Changing Horizons

Reads: 85  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 1  | Comments: 2

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
When Dan gets a job in Manchester city centre he sees it as an opportunity to better himself and lead the good life. But is his new lifestyle as good as it seems?

Submitted: September 29, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: September 29, 2016

A A A

A A A


Dan Campbell took a deep breath and pushed through the revolving doors of the shining office block. He marched to the reception desk with as much confidence as he could muster. He always found the first day at a new job more nerve wracking than the interview. At a job interview chances were you wouldn’t see these people again as the likelihood was you wouldn’t get the job. But the first day at a new company, that was terrifying.

He gave the pretty, smiley woman at reception his name and she make a quick call. As he waiting to be seen he tried to keep calm. This was it, he thought, the big time. His new company was in Manchester city centre. The salary had been a slight increase but the exciting thing had been the chance to work in the city for a much larger firm. The glamorous location really appealed to him. Compared to the grey industrial drudgery of Trafford Park, the bustling metropolis of Manchester seemed like a different world.

A few minutes later a man in his thirties wearing an expensive suit and cufflinks appeared. He introduced himself. He would be his manager. He showed Dan around the office. The place had such a cosmopolitan feel. He felt like he was on the set of the Wolf of Wall Street or auditioning for the Apprentice or something. The atmosphere was electric. Men and women in immaculate office wear rushed around. They clutched thick files or made phone calls to VIP clients. These people clearly made things happen. The firm seemed to encapsulate the rush of the thriving city centre. The office itself was all gleaming glass. The employees seemed very different than his old workmates. These new workers seemed aloof, slick and stylish. The men and women both wore their hair styled and he could have sworn than even the men wore touches of make up.

Most of the people working at their desks sipped from branded paper cups purchased from upmarket coffee shops. Dan adjusted his tie. He felt slightly intimidated by it all. It was another planet compared to the dingy office in Trafford Park with its half a dozen people. Even a little thing like the coffee made a difference. He’d never ordered a coffee ‘to go’ in his life.

He was shown to the bank of six desks he would be working on. He was introduced to his new department. Like everyone else who worked there they were vibrant, dynamic and very well dressed. One of the team stood out more than the rest. He was a similar age to Dan, somewhere around thirty years old. He patted Dan on the back.

‘Welcome to the loony bin, Daniel. I’m Christian. That’s my name, not my religion.’

He laughed at his own hilarity. Dan couldn’t help laughing along.

As the day progressed Dan found his feet. The feel of the ‘new kid at school’ faded. He still felt out of place amongst the go-getting slick staff but he busied himself learning the new systems he’d be working withy.

At five o’clock people packed away their work. They shrugged into smart over-coats and bid each other goodnight. They headed for the door. Dan pulled his cagoule on. Christian caught his eye. He yanked his tie a few inches now that the working day was done.

‘I don’t know about you, Daniel, but I need a drink. You coming?’

‘Yeah. I could murder a pint.’

‘I think we can do better than that, sonny jim.’

Dan followed Christian. They headed across the city centre to Spinningfields. They walked through the bustling area, past the bars and restaurants. Dan had never been out round there. He had always put the swanky bars and posh restaurants down as being for those idiots with more money than sense. Each bar they passed was heaving. The city centre executives, finished for the day, enjoyed post-work drinks. Again, Dan felt out of his depth. He wasn’t one for these trendy bars. He preferred what a lot of people called ‘old mans pubs’.

They entered a bar called the Chemist. The place was packed. The people chatted in loud voices to make themselves heard over the music blaring from speakers. Dan and Christian had to push and shove to get to the bar. Dan couldn’t help wondering just what they were doing in this awful place. Surely there were other pubs in this city. There must have been quieter places where they could get a drink and even a seat. There was hardly enough room to stand nevermind sit down. And the noise. Shouting people competing with the awful music.

