childhood. No one told me about a second adolescence. Father, Philosophy teacher and manager, yet I’m all over the place over a 3-word text message. Go figure.’

This was new emotional territory and he was working with an out of date map. It’s a middle-aged man thing. Don't trust your instincts. His daughter had taught him no one over 40 should ever dance in public; especially to any tune remotely resembling Brown Sugar – the song that launched a thousand hips. Shop assistants had begun calling him ‘sir’ and wolf-whistles at his running shorts were now clearly taking the piss; whereas….once……Tempus fu-sodding-git. Paralysis by analysis had set in. The clamouring questions reduced to one: how old is she? Natural sexual curiosity felt like perversion. An instinct for romance had turned to fear. And not even at a real woman – just a disembodied digit flirting in cyberspace. He resolved: ‘OK let’s keep it a game.’

“Welcome back.” He tapped. “Let’s make it fun. Rules: no direct questions but we must answer indirect questions truthfully.” OK?
“OK. Me 1st?”
“Ideal dinner d8?” John thought for a few minutes,
“Julie Delpy.” Preferably the one without the smell of fried bacon in her hair he thought. Then he tapped, “U?” There was a long gap. Now on silent, his phone vibrated its reply.
“Pierce Brosnan.” ‘Right ballpark’ John thought to himself. Grinning at the accidental joke.’ A second message buzzed over the ether.
“Classical composer.” John needed no time to think about that one.
“Rachmaninov.” The reply bounced back as fast as a squash ball.
“Melancholic eh? I’d better keep this encounter brief.” John chuckled, This he liked.
“Ur composer?”
“Vaughan Williams.”
“English rose eh?”
“That’s the 1 with thorns – right?….. My turn. Movie.”
He tapped back, “How long have u got?”
“All night. But don’t think.”
“Melancholic romantic. Should quit while Im ahead.”
“We’ll always have Paris…….. ur movie?”
“Motorcycle Diaries.”
“Che or Barnel?”
“Both” John’s doubts evaporated. Totally random and he’d got a movie-lover.” He waited.
“Actor.” She sent.
“Pacino. You?
“Susan Sarandon.”
He'd hit a nerve, “I HATE THAT.” Then, “Won’t break the rules, but give me a clue.” He thought about this, his doubts flooding back.
“Somewhere betwn Pierce Brosnan and Billy Connolly.” He waited. On edge. Wary.
“OK. My turn?”
“Yup.” He replied, relieved.
“Bob or Thomas?”
“Nice 1…………..B4 u ask - Carol Ann Duffy.”
He tapped back, “She scares the shit out of me.”
“Quite right 2. U go. Last 1 for now.”
“OK. Writer?”
“Jeannette Winterson.”
Tap Tap. “She only terrifies me.”
“U poor thing. U?
“I said writer, not goalkeeper.”
“Very funny.” She came back again,
“Hun. Gotta go. Fun. Nite nite.”
Disappointed, he hit the keys for the last time,
“Nite. A bientôt.”
“That works 4 me.”
John lay back on the pillow. His passion for Sudoku and crosswords suddenly seemed a long way away.


The following night. 2 a.m. He’d just about given up and was falling asleep when the phone rattled on the bedside table.
“Hey hun, U up?”
“Thought ud never ask.”
“Been out. Just got back. Did U wait up for me?”
“Can’t say. U’ll take me 4 granted.”
“That’s a man thing. Anyway, it’s nice.” John waited a few moments before tapping back,
“We can’t keep not meeting like this.”
“OK. Any ideas?" John panicked. It was as if he’d started a sentence, then half way through, realised he didn’t know what he wanted to say. Hesitantly, he tapped out a reply,
“Nervous. Let’s keep it fun. Go to the same movie, but not meet. Txt only.”
“OK. When, where?”
“Frdy. 7.30. Curzon Soho – ‘5 x 2’"
“Soho’s tricky from Barnsley.” John’s heart sank. Then a follow-up buzzed through.
“Just kidding. I’ll b there. No cheating. Nite nite.” Head spinning John thought ‘now what the hell have I done?’ as he tapped a reply,
“Nite. C U Friday. Well sort of.”


The Curzon was his favourite cinema. Loads of non-Hollywood movies, Lucas THX sound, and people who loved movies enough to shut up and give their stomachs a rest while they fed their imaginations. John had hung back over a coffee and cigar in the foyer, scanning every face. It was a good game if a bit scary: everything from ‘I should be so lucky’ to ‘ohmigod, no.’ He knew this was shallow, but fantasy wasn’t his thing and he was enjoying the game. Too young would be the worst; too old - disappointing; too plain - a pity. Perfect he decided, would be ‘youthfully mature‘ (God – just listen to yourself) attractive, and feistily bright. 'Trouble’ he mocked himself.

