A Clean Slate

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

When Paul loses his temper at work and is sacked he just wishes he could turn the clock back. Then he meets a strange man who just might be able to help.

Paul Hewson marched across the carpark. He was fuming, angry and upset. Well, this particular Tuesday hadn’t gone exactly as planned. After a meeting had gotten heated he had blown his top and practically threatened his manager. He had been dismissed with immediate effect. He had told them what they could do with their job and cleared his desk.

An hour later still in his shirt and tie he leaned on the bar of the nearest pub. He shook his head. Took a gulp of cold beer. Tears stung his eyes. He had always had a short fuse. And the company had been piling on the work. He’d had ten years of being taken for granted and dumped on by the company. In the end there just hadn’t been enough hours in the day. But would they listen? What do you reckon? But what he had meant as an illustration of his frustration had come out sounding intimidating.

Regret and misery tugged at him. He finished his pint. Ordered another. He couldn’t believe he’d got himself sacked. He had only meant to explain how much pressure he was under. If he could go back he would state his case calmly and discuss the issue. And he would still have a job. He sighed.

A man approached the bar. He was in his forties and wore a smart black suit and a bowler hat. A bowler hat of all things. He reminded Paul of John Cleese in a Monty Python sketch. Fair play, he thought, took guts to dress like that. And to walk into a bar in Salford in that get up. The man took the stool beside Paul. He looked at him, waved the barman over. The man nodded to Paul and ordered two large whiskies. Before Paul could ask what he was doing the man had taken his hat off and placed it on the bar.

‘You look like you may need a drop of the good stuff.’

‘You could say that. Cheers for the drink.’

Paul sipped the whiskey and explained to the man that he had lost his temper at work.

‘I know everyone says it but if I could just turn the clock back.’

‘I might be able to help.’ the man replied.

Paul said nothing, just stared at him.

‘I can make you go back to this morning. You can then start again.’

‘How?’

He pulled a small tube of tablets from his suit jacket.

‘Take one of these pills and you will wake up this morning. It’s like pressing a reset button.’

‘Get lost.’

‘What have you got to lose? Give me ten pounds, pop one of these and see what happens. Or you could just spend that money getting drunk. It’s upto you.’

Paul thought it over. It had been such a strange day. Might as well just go with it. He did not believe a work of it but what the hell. He handed over a ten pound note. The man slipped him the tiny pill.

‘Will I remember any of this?’

‘No, you get a completely clean slate.’

As the man got to his feet and put his bowler hat back on Paul swallowed the pill. Washed it down with the whiskey. Everything went blurry, like the world was underwater.

 

Paul woke in his bedroom. He checked the time on his mobile phone. Six forty five Tuesday morning. He showered. As he dressed for work he was undecided if he could face the office today. He knotted his tie. In his head he could almost see the pile of work mounting up on his desk. No, he said aloud. Not today. He tugged his tie loose. Shook his head. He dialled his office. Got put through to his manager. He felt like saying he wasn’t coming in because he just couldn’t face it. But instead he made up something about having a twenty four hour bug. His manager mumbled right okay and hung up. Paul swore as he placed the receiver back.

He changed into jeans and a Beatles t-shirt. As he headed downstairs he told the world they could all get stuffed. He felt better about things as he munched on tea and toast watching BBC Breakfast news. The news report told him what was happening in the world this Tuesday morning. He would have loved them to say and in local news Paul Hewson can’t be bothered with work so has thrown a sickie. He finished his breakfast.

By just after ten o’clock he was on the bus into town. He smiled to himself. A day mooching round the city centre would be just the ticket. And hopefully when he returned to work tomorrow he would had a different mindset. He stared out the window as Salford rolled past. He had not bunked off like this since his schooldays. It felt good. Felt like his own little rebellion.

 

He spent the next few hours strolling round the city. He felt like a tourist. He took it all in as though for the first time. He checked out the bookshops and rare record stores. The afternoon started with a pint of beer. The lager really hit the spot. He smiled to nobody in particular. There could be a few more pints as the day went on.

He noticed a woman further down the bar. She was pretty and didn’t seem to be following the modern trend of being caked in make up. Paul watched her take a table on her own. She was dressed in dark trousers and white blouse. He guessed she worked in the city and was on he lunch break.