Christian squeezed into a spot at the bar. He held his credit card in-between two fingers. He waved a barman over. Dan hovered at his elbow waiting for his new colleague to ask what he’d like to drink. Dan glanced at the beer pumps. No real ales. Just over priced, so-called premium lagers. He would just have a pint of the cheapest lager. A few minutes later Christian handed Dan a drink. He studied the tall light brown drink with suspicion.

‘What’s this? I wanted a  beer.’

‘That, Daniel, is a cocktail. It’s called a Dirty Old Town.’

Dan sniffed the drink with curiosity.

‘I normally only drink pints.’

‘Try it. You should broaden your horizons.’

They shuffled into a corner of the room that was slightly less packed. The bar was so busy. It reminded Dan of a train at rush hour, everyone just crammed in. Christian filled Dan in on the office gossip. Dan sipped his drink and tried to keep up.

Once they had finished their cocktails Christian waved his empty glass.

‘Fancy another?’

‘Yeah, but not in here.’

‘Where then?’

Dan took Christian back across the city. The Gas Lamp was one of his favourite pubs in town. It was an honest, decent pub. No swanky lighting, no silly cocktails, no pretentious ambiance. It was a cracking little pub that served a great pint. They crossed the small tiled room. Christian whispered to Dan.

‘Daniel, where are we? This is like going back in time.’

‘This is the best pub in Manchester.’

Dan pointed to the beer pumps and ordered an ale called Den’s Ukulele. The barman asked Christian what he would like.

‘What wine selection do you have?’

‘Red, white or rose.’

Christian raised an eyebrow in amusement.

‘Can I get a glass of red, please.’

‘Do you want ice, mate?’

‘No thanks, mate.’

He gave Dan a nudge and smirked at the idea of putting ice in red wine.

The little pub was busy but with what Dan considered normal ordinary people. A few of them had supermarket shopping bags. The jet-setting post work set clearly didn’t venture here for drinks. They took seats at a free table. Christian gave Dan a look of mock-horror.

‘Where have you brought us? I can’t believe we’ve swapped cocktails and atmosphere for cheap plonk and sticky floors.’

‘Give over.’ laughed Dan. ‘It’s good here. You should try the ale. It’s out of this world.’

‘It would have to be. I tell you what; you should come out with my friends and me. We’ll show you how to party.’

‘Is that right?’

‘I think you’d get on with my friends. They’re a good bunch.’

‘Bet you can’t get a decent pint in any of the places you drink in.’

‘Danny-boy, it’s not about what you’re drinking. You have so much you to learn.’

‘I know a good pint when I drink one.’ he grinned.

‘How about coming out with yours truly and my rabble on Saturday night?’

‘Yeah, alright then. You cocktail lot will have me outnumbered but go on then.’

With each day that passed Dan settled into the company. He really enjoyed the buzz of working in the city for the dynamic new firm. His new colleagues seemed friendly and welcoming. They suggested places nearby to pick up a spot of lunch. There was a ‘delightful’ little coffee shop around the corner that apparently did ‘the nicest panini’. Dan took all the hints and tips on board, explaining that where he’d previously worked in Trafford Park the only place to pick up a butty was the tiny petrol station.

Just after eight o’clock on Saturday night Dan arrived at the Chemist bar. Again the place was packed. He adjusted his shirt cuffs and went to the bar. The room was full of people with perfect physiques and glowing tans, dressed in the latest fashions. They sipped expensive cocktails. He spotted Christian at the bar.

Christian grinned as he approached. He shook his hand firmly.

‘Daniel, you made it. How amazing. Let me introduce you to the guys.’

The ‘guys’ consisted of eight people, men and women, all so sharply dressed. The good looking group reminded dad of a poster for an American lager. They were all somewhere around thirty years old. They had the same cool air of sophistication that Christian had. Dan sensed the easy trend-setting confidence coming from the group. They all responded warmly as Christian introduced them. They patted his back, pecked him on the cheek or gave him thumbs up. Philip. Thomas. Susannah. Catherine. Jonathan. Michael. Beverley. Amanda. They told him what they did for a living with boastful pride. A few of them were in marketing and advertising, some were in recruitment. Jonathan gloated that he was a management consultant. Several of them handed him their business cards. Dan mumbled thanks and tucked the cards in his pocket.