Spotting no likely candidates, John sat at the back so he could survey the audience. The cinema was filling up quickly. He realised that his strategy of looking for anyone with a mobile was useless. Almost everyone had a phone, and they were putting them on silent etc. He put his on vibrate and peered into the darkness. ‘ I can discount couples,’ he thought. ‘But then, could he? Maybe this fantasy played out with a 7’ rugby player smacking him in the mouth for texting his girlfriend at 3 a.m. in the morning.’ He began to realise she would be hard to spot – if she was even there.
He decided to take the initiative. Tapping secretly from his lap, he hit send.
“U here?” Nothing. “Just txt me so I know.” Still nothing. A woman with beautiful long hair two rows forward had her phone to her ear, but he realised that excluded her; his quarry would be reading his messages on her lap just as he had sent them. ‘Pity, he thought, no one with hair that great can be ugly.’ Untrue of course, as he’d proved many times on the tube. But the pathological rationalist was surfing his fantasy as far as its unfamiliar wave would carry him.

As the opening credits came up, he tried again.
“R U here?”. Getting no reply he settled down to watch the movie. A few moments later, his phone vibrated. He grimaced at the message.
“U goin 2 talk all thru the movie?”
“Sorry.” ‘Pathetic,’ he thought as he hit the send key. Something witty, was called for. But his mind was blank. “When?”
Quickly back, “After. Now shuddup.” His face burned with embarrassment. ‘Prat’ he said under his breath. Mortified, he almost got up and left. His phone vibrated. Wondering what the hell to expect, he took in the one word afterthought.
“Hun.” ……He grinned and settled down to watch the movie.

As the film approached its conclusion he became anxious. This nervous uncertainty made him hang back until he was the last person in the auditorium. He made his way one floor up to the lounge area. To his surprise it was full. There was a private party in one area, all the seats were taken, and people were coming down the stairs to the next performances at the cinemas below. Looking around the room, he saw plenty of mobile phones. People were either turning them on after coming out, or switching them off before going in. He noticed ‘Long Hair’ in animated conversation with her female companion but he still couldn’t test his myth.

He headed for the loo. He had just finished drying his hands when he jumped at the beep of his phone. Tentatively he opened the message.
“I’m nervous. Can we w8?" Disappointed and relieved at the same time, he tapped out his reply as he returned to the floor above.
“Me 2. Raincheck.” He hit send and looked around to see if he could pick out anyone responding. He could see 3 phones: a yah-yah guy was having one of those ‘listen to me, aren’t I important' conversations, in a loud braying voice. A dark-haired, dark-eyed sexy young woman and an equally sexy dark-haired young guy, were sharing a phone conversation with someone. And 'Long Hair', arm-in-arm with her younger companion, had her phone to her ear as they reached the top of the stairs on their way out. ‘I’m still looking for the wrong thing’ he told himself: 'if she’s here, her phone will be on her lap and out of sight.' He wandered around, looking about as unobtrusive as a policeman in a convent.

He only saw three possibles: the first a gorgeous blonde, studiously grunging-out her looks with combat top and ripped jeans only slightly dirtier than a car mechanic’s. ‘Please God - no’ John thought, she’s only just old enough to not bother to vote. Number two was scary: pierced nose, lip, eyebrow, and he shuddered to think what else, out of sight. The solitude of the last lone female lacked any sense of mystery as she was wearing a worn out road-worker's brown, flock-lined gillet over a khaki t-shirt beneath which lurked two enormous breasts which appeared not to have mastered the intricacies of co-ordinated movement unaided by a bra. This ensemble was rounded off with a cheroot and a pair of Doc Martins which John was sure looked blood-stained. As he went past on his nonchalant, tour of inspection, she flashed him a suspicious glare that said 'look at my crotch again and I’ll kick the shit out of you.' This reaction brought John up short, as he suddenly realised he was a lone male, not quite in the first flush of youth, who to the unprejudiced observer had just wandered round the room peering at women’s laps. Blushing furiously, he left two stairs at a time with all the casual insouciance of a rat up a drainpipe.

As he burst out with relief onto Shaftsbury Avenue he was intoning quietly to himself – ‘please God, give me a sign to say, she’d already gone.’ Seconds later having leapt for his life before a terrifyingly shrill whistle blown by a mountain-biked lunatic exceeding the 30mph limit, he decided not to acknowledge this fright as a personal message from the Creator of the Universe. As he headed for the tube he consoled himself that she had indeed already gone, as she had indicated she didn’t want them to meet yet.

