The Seven Five Nothing

The Seven Five Nothing are a collection of hyper-short stories, each written in a single sitting with no editting.

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26. The Mime.

I used to watch this guy every morning from the window of my place. He used to stand out on the corner of the street, tatty old clothes and shoes with holes all over them, performing mimes.

At first, it unnerved me. I wasn't used to it, and the neighbours hadn't warned me of his behaviour. So when I happened to spot him one day, it took me a couple of minutes to make sense, watching him crouch onto an imaginary chair, reading an invisible paper.

When I asked about him, everybody just said, 'That's just George.' I heard lots of explanations for him, and just why he was on the corner of our street, pulling pretend flowers out of his jacket whenever a woman walked by. It was always heartwarming when a lady accepted his generosity, and always sad to see the look on his face when they shied away from the flowers that were not there. Some of the stories said he was French, and that he'd been a street performer in Paris, before he fell in love with a woman and followed her here, only to discover she was married already. With no way to get home, he'd been performing for tips ever since. Only, nobody ever gave George any money. He just seemed to be doing it for the delight on people's faces. And even that wasn't always repaid.

You got used to George. He would be out there in the rain and the wind just as much as the sun and a summer breeze. It was as if he needed to be there, expertly washing his fake glass windows every morning, climbing his see-through ladder. And you couldn't help but watch him, no matter how many times you'd seen this particular routine. He just had that something about him, like few people do, that enigmatic draw, only dipped with innocence. And I would often see other people, watching George too, a half-step back from their windows. I would see them clap, but not hear the sound. This was a silent theatre in every sense.

Nobody knew where George went after his hour or so performing. He would walk around the corner, carrying a small bag, equally as exhausted as the rest of his attire, and disappear from view. We would all just as quickly forget about him till the following morning also. Maybe he went somewhere else to perform, maybe he didn't. Nobody knew.

One morning, too busy to really have time to watch him perform, I walked past the window, glancing briefly to see what George would be doing for us today. But I was struck by how still he was. He stood, hands in his pockets, his bag by his feet, almost as if waiting for a bus, doing nothing. Drawn in by his stillness, I waited, but still, nothing. This was the first time that I realised how old George really was. I knew he must have been at least fifty or sixty, but his wonderful body movements always made him seem so much younger, like he had magic running through his bones. And yet today, he held strong, still, old. In his face, a sadness. And though I didn't have the time to spare, I watched him, waiting for something.

And then, I saw the hearse pull slowly down the street. As it approached George, he tilted his head forward in respect, and the whole moment seemed painfully difficult for him. As it passed him by, he turned, watching the car as it went around the corner. He slowly dipped a hand inside his jacket, pulling out a bunch of flowers that were not there, offering it after the now disappeared funeral procession. After a moment's pause, George picked up his bag and left. I didn't quite understand it. I don't think any of us did, watching from out windows.

Later that day, I talked to my neighbour, asking who it was in the hearse. He said it was an old lady from along the street. She'd been there for years, but nobody really knew her that well. We discussed George, theorised about why he was so sad, and then wondered if she was the lady he had followed from Paris. 'Could be,' my neighbour said. And that was as conclusive as either of us would ever manage.

George never came back to the corner of our street after that. We missed him, but of course, he was never really performing for us.
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