Christian explained that Daniel had just started work on his team.

‘Oh you poor thing,’ said Beverley. Everyone laughed hysterically.

‘Right you guys.’ chirped Thomas. ‘It’s my round.’

He passed around cocktails menus. The group studied the menus and ooh’d and aah’d at the selection. Dan really fancied a pint but as he wanted to create a good impression, and as the beer selection would be awful, he picked a cocktail from the list.

‘I’ll have an Essie’s Overdue Library Book, please.’

As they drank their cocktails Philip told Dan about his recent trip to Columbia. Dan nodded and tried to remember where that was. From what he heard most of the conversation was about foreign travel to exotic destinations, meals and drinks they’d had in swanky bars and restaurants that ‘one simply had to try’.

When it came to Dan’s round he shouted the drinks order to the barman. He set to preparing the exotic beautifully coloured drinks. Dan winced when he was told the cost of the round. He could have gone away for the weekend for what this would cost him. He shrugged and handed over his credit card.

Dan felt more and more squiffy as the night progressed. Christian gave him a nudge.

‘You having a good night?’

‘Yes, they’re a decent lot, aren’t they?’

Christian nodded.

‘But,’ Dan went on, ‘is all this not a bit, y’know, snobby?’

‘Life is about making the best of yourself. Is that so very wrong? Is it so bad to want nice things? Should we all drink cheap lager from the tin and go to Majorca on holiday every year?’

‘I suppose you might have a point.’

‘Why should we dine in one of those awful Barlington Farm gastro pubs when there are divine restaurants in the city?’

Dan shrugged. He did not mention that he loved those gastro pub places. They did ordinary decent meals at a price everyone could afford. What was wrong with that? But perhaps Christian also had a point. Was he limiting himself by ruling out the more upmarket places? He looked around the bar once more. It really did feel like he was missing out on something special.

The bar, the cocktails, the energy of the group, it was all so glamorous. He glanced around the room again. He spotted a couple of faces he recognised at the bar. He was sure they played for United. He waved at them. One of them, a striker, raised his glass in reply.

It was as though he’d been given a glimpse at a secret club, one which, if he played his cards right, he might be allowed membership.

Around midnight, having spent five times as much as he normally would on a night out, he decided it was time to leave. Happily drunk on cocktails he told the group he was off to get a taxi home. He bid them all goodnight. Beverley threw an arm around his shoulder.

‘It’s my birthday next week and I’m having a bit of a soiree. You simply must come along.’

‘Don’t feel like you have to-’

Christian gave him a wink.

‘Yeah. Okay. That would be great.’

‘Super.’

He flopped on his bed. The room swayed gently around him. Images of the wonderful evening with such captivating people danced in front of his eyes.

The birthday bash the following week turned out to be a meal in a Spanish restaurant on Deansgate. From the sign out front El Serpiente offered authentic tapas y paella. Dan would have been more at home in his local curry house, but he told himself that he had to try and improve himself. Besides, these dynamic driven people were where it was at.

He found the group at a round table by the window. They all greeted him warmly. Dan took a seat,

Jonathan was telling an amusing story of when, after a pigeon did a job on his shirt and, running late for a very important meeting, he’d had no choice but to pop in to a low market high street store and buy a new shirt.

‘I nearly died.’ he said as the group howled with laughter. ‘The shirt cost less than a tenner. Can you imagine?’

‘I would have told them I was sick.’ said Michael.

They ordered a variety of tapas and jugs of Sangria. Dan asked if any of them went to Spain on their holidays.

‘Goodness, no.’ said Beverley.

‘We leave Spain to the plebs.’ added Amanda. ‘You can hardly tell people that you’re going to Torremolinos for two weeks all-inclusive, can you? You would never live it down.’

‘Where do you go?’