Twenty minutes later, he was on the train home. His phone lost network for a while and when they finally emerged from a tunnel, he heard the familiar beep.
“Sorry hun. Had 2 go. U like the film?”
“Yeah. Last shot’s crap though”. Send.
Beep. “OK Mr Kubrick. May I call u Stanley?”
“Or precious git. Up to u.”
“I wanna think about 2 nite. OK?"
“Sure. Nite.”
“Nite hun. Weird, but I feel excited.”
“Me 2. Nite.”


Hanif was chatty and as ever, amused at John’s routine. ‘Julie’ had just brought his second coffee when his phone beeped.
“Sorry. Chickened out.”
The question had been turning over in John’s mind since the cinema.
“Did U C me?” He sent.
Quickly back. “No.”
“Thought U might have been disappointed.”
“Hun, absolutely guarantee, didn’t C U. Sort of wanted 2 keep my image intact. Sorry. Did u c me?”
“Don’t know.”
“Ugly as sin. Wooden leg.” John grinned.
“Which leg?”
“The 1 I stand on. Keep falling over now.”
John tapped back. “This is surreal.” Whatr we gonna do?”
“U game 2 try again?”
“Royal Festival Hall. 2 weeks. Mahler. Each get a ticket separately. C what fate does.”
“Screws u up in my experience. But I’m up for it.
“OK. Txt me to confirm uve got a ticket. DON’T tell me which 1.”
“OK. Nite.”
“Nite hun.”


He loved the walk across the bridge from Embankment station to the South Bank. The evening chill of the river cooled him down from the hot, muggy day. Old territory: teaching philosophy at Kings and special walks along the South Bank. Memories surged back with the same urgency as the Thames, fast running beneath his feet.

He reached the end of the bridge and was heading down the stairs toward the Festival Hall when he saw a commotion below him. A young guy in hoodie, track suit and trainers, was tugging furiously at a handbag on the arm of a woman. He’d obviously picked the wrong victim for she was hanging on for dear life. As he raced down the stairs, John found himself wondering why there was no noise. Why didn’t she scream or yell? He raced up to the struggling figures, knowing he'd have to do something but didn't know what. So he just yelled.
“Hey, leave her alone.” The youth obviously decided he was on loser and released his grip on the bag, looked at John, grinned and spat out “Fuck you!” then sauntered off raising his right arm as he went, giving John the finger as he disappeared along the embankment.

The woman had gone flying backwards and was only now scrambling to her feet. There was a tentativeness about her movements that struck John as unusual.
“Thank you so much. I wonder, can you see my glasses anywhere?" She seemed to be staring past John at something in the distance. He retrieved a pair of dark sunglasses and as he held them out to her, realised she couldn’t see them. She was unfolding a telescopic white stick from her bag. Not knowing what to say, John took her gently by the wrist and placed the glasses into her hand. She put them on. He took her arm and said,
“There’s a bench just behind you. Let me help you." She smiled, now composed.
“Thanks. How long were you in the Scouts?” John did a double take.
“I’m sorry?”
“Your good deed for the day.” She grinned mischievously.
“Ah. Sadly, I only lasted 1 day in the scouts. Went on a night camp, ended up tied to a tree with eggs cracked over my head. Knot-tying and campfire badges lost their appeal and I never went back.” She grimaced,
“Sorry. A can-of-worms joke.”
“Don’t worry, it’s been a while. My therapist says a couple more years and I’ll be over it.”
She smiled. “What’s your name?”
“Hi John. I’m Anna.” She held out her hand, which he took in both his hands for some reason he couldn’t fathom and said,
“Hi. Sure you’re all right?"
“I’m fine. My bag had my ticket in it and there was no way that creep was going to get it.”
“You going to the concert?” He asked.
“Yes. My sister was supposed to be coming but she’s had a shunt in her car and had to cry off. I can manage by myself but I put my stick away so as not to be an easy target. That worked well don’t you think?” John was impressed by her feistiness. She was probably in her forties, very short hair, which emphasised a gamine, tomboy quality. She was dusting off her black dress and sleeveless thingy that rested over it. John looked at his watch, “May I see....er help you in to the concert? There’s only a few minutes to go.”
She smiled. “Thanks that would be great." Pause. “And don’t worry, the verb to ‘see’ is a minefield. I’m used to it.” Then she added, “are you on your own?” John wasn’t sure how to reply. After a moment’s pause he said, “I was supposed to be meeting a friend but we left it a bit vague. We got our tickets separately, so its not a problem. We can touch base at half-time.”
She grinned and said, “Football – half-time: music – interval.”
John replied, “The last concert I came to here was so bad it finished Orchestra 1 – Mozart 0.” She laughed. He realised he was in a bit of a bind. He had come to contact his secret texter and here he was guiding an unknown blind woman into the Festival Hall. 'You wait for ages for a bus' he thought...'and then…..Natural law - Fate fucks you up. Anyway, I can see her safely into the concert and then concentrate on trying to contact Jo.’

