THE CAMBRIDGE ARMS • by Kevlin Henney

I find myself in need of a decision. Sunshine, cloudless sky, gentle breeze, late afternoon… and I seem to be standing outside the Cambridge Arms. It’s not a hard decision. Let’s call it early evening.

“What can I get you?”

Bitter would be my usual, but the association of warm sun and something amber and colder is difficult to shake off. It’s a classic bar, but lifted out of the usual woody darkness by tall windows framing sunlit trees. Very picture book. Or advert.

“A Grolsch, please.”

Just as imagined, the pouring of the pint, glistening and bubbling, satisfies expectation, an association honed by rose-tinted memories, cultural conditioning and no small amount of advertising.

Sarah says I suffer from too much imagination — a polite way of drawing attention to her patience. It’s not just that I over-react to films. Yes, I avoid horror movies if I want a good night’s sleep — if we want a good night’s sleep. Sarah doesn’t appreciate being woken in the real world by me calling out from a dream.

It’s an interesting thought I only seem to ponder when I wake but, when I dream, am I still colour-blind? I certainly dream in colour, but I never notice whether I struggle to distinguish red and green in my dreams. I guess, by definition, the not noticing is itself a kind of blind-spot, isn’t it?

No, it’s not so much the nightmares as the daydreaming, non-sequiturs and tangents that Sarah says I — and she — suffer from. I like to think it makes conversation less predictable and keeps our relationship fresh. I think she likes that. I think.

“Lost between random and surreal. Sarah, you really pick them.” Her sister’s boyfriend-critique, delivered within earshot and a wine glass of first meeting me.

“I’m right here,” I’d said, returning from the kitchen with more wine. Her sister had pulled a smile before starting on her next glass and judgement.

The landlord seems distracted as he finishes pouring. Turning, I can see why. We exchange money, pint and glances. The target of his — now our — distraction is a blonde. She’s overdressed and waiting, but for someone, not a drink.

My drink. The first sip is just as imagined. Pleasingly wet, satisfyingly cold.

Her red dress is almost theatrical, a little too movie star for the bar and the time of day. She’s gazing into the middle distance, as if something might happen, but might not.

I notice the landlord. His eyes gesture, behind me.

“Andy, what are you doing?”

Ah. Sarah.

“Enjoying a pint?”

“Andy, I was trying to give you directions to the camera shop so you wouldn’t get lost and wonder off.”

“Yes, you said, ‘Imagine you’re outside the Cambridge Arms’… so I did… fancy a pint?”

Kevlin Henney writes shorts and flashes and drabbles of fiction and articles and books on software development. His fiction has appeared online and on tree with Litro, New Scientist, Word Gumbo, Fiction365, Dr. Hurley’s Snake-oil Cure, The Fabulist and, and has been included in the Jawbreakers and Kissing Frankenstein & Other Stories anthologies. He lives in Bristol, UK.

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Every Day Fiction

  • Rob

    – This was an interesting bit of writing. I liked the character who is obviously able to drift from reality on command. Color deficiency only rears its ugly head when prompted by outside sources. Unless someone prompts us that we’ve chosen the wrong color, we don’t know because we don’t see the world in the same colors everyone else does. It certainly is a blind spot.
    – However, that begs the question, if he’s colorblind, how does he see the red dress? I enjoyed that he’s so deep into his imagination that he’s actually interrupted by a fictional character rather than the voice of his girl. (That’s being really deep into it.)
    – Umm, did she mean ‘*wander* off?’ or is there a UK colloquialism I’m not familiar with?

  • Lilias

    1. Rob – no, it’s not a UK colloquialism, it’s an increasingly common error. ‘Wonder’ instead of ‘wander’; alongside ‘then’ instead of ‘than’ and ‘would of’ instead of ‘would have’ and the ubiquitous greengrocer’s (or possibly greengrocers’) apostrophe (tomato’s instead of tomatoes etc) – all basic errors which seem to be creeping into written English with depressing regularity.

    Aside from that I enjoyed the piece on the whole, but I agree with Rob, if the protagonist is colour blind how did he know the woman’s dresss was red? That and the use of ‘wonder’ instead of ‘wander’ brings it down to 3 stars for me.

  • Glad you enjoyed the story! A couple of clarifications:

    – The use of ‘wonder’ rather than ‘wander’ is intentional and a play on language. Sarah is making a point about Andy’s daydreaming tendencies. (Early drafts used ‘wander’ but I realised that it was too good an opportunity to miss.)

    – Andy raises in-dream colour blindness as a question, as he is not certain whether or not he’s colour blind in dreams. His certainty of the dress’s redness both answers the question and indicates that he’s in a dream. The fact that he’s unaware of his own certainty reinforces the point about such (un)awareness being a blindspot.

    I hope that clarifies things and removes your doubts!

  • A nice, well-written, dreamy story.

    I liked the wonder/wander wordplay. I immediately thought, ‘ha, that’s certainly what he’s doing.’ Though it is risky to use this sort of thing when it is also a common usage error. Bravo for going for it, though!

  • JenM

    Heh heh, it’s an old joke but I really liked the story you used to expand on it.

  • Gretchen Bassier

    Nice story – I liked the day-dreamy MC, and I suspected the use of “wonder” was just the author being playful (thanks for confirming!).

  • dreamy , and difficult at first to appreciate that it was a daydream.

    as regarding colours, their perception is a sum total of both what our eyes tell our brain and what we choose to tell ourselves to see. If you are red-green colour blind, then if I tell you that what you perceive as a very bright brown is actually a bright red, then you might remember it and see it as such next time.

  • A bit too dreamy for me, I’m afraid.

  • Tony Press

    Enjoyed it entirely, though a little too close to home at times!

  • Curiously enough, Lilias, “tomato’s instead of tomatoes” is technically correct after all, though highly misleading. By sheer accident, the person writing it has stumbled on something that is valid after all: the apostrophe actually represents a missing letter or letters – and, in tomatoes, there is actually a letter that has gone missing in tomato’s. It’s just that an apostrophe doesn’t get there from the faulty idea that you use apostrophes to form plurals.

  • ganymeder

    So I’m guessing he’s NOT a vampire? 🙂

    The story held my interest, though it did tend to wander as much as his attention, which I gather is the point. Nice!

  • ganymeder

    So I’m guessing he’s NOT a vampire? 🙂

    The story held my interest, though it did tend to wander as much as his attention, which I gather is the point. Nice!