‘This year it’s Cuba. We went to the Dominican last year. Have you been?’

‘No.’

‘You really must. You would love it.’

‘Between us,’ said Philip. ‘one of my friends went to Majorca last year. I tried telling her. Mind you, she still wears Carl Marks. Honestly, who wears him these days?’

He pointed to Dan’s wrist.

‘What is it?’

‘Sorry?’

‘What is it?’

‘It’s a watch.’

‘I know that. What make is it?’

‘It’s not any make.’ Dan felt his cheeks burn red.

‘Where did you get it from?’

‘Tesco. I spotted it when I was doing my food shopping the other week.’

‘How quaint.’ he turned to the group. ‘One night we should all go out wearing supermarket jewellery.’

‘Yes,’ Susannah chirped. ‘that would be hilarious.’

Christian pulled Dan to one side on his way back from the Gents.

‘We need to get you kitted out.’

‘How do you mean?’

‘You’re in the big leagues now, Daniel. You need to look the part. What are you upto tomorrow?’

‘Nothing.’

‘Shopping trip it is. Me and you.’

‘You think I look that bad?’

‘It’s not that you look bad, per se, but you want people to look at you and notice. It’s all about who you’re wearing.’

Who I’m wearing?’

‘Precisely. You don’t wear a t shirt. You wear a Lee Reacher t shirt. Anyway, we’ll get you straightened out and presentable.’

The evening wore on. More food was ordered accompanied by Sangria, wine and spirits. Even the sparkling water they ordered was a luxury brand and imported from Italy. The conversation, like the drinks, flowed freely.

When the whopping bill was presented, or La Cuenta, as Beverley had called it, everyone produced their credit cards. Dan did the same. He turned to Christian.

‘Why doesn’t anyone pay cash?’

‘Have you seen how much this is? Can you afford to pay cash?’

‘No, not really.’

‘There you are the. Do what everyone else does, stick it on your credit card and forget about it.’

Dan took the hit on his credit card. He would have to sort out the bill when it came.

The next afternoon Dan met Christian on King Street. Dan had never been clothes shopping in this upmarket area of the city. He wold generally stick to the low budget clothes store at the top of Market Street. Christian grinned at Dan.

‘Leave it to me, Daniel, and we’ll have you turning heads in all the right places. You’re going to be transformed.’

‘Let’s get this over with.’

He took him into shops he’d never been in before. The stores themselves were nothing like the shops he was used to. The places had music playing and low lighting. Maybe the stores tried to replicate the bars you’d wear the clothes in. In the cool dim lighting you couldn’t see exactly what you were buying. He followed his friend’s lead. His workmate selected items of clothing that Dan assured him were the latest trend. At one point Dan interrupted his friend’s browsing.

‘Eighty quid for a t-shirt?’

‘You have to change the way you think. This isn’t just a t shirt. That isn’t just a belt. It is a Jack Carter t shirt. That is a Charles Bucket belt. Clothes make you what you are. You are making a statement. You wear clothes and you send a message. You are telling the world that you are somebody.’

Dan nodded and the shopping trip continued.

‘I’m not sure I can afford all this.’

Christian stared at him like he was simple.

‘You have a credit card.’

‘Yes, but-’

‘This is exactly what these cards are for.’ He rolled his eyes. ‘Don’t tell me, you’re one of those people who put concert tickets on your card and pay it off straight after pay day.’

‘Yes I am. I don’t like spending money I do not have.’

‘Have you heard yourself? You really do have so much to learn. Look around. Do you think anyone lives within their means these days? Daniel, you do not have to.’

Dan said nothing.

‘I thought we were doing so well with you. Everyone has credit card debt. What’s the alternative? You have so much potential. You could be a real player.’

‘Do you have a credit card bill?’

‘As long as my arm.’

‘Go on then.’

‘Fantastic. We’ll get this lot bagged and tagged and then I’ll buy you lunch.’

‘McDonalds?’

‘You are hilarious.’