As they entered the foyer of the Festival Hall, she took off her sleeveless coat and asked John if he would mind putting it in the cloakroom for her.
“Just wait here for me and I’ll see you to your entrance. OK?” She nodded. On his return he handed her the token for her coat. She thanked him and they started up the stairs. As they reached the first landing, his phone started ringing in his pocket.
"Sorry about this. Won’t be a moment." He pressed receive but just got a couple of beeps then silence. He reached out for Anna’s arm and they recommenced climbing the stairs.
“Everything OK?" She enquired.
“Yes I think so. The signal in here is a bit dodgy and they couldn’t get through. I’ll check it at half...er the interval.

He saw her to level 4 and handed her over to an usherette. Anna thanked him again and went in. He’d wanted to suggest meeting at the interval but decided not to give Fate any more excuses to complicate things.

A few minutes later he dropped into his seat, relieved for a few moments of private space to think. He got out his phone to put it on silent. The orchestra was settled and ready for the conductor to launch them into Mahler’s 5th symphony. ‘Shit’ John thought, when he saw he had a message. Open. “Sorry. Can’t make it. Txt me 2 morrow. Enjoy Mahler.”

John clicked erase and settled back to let Gustav Mahler seduce his over-analytical, over-active mind into peace and silence; created paradoxically, he thought, by the sound of music. With one last mocking mental flick, his mind chucked him a couple of images of Julie Andrews and those bloody mountains, but Gustav’s opening bars were more than a match for Maria Von Trapp.

As his senses plunged into Mahler’s dark, broody melancholy, his mind roamed freely over the audience to see if he could see his other new friend. At least he knew what this one looked like. The razor cut, boyish hair picked her out: block to the right, about 5 rows down. He examined her profile closely: strong, high cheekbones leading down to a jaw-line that said ‘don’t mess with me’. He was struck by her superb posture. A straight–backed grace that gave her a regal air. He had noticed this before in blind people. Perhaps something to do with a physical quality of constant alertness. It certainly did no harm to the attractiveness of this damsel to his St George. He dragged his mind back to dive again into Mahler’s surging strings.