A voice in his head whispered go on over. Could he? Should he? He was never one for chatting women up. He just never knew what to say. When he saw his friends casually chatting up the ladies he wondered just what their secret was. The voice in his head told him that he would normally be doing reports at his desk right now. He really had nothing to lose. He took a swig of beer. He decided to go for it.

‘Excuse me. Can I join you?’

The woman looked at him with kind eyes. She glanced at his Beatles t-shirt. She smiled.

‘What’s your favourite Beatles album?’ she asked.

‘Abbey Road. What’s yours?’

‘Beatles for Sale. But I’ll let you off.’ She waved for him to sit. ‘If you’d have said Sergeant Pepper I’d have told you to do one.’

‘You think it’s a bit over-rated?’

‘A bit?’ she laughed.

‘Are you on your lunch break?’

‘Yeah. Had to get out of the office for an hour.’

‘I’ll let you into a secret. I’ve thrown a sickie. Told my boss I’ve got a bug.’

‘Proper Ferris Beuller aren’t you? I felt like doing that myself. My car wouldn’t start this morning. Had to get the breakdown fellers out.’

They chatted for the next hour.

‘I finish at four thirty. Will you still be in town?’

‘Defo.’

‘I’ll meet you back here then.’

‘What’s your name?’

‘Julia.’

‘I’m Paul.’

She gave him a cheeky wink as she left. Paul ordered another pint and contemplated his good fortune. By rights he should be having his morale and self esteem slowly chipped away at the office. Instead he was having a few beers while waiting for a woman he’d chatted up to finish work. He raised a silent toast.

While he waited for Julia he checked out the revamped Central Library on St Peter’s Square. They had done a great job of re-inventing the place. He even watched video footage of Salford going from the turn of the twentieth century to the nineteen fifties.

He went back to the pub. He saw Julia adjusting her hair. Get in, he thought, fixing her hair to meet me, had to be a good sign.

‘Hello again.’ he said.

‘Hiya.’ She gave him a peck on the cheek.

 

They got a round of drinks in and found a booth at the back of the pub. The conversation flowed easily. They continued discussing the Beatles. They moved onto films. They found they liked the same genre of film. Paul could not believe his luck. They really hit it off. He liked her and got the feeling she felt the same.

The afternoon turned to evening. The couple made their way along Deansgate stopping at numerous pubs along the way. Julia took hold of his hand as they walked. Paul gave it a squeeze. Over a pint in the Rising Sun Julia gave him a nudge.

‘If you were getting married, hypothetically of course, would it be church, registry office or somewhere abroad?’

‘Erm, well, I’m sure this is impossible to believe but I’ve not exactly been inundated with applicants. So I’ve never really given it much thought.’

‘Okay. Next question. Music at the wedding reception?’

‘Anything from the sixties to the nineties. But just the good stuff. None of the crap. No Englebert Humperdink.’

‘Or Simply Red.’

‘Agreed.’

They chinked glasses.

 

As midnight approached they were sipping cocktails from fancy glasses in a bar on Deansgate Locks. Paul thanked his luck once again that he had found someone he had so much in common with. Who knew, he thought, maybe they would end up getting married. They raised a toast. Julia opened her palm. In her hand was two small pills.

‘What are they?’

‘That’s the fun part. I’m not sure. Could be ecstasy, could be Viagra. Dunno. Shall we gamble?’ she smiled.

Paul nodded, why not?

As they swallowed the pills Paul asked where she had got them.

‘That’s another strange story. My friend claims a man in a bowler hat sold them to her. She didn’t have the bottle to take them.’

Everything  went blurry as though the world was under water.

 

Tuesday morning. Paul woke. After showering he dressed and debated if he would face the office. He was undecided if he should go in or phone in sick. Across the city Julia turned the key in her car’s ignition. Wouldn’t start.


Submitted: June 10, 2014

© Copyright 2021 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Chris Green

This is a really well told story with good plot development, interest throughout and a great twist. Nice easy writing style too. I realy enjoyed it.
Regards
Chris

Tue, June 10th, 2014 12:04pm

Author
Reply

As always thanks for your comments. Really appreciate the feedback. Cheers Chris

Tue, June 10th, 2014 9:58am

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