They grabbed a spot of lunch in an Italian restaurant owned by a famous television chef. The waiter showed them to a table. He handed them the extensive lunchtime menu. Dan was surprised at the choice available. His idea of a treat for lunch, or dinner as he would call it, would have been pie and chips or a fried chicken burger. But, he reminded himself, he was moving up in the world.

‘Fancy sharing a bottle of vino?’ Christian asked.

‘Yeah, why not.’

‘Which do you fancy?’

‘Prosecco?’

‘Nobody drinks Prosecco anymore.’

‘Except the plebs?’ Dan suggested.

‘By golly, I think you’re getting it.’

The weeks turned into months. Daniel grew closer and closer to the group. He would join them for meals, cocktails and shopping trips. He quickly learned what to drink, eat and wear. He had a bounce in his step and a confident swagger that matched the rest of his friends. His new lifestyle was funded by his credit card. He tried not to think about his increasing bill. He would pay the minimum amount each month and try and forget about it. After all, could you put a price on the life he was living? Why would anyone let a thing like money stop them from doing anything? If you could have the glitz and glamour of a fantastic social life then why wouldn’t you? There was talk of a few of them going to Bermuda later in the year. Daniel hoped to be invited. The thought of being able to tell people grand tales of ‘when I was in Bermuda’ was just thrilling.

One of his old friends, a lad he’d known since sixth form college, rang him on his mobile. Daniel was surprised by the call. Most of his friends had stopped calling. Thankfully they had taken the hint that he had moved on to better things. His old friend, Scott, managed to talk Daniel into meeting up for a drink.

And so, the following evening he went to the Church Inn. This tiny little boozer had been his local at one point. He’d spent many an hour in there getting nicely plastered. Now though, the pub didn’t seem to have the same appeal. He ordered a pint of ale, supposing the wine selection would be poor. He went to find a seat. He glanced around the place as he waited for Scott to arrive. The dated wooded décor looked like it hadn’t been changed since the Beatles split up. There were a few ghastly looking stains on the faded carpet. The clientele were not the classiest either. Some of them actually had their food shopping in carrier bags beside them. What on earth was he doing here? He spotted a woman with a Ted Hughes handbag. Must be a fake, he thought. If you could afford a genuine Hughes bag you could afford to drink in somewhere better than this dive.

Scott took the seat facing. He plonked his pint down.

‘Alright Dan. How’s it going?

‘Oh hi, Scott. Yeah, I’m good thanks.’

Scott took a long swig of his pint and sighed with satisfaction. As they made small talk Daniel squirmed in his seat. He just didn’t feel comfortable. Considering the pub had once been his favourite haunt he was surprised that he now found it scruffy and smaller somehow. Why couldn’t they go somewhere with a bit of atmosphere, a nice ambiance? Scott seemed to be in his element. Daniel envied his old pal and his basic uncultured perspective. His discomfort at his surroundings must have shown as Scott gave his friend a concerned look.

‘You okay, mate?’

‘Yes, I think this pint is off though.’

‘Mine is okay.’

‘This tastes like vinegar.’ he lied. ‘Fancy going somewhere else?’

‘Like where?’

‘There’s a top bar in town. I was in there the other night with some friends.’

‘A bar? We drink in pubs not bars. We leave the bars for the poncy nobbers. You’ll be telling me you were drinking cocktails next.’

Daniel changed the subject and asked if he’d been away on holidays. Scott went into graphic details about the lads’ holiday to Ibiza he’d been on a few weeks earlier.

A short time later Daniel said he didn’t feel well. Must be the bad pint, he said. Best be getting off home.

‘No worries. We’ll have to do this again soon.’ Scott replied.

Daniel agreed with the enthusiasm he could muster.

Scott headed for the bus stop. Daniel flagged down a taxi. He told the driver to take him into town. He needed a drink, a proper drink.

Half an hour later he was in a Cocktail bar in Spinningfields sipping a drink called Chris’s Bad Joke.

One evening Daniel got a call from Christian. He sounded distraught.