At the interval, he made his way downstairs. Freed of his original plan for the evening, he searched for his graceful middle-aged tomboy. Thanks perhaps to her white stick, she had found a table and a barman was serving her coffee as she hand-rolled a cigarette. The image made John smile. He went quietly up beside her and said in mock seriousness,
“May I join madam and protect her from the handbag-snatching riff-raff of the Festival Hall?” She smiled and turned toward his voice.
“Only if you don’t tell me to give up.” She pointed to the cigarette. He got out a small cigar and said,
“I wonder if madam could oblige me with a light?” She flicked her lighter into flame and he took her outstretched hand by the wrist and guided it to light his cigar.”
“You do anyone other than Olivier?” He drew his lips tightly back from his teeth before he realised this was daft as she couldn’t see it, and said in bad Bogart,
“The LSO are rehearsing ‘As Time Goes By’ as we speak. They played it for you, now they can play it again for me.” She grimaced.
“Woody Allen?”
“Harrelson.” She raised her coffee cup in mock salute.
“Cheers” He looked at her.
“How come you are so well versed in junk TV and movies?” With a slight edge in her voice she snapped,
“I’m blind – not deaf. Or stupid.” John reached out and gently took her wrist.
“Hey, lighten up. I didn’t mean that.” She coloured slightly and placed her hand on his wrist in return and said quietly, “I’m sorry. Force of habit.” He looked down at their joined hands and felt for a second, a long-forgotten thrill. He did not want to let go, but she broke the tension first,
“Your friend, did he turn up?”
“She.” John replied without thinking. Anna looked embarrassed and said,
“I’m sorry, when you just said a friend, I assumed...” Her voice trailed off. He stepped in quickly,
“No problems. It was a loose arrangement and it seems she has a family problem.” Then, changing the subject as quickly as possible,
“I’m out of cigars. Any chance of a roll-up?" She grinned.
“Sure pardner. Wayne or Mitchum?”
He replied, “No contest. Mitchum every time.”
“Hey. The man has taste.” He watched fascinated as she placed a much used, black, soft leather pouch on the table. She held out her left hand towards him and said,
“Hold this. I won't need it.” John was more than ready to touch her hand again. Using only her right hand, she unzipped the pouch and took out 2 cigarette papers and spread them side-by-side on the table. She took some tobacco from the pouch and spread a line into each paper. Tamping the tobacco down in one, she expertly curled over one edge of the paper and rolling the tobacco within, produced a perfect tube which she put sideways to her mouth, licked the edge of the paper, and handed the neatly rolled cigarette to John.
“OK Pardner?” John was dumbfounded. His heart was racing at what he thought was the sexiest display of deft manual skill he’d ever seen. Amazed, he said,
“All my life, I’ve wanted to be able to do that. How did you do that?” She chuckled with pleasure and said.
“Didn't you know, it's easy for us blind folk, because our other senses improve to compensate.” He was silent before the scarcely repressed sarcasm in her tone.” She smiled, patted him encouragingly on the arm and said gently,
“Bullshit of course. That took me hundreds of hours to get. And it was much harder, not easier because I can’t see. The only benefit of blindness is that you sure as hell get determined. Otherwise you don’t make it.” He took both her hands in his and said,
“I’ve known you for precisely two hours, and I need no convincing of your determination.” And that piece of business was the most extraordinary example of outrageously skilful, totally pointless, action I have ever seen.” She caught the irony and enjoyed it, then broke into an open, full-throated laugh, that simply captivated him.
‘Texting cyber-women has nothing on this,’ he thought a little guiltily. ‘And Sudoku sucks.’ Anna repeated her little miracle of dexterity, proving it was no fluke, and lit her own cigarette. She turned to John and said,
“Gotta a horse?”
“A what?”
“A horse: I could roll you one the hard way.” He looked incredulous.
“Tell me you’re kidding. You can’t.” She smiled the smile of someone with a cherishable secret.
“You bet your sweet bippy I can buster……By the way what the hell is a bippy?”
“It’s your 'ass' dear girl. Courtesy of The Rowan and Martin Laugh-in.” She grinned mischievously.
“Hey, my mom told me about that show. You must be knocking on old man.” It hit John like a truck. ‘She doesn’t know how old I am, or what I look like.’ She sensed the silence.
“Come round here and sit close to me.” He obeyed. She reached out to him and gently ran her hands over his face, stopping and re-tracing her path at points. As her fingertips ran under his jaw-line, she paused, looked towards him and said,
“This is the killer. You OK with it?”
“Sure.” Her fingers traced the line of his neck down to the top of his clavicle. Then she drew her hands away and held him by the wrists.
“Lots of life there my man. Past and future I think.” She grinned. Relieved, he started to speak.
“Look Anna..." She quickly placed her fingers on his lips.
“Shh. When there’s nothing more to be said, don’t be the fool that says it. For you I think, sometimes too much talk. Too much think.” His head reeled at the perceptiveness of this remark. She felt a braille watch on her wrist.
“You do know we’ve missed the Bruckner?” John looked around him and for the first time realised they were now entirely alone.”
“I’m sorry. Are you disappointed.”
“Not so much. I came for the Mahler. I’m not really deep enough for Bruckner.” John’s thoughts raced. He didn’t want this to stop.
“How about a drink? There’s a bar upstairs with a fantastic view overlooking the..." he trailed off in embarrassment.” She burst out laughing.
“It happens. Get over it. I have. Don’t ever tap-dance round me or I’ll know. And if I hear it, just once - I’m gone. Got it?”
“Got it.”
"OK so let’s go to this bar of yours and you can enjoy the breathtaking view of the Thames while I sit and feel sorry for myself because I can’t see it. OK?” He reached out, and tenderly held her again by the wrist.
“Let me see it for you.” She looked so intensely towards him, he could swear she could see him.
“OK buster. Hope your vocab’s up to the challenge. I hear the word ‘nice’ and you’re on your own.” He laughed,
“Deal.” Will you be OK for a minute while I pick up our coats?
She smiled mockingly, “Well, I don't know, we blind folks get scared without a man around.”
He grinned and said, "I’ll just be a couple of minutes.” He collected the coats, rejoined her and they headed for the bar. As they were walking up the stairs, he almost jumped out of his skin as his phone beeped twice. He tried to ignore it but Anna said, “Aren’t you going to get that?”
Lightly he said, "You see, that's the trouble with you blind folk. Your hearing’s too sharp.”
She laughed. "Go on take your message, I’ll wait and wish I could see the Thames like you lucky sighted folk.” John opened up his message.
“How was the Mahler? If it was terrific – lie, Im really fed up I couldn’t make it.” He tapped out a reply,
“Good. Heading 4 tube. No netwk then. Txt U L8er.” He felt another pang of guilt as he hit send then turned the phone off. He rejoined Anna who said,
“Everything OK?”
“Fine. C’mon let me dazzle you with poetry about the Thames.” She took hold of his arm in a way that gave him an extraordinary feeling of protectiveness. His emotions were careering all over the place.
“I hope it’s going to rhyme. It’s not real poetry if it doesn’t rhyme. Is it?”
“Phyllis who?” They arrived in the bar and John held a seat for her and said,
“You just sit down and promise me if I get you drunk enough, you’ll spare me the schoolboy puns.”
Teasingly she said, "Oh, I do so love masterful men."
He guided her firmly into a chair, and with mock severity, said,“now sit still and shut the hell up. What would you like to drink?”
“A dry white wine spritzer in a tall glass with lots of ice please. Oh, and one of those little umbrella things."
"Is that everything madam?" he said with a mock sarcasm in his voice.
"Well some cashews would be nice."
“Give me strength” John intoned as he headed for the bar.


