The Lesser Gatsby


“Jay,” his mother would say, “We’ve named you, you gotta live up to it.”

His dad would roll him a spliff or two out his very own stash but Jay never did light up. And if you asked him why, he probably wouldn’t be able to tell you.

His teachers would say, “That young Gatsby, shy beyond belief.”

When he grew up and lived in a small suite of rooms his parents rented for him, he would spend most evenings watching television and surrounded by odds and ends from the kitchen – measuring spoons, his frying pans, the can opener; his particular favourite was his egg beater because, as he would have said had he ever been asked, it’s a really non-judgemental piece of equipment and beautifully designed.

By day Jay worked in a bookshop – it’s what the career adviser at school suggested – stacking books and occasionally behind the till if they were short-staffed and someone needed to make a trip to the lavatory. He enjoyed that with its sense of responsibility and was able to look people in the eye and make small talk and maybe even be cool although he wasn’t that sure of what being cool felt like. Sometimes one of his colleagues would give him an unwanted sandwich which he would then eat back in the storeroom amongst the film-wrapped pallets of books head office had sent.

The shop sold more cookery books than any other shop in the chain.

Every now and then Jay’s life would light up when he won something on the lottery – never big stuff, but always welcome. And those times when he collected his winnings felt like the only time when anyone would smile at him and congratulate saying things like, “Well done,” “You done good,” or “You’re a smart cookie.”

And so he kept on buying the tickets neither realizing nor caring that his chances of winning a big one were very many millions to one.

And possibly because he never did fret over that statistic and possibly because someone somewhere had had enough of sticking pins into a clay doll modeled in his likeness, one rainy December Saturday his numbers came in and he became very rich. Very rich indeed.

He hired a life coach, a fitness instructor, and invested in two years of talking therapy with a gorgeous redhead called Verity and transformed himself into the confident creature we see featured so often in the glossy gossip magazines.

He’s changed his name of course, and the only link with his past is the egg beater hanging next to the wedding pictures.

The motto on his newly commissioned coat of arms reads, “custodi redemptio”.

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