‘Christian, what is it?’

‘It’s Beverley. She’s dead.’

‘What? But how?’

‘She killed herself. Jumped off the motorway bridge.’

Daniel was stunned. She was one of the key members of the group.

‘But why would she? It makes no sense.’

‘Money troubles, apparently. We all have money problems but she just couldn’t handle the stress.’

‘I need a drink.’

The remaining members of the group met in the usual cocktail bar. They ordered cocktails with expensive chasers. They raised a toast to their friend. Daniel noticed the others looked upset but not particularly surprised.

‘I still don’t understand why she would do it.’ he said.

‘She was depressed.’

‘Aren’t we all?’

‘Is anyone actually happy really?’

‘We’ve all thought about it.’

The group nodded and murmured in agreement.

Daniel was reeling. He was shocked. How could this exciting group of glamorous people be no happier than anyone else?

‘There is so much pressure these days.’

‘I agree. I only got the iPhone 7 the other week. I had to really do some juggling to stretch to it.’

‘Life is not easy.’

‘Another glass of Sauvignon blanc, anyone?’

‘It’s so hard to keep on top of things. Yes, make it a bottle.’

In the days before the funeral Daniel’s mind went over and over things. Beverley’s suicide had been a shock but so had the massive revelation that the rest of the group seemed almost as miserable as she had been. It felt like he was seeing the group as they really were for the very first time. And he wasn’t quite sure he liked what he saw.

The funeral wake took place at a small working men’s club in Salford. Daniel had just about kept it together through the church service. Most of the close family members had been sobbing their hearts out.

He went to the bar and ordered a bottle of beer. He took a long gulp of the cold lager. He sighed. He spotted Christian and the others sitting at a long table by the back wall. He took a seat. Amanda waved a hand dramatically.

‘You should see what passes for a buffet in these here parts.’

‘Seriously,’ added Susannah, ‘I’m sure I saw pork pies and sausage rolls.’

‘Straight from that cheapo frozen supermarket no doubt. Whatever next?’

Daniel sat in stunned silence as Christian joined in.

‘Promise me, what I die, make it Selfridges canapés.’

‘And I spotted a box of wine behind the bar.’

‘A box of wine, like its bloody orange juice.’

Daniel slammed his beer bottle down.

‘Have you actually heard yourselves?’

‘Excuse me?’ said Catherine.

‘Beverley’s family are in pieces over there and you lot are moaning about the pork pies. It’s disgraceful.’

‘Steady on.’ said Christian.

‘It has to be said. You are unbelievable.’

‘Hey,’ Philip said. ‘don’t do this. Not at a funeral.’

‘Very poor taste.’ said Michael.

‘Poor taste? You’ve just been complaining about the quality of the wine. Are you really so wrapped up with your lifestyles that you can’t see what really matters?’

‘Just because we appreciate the finer things. Is that such a crime?’

‘You look down your noses at the rest of the world. And you’ve already admitted none of you are happy.’

The group stared at him in confusion.

‘He doesn’t mean it.’ Christian said. ‘He’s just upset. Daniel, you can make up for it by getting the cocktails in at Fois bar later.’

Dan stared at them all. Was he speaking a different language? Were these people so obsessed with what they should be seen wearing, where they should be drinking, and sneering at those they deemed beneath them, that they could not see what he was getting at? Surely life was about doing what made you happy. If he was happy dining in his local chain pub and wearing supermarket clothes then what was the problem? He would certainly be happier than these deluded idiots obsessed with designer brands and competing with each other on holiday destinations.

He got to his feet.

‘Daniel. Where are you going?’

‘My name is Dan. And I’m going for a pint of real ale in a cracking little pub.’


© Copyright 2017 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Comments

More Other Short Stories

Booksie 2017-2018 Short Story Contest

Booksie Popular Content

Other Content by CTPlatt

The Interview

Poem / Poetry

royal blood

Short Story / Horror

Sunday Night

Poem / Poetry

Popular Tags