“I’m sorry, sir, madam, but we are closing now.”
John looked at his watch and said to the barman, “I’m so sorry, We had no idea it was so late.” Anna felt the time on her watch and jumped up gathering her belongings.
“Hey, I’ve got to get to Waterloo in 15 minutes. Can we do that?” he left the barman a tip and took her by the arm.
“It’s a cinch. I’m an ex-boy scout remember?” She snorted.
“Yes but I need to catch a train not a tree, and I don’t like eggs.” They hurried out of the Festival Hall and along the raised walkway, eventually getting down to street level and about 7 or 8 minutes later he was standing with her by the automatic barriers to the underground. They had spent 4 hours together and told one another things no other person had ever heard. The kinds of things neither would ever forget; and some they wished they could. People in the bar, and even the barman had watched them, many finding special memories stirred by their total absorption in one another.


But now they stood facing each other, like the awkward strangers they had been just a few hours before. John broke the silence. “You have no idea how differently this evening has been from what I expected when I set out.”
“Me too.” She ran her hand down the side of his face.
“But I’ve got to go, or I won’t get a taxi at the other end.” She leaned forward and kissed him gently on the lips.
“I’m glad your evening wasn’t a disappointment.” She reached out and placed a piece of white card in his top pocket. When he reached to retrieve it, she blocked his hand and said,
“Save it for the train.”
He leaned forward and kissed her.“OK.” She fed her ticket into the automatic barrier, went through and turned to face him.
“Night,” he called to her.
She waved. “Night, Night,” she called back and as she reached the top of the escalator, he had turned to leave when the word came floating across the garishly lit concourse,
He whirled round, but she had gone. He felt feverishly in his top pocket and pulled out the piece of white card. Beneath a company logo for New Dimension - Sound Architecture was the name Ms Joanna Blake – Senior Sound Designer. He turned the card over and read in a firm, neat hand,
‘Nite nite hun. Hope U like the haircut.' Then: ‘my phone turns txt to voice’. Followed by 'the mugger was fate, and the phone call, a shot in the dark!'. The last words on the card read...’some blind date huh? Txt me if you want to.'

Zettel August 2005

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Comments by other Members

annodomini at 23:04 on 22 August 2005  Report this post
Hi Zettel, I felt like I was watching the action while I read this piece, it had a great pace and felt really "immediate" if you know what I mean - if I had been following the couple all evening or watching the action in a film then I think this is what I would have seen. Which makes me wonder if you'd thought about turning it into a script? As it's mainly dialogue, it might work quite well.
One comment on the dialogue - you give us all the banter between the couple (comic accents not really my thing but it's quite convincing that they enjoy them) - but I felt a bit disappointed at the bit when the waiter comes over and interrupts them, and they were "so locked in conversation it took a moment for them to see him." We never find out what they were taslking about, but I would have liked to have a bit more here, to get below the surface of their personalities and find out what they really like about each other.

Just a couple of thoughts! Great twist at the end too.


Zettel at 00:05 on 23 August 2005  Report this post

Thanks for the comments. I would have like to do what you suggest and itis encouraging that you wanted to know more.

