Friday, 13 May 2011

Trespass - Fridayflash

The credit card statement had been folded inside its envelope in such a way as his name and the opening part of each line of his address, including the house number, had been sliced off. They nestled behind the manilla frame cradling the transparent window. Hats off to the postman, or woman, for ensuring delivery. He or she didn't seem to have torn back the manilla in order to unshutter the full window. But he himself did so just then, so as to reveal his full name and address and ensure all was in order. It was indeed his bill.

He removed the statement and could see that it had been folded out of kilter. The edges of the pages didn't sit flush with one another, but formed small terraced strata. He idly wondered whether a machine or a human being was responsible for the folding and enveloping. He looked at the total due for the month, (paid automatically by direct debit so as to avoid incurring interest). That's odd he thought to himself.

For the total was about three times his normal monthly spend. He unfolded the statement and smoothed it flat with his hand. His eye alighted to scan the spending summary. He looked at the amounts and totted them up in his head. The arithmetic was correct. Each category, Entertainment, Household, Food And Drink, Hotels, Motoring, Other Retailers and Cash Advances, were above his carefully budgeted amounts. He never usually had anything but a zero in Hotels and for Motoring, He didn't own a car, nor did he travel anywhere. His carbon footprint was very small, though not from any ideological commitment. He had a sinking feeling. He had been cloned. Stolen. Thieved from. Defrauded.

He marched over to his jacket hanging on the peg on the back of the front door. He fumbled for his wallet from the inside pocket, but the credit card was comfortably nestled there. So the card itself hadn't been stolen, but seemingly his identity had been. He returned to the statement to peruse the detail of the individual transaction lines themselves.

The earliest listed items were recognisably his. His mobile phone account. His weekly trip to the supermarket of a Saturday. His monthly train season ticket. The £2 donation he made to sponsor an animal in the zoo, whose photo lovingly adorned a frame on his bedside table. The renewal of his annual membership to the Ramblers Association, even though he hadn't been on a country walk for some considerable time.

But then from here it all went a bit skew whiff. The first alien entry was for a restaurant and not a cheap one either, unless it was for a medium sized party of diners. He went over to his desk and looked up the restaurant on the internet. It was a seafood restaurant and he never touched seafood. He didn't trust its hygiene, coming from the polluted sea and a seabed rippling with bacteria. And yes, calling up a sample menu he could see that this was indeed a most expensive eaterie.

Though it was hard to be certain, one thing was for sure, it wasn't a single person dining out on their own. But he himself could never imagine sitting alone in a restaurant, which is why the category for dining was always followed by a zero. But not today. He gauged that the meal must have been for two people. He tried to conceive who the two could have been. The most likely was a lothario trying to impress a woman. But could he be so self-possessed as to do this with a forged credit card? He wondered if they'd had oysters.

The next item was petrol. Since the Motoring total had been quite high, he skipped down the list and found several other petrol entries. This man, or woman - no he felt that it was almost certainly a man - evidently drove a lot. He did wonder if the car was for business trips, which might then amend his supposition about the expensive meal. Maybe that was a business entertaining (which was taxable). Dipping into a finger bowl to clean off the shellfish flesh, prior to shaking hands on a deal.

He returned to the petrol stops. Each in a different location. He wrote down the names of the towns and began to plot them on a map he had of the whole country on the wall of his study. Never the same location twice. Perhaps he was a travelling salesman. He was intrigued to know whether the man would double back on any of these places within the next month. What was he saying? He had to nip this in the bud now.

Another item on the list caught his eye. Some establishment called "The Flagstaff", which after a quick mental calculation rated under Other Retailer. This category had been particularly inflated, so he returned to the internet and discovered it was a pole dancing establishment. Whatever one of those was. He delved further and became acquainted with the nature of such a venue. Ah, that explained the cash withdrawal on the same night then. The location of the enterprise also matched to one of the garage towns. As did other garage towns to "Club Wraparound" and "Perpendicular" and "Wet Gravity".

He really should... He looked at the stated credit limit. The total of the bill was two-thirds of the way to the maximum, but he figured that was not too bad a value. Not for the purchasing of vicarious pleasures. the chance to let his own imagination run amok. Maybe tomorrow he would contact the credit card company and ask them to lower the limit to what he was prepared to invest in his new proxy identity. And he would buy some pins for his wall map to keep track of his progress.

