Lancashire Times
Weekend Edition
Paul Spalding-Mulcock
Features Writer
7:03 PM 8th February 2022

Reconciliation - A Welcome To Funland Story

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Stepping into the arcade was like walking into an audible kaleidoscope, puke-bright colours pumping their neon mayhem into my consciousness with unwanted intimacy. Snatches of jarringly jaunty musical refrains fought the air for dominance, their pertinacious adversaries took the form of in-game explosions and bursts of artillery fire. Over-revved, roaring car engines, the screech of wheels skidding on smooth asphalt crudely mingled with the dull thump of a whack-a-mole hammer in pursuit of its ever evasive prey. Change machines disgorged their cargo, the low denomination coins dropping like vomit into steel trays as asinine pop lyrics washed themselves over the atonal melee.

I had seen her enter moments before, Charlie in tow. Tracking her down to the filthy delights of this off- season hellhole had been easy. I knew she’d return to the fons et origo of it all. Lucy’s minatory words reverberated within my mind, bouncing off the walls of inner-denial I had constructed to spare me the disappointment.

Lucy had always had a mangled sympatico with Kelly. They understood one another, grudgingly arriving at a truce, however polarised their differences. Lucy had gained Kelly’s trust, if not her affection. The guidance of an older soul keeping Kelly on the tracks regardless of her distaste for their destination. …until now. As for my relationship with Kelly, I had never felt warmth between us, mutual connection masquerading for care laced with prosaic inevitability.

The prospect of a meaningful reconciliation was indeed remote, yet an attempt, however futile, was both necessary and perhaps even cathartic. I had regretted the way we parted, her squalid bedsit the scene of nothing short of emotional violence and the threat of worse. Her violence had surprised me, my own more so. However sorely provoked, I had never raised a hand to her. Our regular disputes always petered out, animosity smouldering within her and frustration bedding its roots into my own psyche. She had barged past me, discarding all the concern I had to offer with nothing but contempt.

When she did not return to the dingy hovel that evening, I had ransacked the place in search of anything linking her to our shared reality, finding nothing but needles and the detritus of promiscuity bathed in necessity. The cash I had recently gifted her, placing it carefully inside her dressing-gown pocket, had gone. No longer pink or clean, the clammy, semen-stained material stank of cheap perfume and poor hygiene. I found a wadge of unopened condoms in the second pocket, sharing the small space with an opened packet of spearmint chewing gum.

Opening a smeared ill-fitting window, I had closed the heavy front door on the equally rank world outside, the security chain dangling like a hangman’s noose. It danced pendulum-like from side to side, rattling against the reinforced steel of the door.

Eschewing the sticky, slime encrusted leather of the battered sofa for the relative comfort of the floor, I had lain down amongst the discarded TV dinners and empty pizza boxes and fallen asleep. Undisturbed, I left the next morning and headed for the place I knew she’d gravitate to like fetid water circling a plug hole.

This time, her rejection had a sincerity about it not present before. Our antithetical backgrounds and lifestyles no longer able to coexist, despite my need for them to persist in some form of manufactured harmony. She’d become dependent upon something other than me, and had no interest in my dependence upon her and all she gave me.

Pulled back into the garish electronic hardness of now, my eyes furtively searched the innards of the artificially animated room. She’d be in there somewhere, like chip grease on newspaper…inevitable and vaguely satisfying. The prospect of finding her distilled its mixed emotional baggage through my heightened senses.

I did not want an awkward scene, yet the imperative to act had me chained to its weight, unable to resist the pull. I had to try, despite the certain knowledge that I would be viciously rejected. Any respect she had ever shown me had calcified into a scabrous layer of barely concealed loathing. Where once there had been magnetic attraction, visceral repulsion had seeped into Kelly’s heart and would forever guard it like an eagle its eyrie.

I would have to rely on an appeal to our shared history and the impact of her leaving upon my world. I suspected any plea for reconciliation would leave me manoeuvred into the invidious role of uncaring, but practical authority figure. She’d resist any attempt to defuse the situation and re-establish our bond.

Charlie’s messy blonde hair caught my eye as they both disappeared behind a row of chattering slot machines. Just as I began to head towards the squawking discord, two uniformed police officers brushed past me, their radios drowned out by the cacophony within. I retreated to the entrance and briskly covered the two hundred yards to my car. Kelly was not worth the risk. She’d been a productive asset. The drugs she craved would find their way into her possession and I’d make sure they’d take her on a trip to Funland from which there would be no return. Lucy’s sage words came to mind – “No loose ends”.

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