However I was very conscious that this started out as a short story and was already over 6,000 words. Your thought about a script ws also in the back of my mind as I've trying to lead up to the things I'd most like to do, screenplays and/or a novel. The short story is an intersting form because it is foten said with some justice that many of the best films have been based on short stories.

I'm new to the short story form and I had 2 main objectives: I wanted to try to establish a couple of real characters and give them something interesting to do. I guess the greeat challenge of the short story is to do all this quickly.

The other thing is, odd though it may sound, I've only just met Joanna and she's still surprising me!

Thanks for the comments




For foten read often.

On the accents: thought about this a bit and wanted something to keep the tone light and give J something through which to make an impact as a person, not a blind person if you see what I mean.


Prospero at 12:12 on 23 August 2005  Report this post
Superb! I absolutely loved it. Read the whole thing from beginning to end. Could be tightened up here and there, the bit around the barman, 'They both turned to look at him' for example. But really, that's nit-picking. It's a great story Zettel. Very well done!

Warm wishes


Becca at 12:46 on 23 August 2005  Report this post
Hi Zettel,
The story seems to have a strong plot-line, so even though it's over 6,000 wds now, I'd carry on to the end and then do some ruthless editing later.
This section was less crisp than the first upload, and I guess it's because to some extent you have to describe more,as one of the characters is blind. But I did see places where you could easily edit. 'Bugger', he muttered. 'Sorry about this, won't be a moment' would be one, - I didn't think you needed to say he saw her turn towards him. Little things like that. I also got the sense of author intrusion in the para 'There is a precious moment's pause', so that could be another possible editing place.
I personally thought their jokey conversation a little overdone, I'm sure you could create the sense of them being enchanting companions with a few well chosen words.
the layout's a bit uncertain in this piece,- 'she held out her hand' phrase needs shifting down to join with the line of dialogue that follows. 'John replied'--> down one line. 'Then he added, changing the subject as quickly as possible'--> needs joining to his dialogue below, and 'she grinned'--> down to her dialogue line. There are more of them, but I'm sure you'll find them.

I thought the end really good, although I guess I did know it was her.
Never-the-less, it was fine to read.
One sentence troubled me 'He got the aimed for a laugh'??

bjlangley at 23:18 on 23 August 2005  Report this post
Hi Zettel, very enjoyable. It's odd, because when you introduced 'Anna', I did think that her 'voice' was very similar to that of Jo, but I didn't twig that they were the same until right at the end there.

Also, for some reason, I started this thinking he was still on the way home from the night before, rather than going towards a new date.

Thought the gentle humour in this came along well.

One minor thing, this line:

"People in the bar, and even the barman had watched them, many finding special memories stirred by their total absorption in one another."

took me away from it a little. Before I felt very much a part of it, and this seems to be a view from the outside. May just be me though.

All the best,


Zettel at 03:16 on 25 August 2005  Report this post

Thanks for the comments. when I get a chance, I'll make the correction you mention - thanks for pointing it out. I found it challenging to try to write a blind character and I wanted to try to make her credible as a person who happened to be blind, rather than a 'blind person' with all that sometimes implies.


I need to find the time to work through your comments which look on the ball to me. I've got to look at the dialogue in the light of 2 kinds of comments: yours that maybe there's too much and the other of whether the accents work.

The amount was to try to generate a sense of what attracted to these completely random people: obviously a love of movies, but also a sort of serious self-mockery hiding a kind of diffidence that they bring out in each other. Maybe the short stroy form is better suited to establishing a single memeorable character rather than a relationship but this was as they say in the movies "based on actual events" and that sort of set the parameters.

As for the accents - obviously it plugs in to the love of movies. But also, I wanted a way in which Joanna could stablish herself as a character without any self-pity etc. Thus the voices and the cigarette rolling. Also, the credibility of two such random people making such immediate connection needed a way of making it possible to say personal things without simply launching into them, which would seem very odd given the randomness of their meeting and such a short time of knowing one another.

Your point about the intrusion of the writer is a very good one as it distracts frome the relationship

I'll now work on a final version of the whole piece. Thanks again for the comments.

PS It was my intention to finish the piece at its present point. I wrote a coda but didn't like it much and rather preferred to leave the reader, with John, thinking back over the evening's events.

I am pleased that one or two did not pick up that Jo is Anna, though I am not surprised that you realised it. I spent some little time trying to nudge you away from it. My thought was that there was some satisfaction to be had for such a reader to find their assumption confirmed.

Regards and thanks again.


