Crusaders by Richard T. Kelly

Book: Crusaders by Richard T. Kelly Read Free Book Online
Authors: Richard T. Kelly
chattering hubbub of mercantile activity, the world and his wife and kids streaming in and out of Next, Primark, HMV, Dixons, Marks and Spencer – larking youths, overweight couples, pushchairs and wheelchairs, pensioners lugging bags with chrome handles. All had come to the high-street bazaar, heralded by synthetic pop music drifting from every doorway. It seemed almost a form of recreation, no purchase necessary. Gore was not himself enticed, not by any glaring window. So why were so many out here, in the midst of a working day, picking up stuff just to put it down again? By the time he reached Blackett Street he was musing over themes and keywords for a sermon. ‘Adrift’, ‘rudderless’, ‘beguiled’. ‘Zombies’ was probably too rude. ‘Commodity fetishism’ too Marxian. What, though, was the true meaning of ‘popular’? Might there be anything in the etymology he could make instructive use of?
    Then he paused and looked all about him, from the Body Shop to Berry’s the Jeweller and Gregg’s the Baker. And he knew that if he could draw a fraction of such a crowd on a Sunday then he would count himself a lucky fool. Would any of these people count it an attractive proposition to sit and listen to him for an hour or more? To sit and be with each other, quietly and thoughtfully , without visible gain? To ask the question was to answer it.
    He had reached the broad open square of the Monument. Earl Grey stood serenely on his Doric plinth, a small bird atop his Portland stone head, two hundred feet above the afternoon trade. Citizens clustered at the base, resting their feet, some unwrapping takeaway sandwiches. Gore was headed homeward, down the steep wind of Grey Street, past facades of fine stone, Athenian detail and symmetry, enduringly handsome despite the wear and tear and general distress of the years and the rain and the pigeons.
    As he neared the entrance of the Theatre Royal he made out that directly before its stately portico of Corinthian columns a crowd of bodies were milling – clearly composed of members of the pressas much as onlookers, for the crowd made a crescent that bore all the hallmarks of a photo opportunity, if not a car crash.
    He inveigled himself into the back of the throng. All attention was facing forward, its unlikely object a portly man in a grey suit, his bootlace hair slicked over his scalp, a sheet of paper clutched in one hand that quivered as if in want of a drink. Beside him, a similarly nervy, somewhat androgynous young woman in a shapeless blue smock. Beside her – indeed towering over her, tucked into the base of a column – was an extraordinary oddity: a square-sided monolith, seemingly constructed of white Perspex, perhaps ten feet tall and five feet wide with a doorway cut into one side, immaculately blank and madly incongruous.
    ‘What’s going on?’ Gore whispered to a man adjacent who toyed with the levers and triggers of a Nikon camera and flash.
    ‘Better listen,’ came the shrugged response.
    ‘Well now, as you may know, I’m Bob Muir –’
    A ripple of presumably sardonic cheers. Mr Muir’s scalp flushed.
    ‘Aye, aye, and I just want to say – briefly now, you’ll be glad to know – I want to say a few words about why we’re here, on behalf of the council.’
    ‘Sweating like a rapist,’ Gore heard the photographer mutter.
    ‘So, as you see, we’re here outside our marvellous theatre that we’ve given a bit help to in the past. And this street, you might know, is known all over, really, by all the knowledgeable people, for the fine architecture of Grainger and Dobson, which I’m told they call “Tyneside Classical”. Brilliant, eh?’ Muir cast a more hopeful eye about the gathering. ‘And, really, we’re in one of the best spots in the city right here, a conservation area, all your listed buildings and whatnot. Now, we know, of course, these great streets of ours have seen their better days. But it’s a big hope for us on the council

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