Danny Breslin

How it is…

Popeye’s Corner

Popeye couldn’t remember when he had become invisible. He remembered a time when he wasn’t, but the moment between being visible and becoming invisible was lost to him.

Perhaps it had been a gradual process: the colour slowing fading from him like an old photograph until he became transparent; his particles no longer wishing to stay solid turned him into a fine mist before disappearing altogether. Perhaps he had merely gone out as if a switch had been flicked – there one second and gone the next. He looked down, confused as to how an invisible man still cast a shadow.

Popeye had stood on this corner every day for more days than he could count. He had nowhere else to go. He had a home just up the way a little, a place where he slept, but he couldn’t bear to be in there during the day. Not without Irene.

Popeye was little more than a boy when he met Irene. He was at a dance in the town with his mates, the weekend before he shipped out. Excited at the adventures that lay ahead overseas, yet the moment he saw her across the room he knew he no longer wanted to go.

He’d never been scared of anything in his life before, but walking up to her that night and asking her to dance was the bravest thing he had ever done, or would ever do. They danced together all night until the band stopped playing. He walked her home, taking as small a step as he could, as they talked of everything they could think of, holding hands, happy. When they reached her door she stood on tiptoes and planted a little peck on his cheek and made him promise he’d come home safe.

Months of humping his rifle and pack in a stinking sweaty jungle, never knowing if they were waiting behind the next tree to ambush him, and every day all he could think of was getting home to Irene. Then one day he walked proudly back up her street in his uniform, topped off with his shiny medal, and claimed his prize. They married within a month and she gave him a precious daughter within a year.

He worked at the mill every day then came home to his wife and child a happy man. Eventually Elizabeth grew up and married to have a family of her own. He and Irene had the house to themselves and made plans for his retirement. They would travel the whole world.

It was the day he finished his very last shift and walked in the house newly retired when Irene first complained of feeling ill. They didn’t get to fulfil all those dreams because it didn’t take long for the cancer to see to her. He remembered clearly the day after the funeral, he left the house at first light and went and stood on the corner where his street met the main road. He didn’t return home until the sun went down. Without his Irene there was nothing there for him; the house was empty, dead. He stood on the corner and watched the world go by.

At first the locals stopped to talk to him. After a while it was reduced to nods and waves. Another generation and nobody knew him at all. People hurried by, the only recognition he got was from children who teased him because he vaguely resembled a cartoon character who like him had one eye larger than the other, smoked a pipe and shaved his head as he had been doing for years since his hair went thin on top. Somehow the name stuck and everyone started referring to him as Popeye. That was until he became invisible altogether.

Nobody spoke to him anymore; he hadn’t spoken to his daughter Elizabeth for a good while. The only reason he knew she was even alive was because she let herself in once a week to leave groceries for him and pick up the money he leaves for her. Popeye wasn’t even sure how old his grandchildren were by now.

The world kept turning and the seasons kept changing but one thing remained constant, Popeye would be stood on the corner. One day some local teenagers noticed he was there, how they could see him he didn’t know. They encircled him, taunting him, using language so foul that if their parents had anything about them they’d wash their mouths out with soap!

Popeye stood there, he did nothing. They’d get bored eventually and move along, leave an old man alone. A tear sprang up in his large eye and he tried to blink it back but they’d seen it. The taunting went to a new level:

“Look he’s crying!”

“Ahh, poor old bastard, want the nasty lads to leave you alone?”

“I think that might be advisable boys…” The voice behind them made them stop and spin around. The man behind them was in his late thirties at a guess, Popeye knew his dad and his granddad. Had seen him grow up from a scruffy little urchin but he’d never spoke to him. That was probably because Popeye was invisible.

The youngsters struggled to find courage amongst themselves; this was a live one, a much different prospect to a crazy old man. One of them stepped forward “Or what?”

He was grabbed by the lapels and dragged up onto his toes. “Or else I’ll give you the hiding of your life kid. This is Popeye’s corner and you’re not welcome on it. ”

The lad paled as he was let go, one last shout of bravado but they were already retreating: “I’ll have my dad on you.”

Popeye’s rescuer laughed, “I know your old man and he knows where to find me, I doubt he’ll turn up though.” He turned then to Popeye: “You need anything Popeye you know where to find me, yeah?” Then he walked away.

Dusk was gathering and it was time to head home. As he walked up his street Popeye smiled to himself for the first time in…who knows how long? He thought maybe he’d give Elizabeth a call.

At last, he was visible again.

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February 28, 2014 - Posted by | Short Stories | , ,

16 Comments »

  1. Great story Danny. You have a real talent and understanding of the human condition. It shines out here.

    Comment by Christopher Meade | February 28, 2014 | Reply

  2. Thanks mate. It came to me this morning when I was thinking about food. I was remembering a chip shop near where I used to live and two doors up on the corner this mad old bloke used to stand there every day. I always wondered what his story was so I made it up for him.

    Comment by Danny Breslin | February 28, 2014 | Reply

  3. Nice story. I felt a bit happy at the end.

    Comment by renxkyoko | February 28, 2014 | Reply

    • Thanks. I got a bit choked up writing about his wife, but that’s our secret. Promise you won’t tell?

      Comment by Danny Breslin | February 28, 2014 | Reply

  4. Great micro-story.

    Comment by john zande | February 28, 2014 | Reply

  5. Seems pretty much like life to me, Danny. I enjoyed it

    Comment by restlessjo | February 28, 2014 | Reply

  6. Beautiful and moving story, Danny! 🙂

    Comment by marina kanavaki | March 1, 2014 | Reply

  7. Captivating story Danny – kept me engaged from beginning to end.

    Comment by Alison and Don | March 1, 2014 | Reply

  8. One of those stories that lingers in the reader’s mind. Thanks.

    Comment by richardmax22 | March 1, 2014 | Reply

  9. Love this! Sweet and heartbreaking at once.

    Comment by Audrey | March 3, 2014 | Reply


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