Zettel at 03:18 on 25 August 2005  Report this post

Sorry about the typos


PeterOC at 20:30 on 01 September 2005  Report this post
Hi Zettel,

You've got a great style of prose. I guess it must be the poet in you as there's some lovely turns of phrase in here that I really enjoyed but they were subtle enough so as not to appear as 'flowery' language.

There's a lot in this but essential hooks in it kept me reading. I liked you're characters and even though I was a bit lost in regard to a lot of the film references and accents. It did cross my mind that Joanna and the mystery texter were one and the same but I was never certain.

I agree with the other's that have commented on how visual a piece this is but I don't think lot's of textual intercourse would make for a very good movie. Other's have also commented on the part where the couple's conversation is fast forwarded and I tend to agree that maybe a little bit more here would be good without detailing everyword of the four hour dialogue.

The para beginning:
“I’m sorry, sir, madam, but we are closing now.”
felt a little rushed to me and I feel needs a bit of reworking.

Best of luck with this Zettel, I really enjoyed it.


Zettel at 01:54 on 02 September 2005  Report this post

Thanks for the comments. Glad it kept you interested. It was tempting to offer more of their discussion but this was a piece where I wanted to develop an interesting plot idea. Also I guess the essence of the short story challenge is to try to establish character and relationship with the minimum of 'filling in'.

Certainly, having done a little bit of filming, I would love to try to do this as a short; then, the dialogue would be very different as this was not written as a screenplay. I guess I wanted the reader to fill in the bits not said - the perect example of this is in the superb Lost In Translation which ends with a whispered comment between Murray and Johanssen. We do not hear what is said - but feel we know enough about them to have a good idea.

Anyway, thanks again for the comments and for taking the trouble to read this.



Prospero at 07:04 on 03 September 2005  Report this post
Hi Zettel

Printing this off for a leisurely read. I will hand down my decision later ;)

(I bet it's brilliant)



Zettel at 10:35 on 03 September 2005  Report this post

Thanks - I look forward to any comments



Prospero at 10:18 on 04 September 2005  Report this post
Yep. Just as I suspected, brilliant!

I really related to these two, very believable characters. Are you going to extend this? If so I shall look forward to the next installment.



Zettel at 10:44 on 04 September 2005  Report this post


Can't see where I'd take this. Though having just met 'Joanna' I'm beginning to find myself wondering what she'd do in this or that situation. So who knows.... I don't really have much direct knowledge of blind people and I may have got that wrong in some way. She just seemed to say - "I'm just me - forget the blindness".

Thanks for reading and your kind comments.



Prospero at 13:59 on 04 September 2005  Report this post
Hi Zee

I guess blind people are just the same as the rest of us some adapt better than others to the challenges of life. Do you know if Joanna was blind from birth or was it the result of accident, disease, or a mugging for example.

You could have these two develop a relationship only for some skeleltons to come leaping out of the cupboard.

Your story stands alone and doesn't require any embellishment, but...

I'll leave it with you



Zettel at 03:11 on 06 September 2005  Report this post

See - now she's got you wondering!

Sorry just teasing.

Really grateful for the encouraging remarks.


Prospero at 05:45 on 06 September 2005  Report this post
Hey, steady on, I'm a married man, I'm not allowed to go wondering, wandering or anything else... ;o)

Feisty lady though, great character description and development.

I remember reading in the letters page of electronics magazine about a blind man who built micro-electonic circuitry with a soldering iron! Colour me gob-smacked, doing that kind of stuff when you can see is tricky enough. I should know I used to be an Electronics engineer. If I hadn't seen the photos of this guy and his work I would have said somebody was having a laugh. Totally aweswome achievement.



Zettel at 02:32 on 09 September 2005  Report this post

But can he roll a one-handed cigarette on horseback? (though what a cigarette would be doing on horseback I'm not sure).



Prospero at 05:41 on 10 September 2005  Report this post
'The hell he can, Pilgrim! Now, get off that horse and drink ya milk!

Sorry, but I'm more of a Wayne than a Mitchum fan, uncultured boor that I am :o

Happy trails


Zettel at 02:15 on 15 September 2005  Report this post
Sorry cowpoke but I ain't the Marian kind.

You're forgiven for Wayne.

See ya round pardner.

(Ohmigod - it's getting worse)



Shika at 09:21 on 01 October 2005  Report this post

I would agree with all the comments made above. I laughed outloud many times and I was also fooled into thinking Anna was not Jo. I think the comment about the authorial voice has already been made. I really enjoyed this. S

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