The Gas Man Cometh – A Short story by Ross Keen
Louder Than War contributor Ross Keen has just released his first e-book, Plateau, the synopsis of which is as follows:
The Synopsis is: Martin Martin, mid-life and mid-love, has never taken a chance in his life. Now he finds himself an interview away from the promotion that would return purpose to his world. But will he ever make it to the interview?
Plateau combines the surrealist humour of Peter Cook and Armando Iannucci, the horror of modern monotony favoured by JG Ballard and the unexpected treachery of Roald Dahl; balanced with a little of the Author’s own niche-pastiche.
To give you an idea of Ross’s writing he’s given us an exclusive on a short story of his which you can read below…
The Gas Man Cometh
Martin Martin had run out of fantasy. And now, as he sat alone watching John Barrowman sing to a sick boy, he remembered how exciting the future used to be.
Mid life and mid love he accepted his fate. Yet he took solace from knowing the world too was in a rut.
Life was a series of events shuffled in the same order – Martin Martin knew exactly what was going on in the world right at that moment.
Tulisa Constopolas just forgot she ought to never Google herself, the number 51 bus is out of service, Peter Stringfellow has just discovered Jeggins, someone is knocking at Martin Martin’s Front Door, a Cat’s gone missing in Prestatyn, and Lord Lucan just died.
The door knock knocked again, this time rousing him from this morose state.
It had finally come to this. An evening’s entertainment provided by an unexpected caller. It was, of course, all ITV’s fault. They should never have axed The Bill. It had so much to give.
Now, the happiest that Martin Martin could possibly hope to be on a Tuesday evening, was, when sitting in the far corner of his moulding settee, near the alcove, and looking out of the window he would see somebody of exactly 5 foot 6 walk past so that, hilariously, it looks like they were simply a floating head and nothing more. Of course this oddity relied on Martin Martin slumping but he hadn’t really felt the need to sit properly for well over a year now.
A shapeless dark character awaited behind the luckily frosted window pane (lucky because not only did it buy me the author time to decide exactly who may be calling but also because Mrs Spriggot, an elderly neighbour, had a penchant for collecting her post in the nude).
Martin Martin opened the door. He closed it. He had gone to the back door by mistake. The front door knock knock knocked again as he approached it.
It could have been anyone at all. Yes, even him. But, at this still relatively early hour of eighteen, it was in fact the Gas Man.
(This could be classed as an anti-climax but, and think about it now, when was the last time the Gas Man visited Martin Martin? I’m sure it was before Britain became decimalised. Also there was a subtle clue in the Title of the Story. Yes it is a Story. It’s predominantly made up. I agree, yes, it is a shame that Peter Stringfellow hasn’t really discovered Jeggins. They are made for each other…)
‘I’ve come to read your meter’ said the Gas Man in a surprisingly soft voice.
Martin Martin remained unmoved.
‘*cough*’ coughed the Gas Man.
Martin Martin moved. The Gas Man bounced inside and the door was closed carefully behind him.
He was a slight man, perhaps 40 to 45 in age and an 8 with a thick sock in shoe size. With his gentle eyes and glowing jowls he didn’t necessarily look like a Gas Man. Mind you, thought Martin Martin, you take any job you can get these days (he himself was an Electric Fan by day).
‘I’ve come to read your meter’ said the Gas Man in an unsurprisingly soft voice.
Martin Martin pointed under the stairs. The Gas Man dutifully followed and, as is often the way with the Gas Man, Martin Martin was soon looking at his Bum.
But (mild pun intended), before he could look away, the Bum spoke.
‘Nice place you’ve got here’ said the Bum, sounding remarkably like the Gas Man.
‘Yeah… Nice meter too’ it continued ‘’58 original I’d wager’.
Martin Martin thought this quaint as the Bum had his back to the meter yet he thought it impolite to show up his guest in front of his new friend the Gas Man.
‘Course soon we won’t have Gas anymore…’
Oh dear. Another preacher of doom. The age of ‘Global Warming’ – aside from the deadly Athlete’s Foot outbreak after London 2012 – had so far seemed overhyped.
‘The end is nigh’ sighed the Bum.
And then there was silence for roughly 6.23 seconds.
‘What we really need, is a new Kingdom on Earth.’
Martin Martin smiled. He thinks he would like that. His mind wanders to a New England. A world where the Christians and the Muslims, the Blacks and the Racists, all live and watch The Bill in harmony. A world where he was king and Lucy was his.
(You and I might at this point imagine a world where Peter Stringfellow falls for Jeggins but remember in Martin Martin’s world this already happened just a few moments ago…)
He blinked – just a couple of times – and his eyes soon realised the reality of the situation.
The talking Bum had scarpered and in his place stood the Gas Man. He stared blankly.
The Gas Man held out his hand and gestured for him to take the paper.
Martin Martin took the paper.
He unfurled it and instantly fell to his knees. He screamed to a sigh as the flyer fell to the floor, leaving just 4 words visible.
‘JEHOVA’S WITNESSES RULE, OK?’.
The Gas Man, now in an ill fitting suit and wacky tie, laughed victoriously.
‘Har Har Har’ he said, as he reached into his shabby pocket and freed his phone.
The Bum had his back as he dialled the three numbers.
‘Ground Control? The Messiah has landed…’
By Ross Keen.
If you’d like more information about Ross’s ebook use the Amazon widget above.