He was rather taken with his new self.


Many thanks to ian firth @mashie1964 for info on credit card summary categories

27 comments:

Virginia Moffatt said...

Love this. It built up well and I enjoyed your character's decision to live vicariously...And it makes sense of your twitter request the other day.

Janet Aldrich (TEC4) said...

Fascinating. I can't imagine letting someone steal my identity and spend my money for the vicarious pleasure of it! Neat concept, well handled.

Simon Kearns said...

"The edges of the pages didn't sit flush with one another, but formed small terraced strata."

Delightful. And I don't think I've ever seen "skew whiff" written.

This is a nice premise, one which would lend itself to a fine novella.

Cheers.

Michael A Tate said...

You've created a very unique and rich character, despite his outwardly bland appearance. I always like trying to get into the heads of the truely bizarre.

Well done

Sonia said...

His reaction is odd!! Who does that when their credit info has been stolen?

Chuck Allen said...

Ha ha! I didn't see that reaction coming. I agree with the others, it would be fun to follow this character further. Great job!

PJ said...

Fascinating premise - you've provided an intriguing look inside the mind of a strange character. I wonder if it was only the thief's choice of entertainment that made our man play along or if it was just the opportunity to experience any different life vicariously.

Sulci Collective said...

I see him as having a very regular, ordered, limited life and the credit card statement opening up a whole new lifestyle world to break him out of his shelterd malaise.

Sonia said...

I forget to say - I have played the game where you look for shapes in the clouds. But not for years now.

FARfetched said...

Ha, I was expecting him to exact revenge up close and personal. This way is funnier.

peterdomican said...

Nice twist. I've had my credit card cloned twice and have no feelings of generosity whatsoever!

Michael A Tate said...

Ah ha. I knew this seemed sorta familiar. There is a friends episode where Monica is victim to CC fraud. She has a similar reaction where she feels the thief leads a more interesting life than her. But she goes and finds the woman and ends up her friend.

I like this one much better though. Much more thought provoking to have this pin/map kind of thing.

peterdomican said...

Nice twist. I've had my credit card cloned twice and have no feelings of generosity whatsoever!

Sulci Collective said...

Ha ha ha Michael A. Tate - if I thought for one minute I'd consciously ripped off a "Friends" storyline, I'd hang up my pen in shame...

Marc

jon krone said...

Loved this tid bit. Felt as though I was looking over the shoulder of the statement reader.

I want submissions like this on my site www.storyseeking.com.

I would be honored and humbled.

Good show!

Tony Noland said...

The reaction is fascinating! Living an exciting life of sex and fine food, all carefully under the radar. I hope one day he gets up the courage to go out and meet "himself".

li said...

Well done! (I'm glad someone finally nailed down those categories for you.) Just the right amount of detail, gives us an idea of the type of character (very neat, orderly, precise). I liked the bit about the animal sponsored at the zoo, nice touch. Those are the bits which make a story more intimate. And a little sad, because there are people who's lives are so lonely and constrained that an imagined journey and alternate persona is almost as good as the real thing. Plus, you could actually go back to this in future and follow it up.

Icy Sedgwick said...

I love the word "skew whiff" and I agree with his sentiments on sea food. I also sponsor two animals (albeit with the WWF and not the zoo) but thankfully the similarities end there. I felt a little sorry for him, really, living out his fantasy from within his sheltered, ordered life.

Matt Merritt said...

Love it! To afraid to break out of his own carefully organized life, he's willing to pay for someone else to do it for him. Nicely done.

Alison Wells said...

I really enjoyed that sense of his 'burgeoning excitement' in respect of those vicarious pleasures. I don't think you even had to spell it out as much at the end because the pleasure of the piece was having it a joint epiphany with the character as to how interesting it could be to let the mix up continue. Got a nice sense of the character in this one and a good impetus that could lead to a longer story.

Jason Coggins said...

A fascinating take on the modern fear making regards online identity fraud. Perhaps one day you could write the companion piece in which the fraudster starts to get freaked out by the creepy, stalker-y behaviour his victim starts to display towards him!

Mari said...

Oh, man! Just go there and have the life you are so interested in, for gods' sake!

Excellent story, Marc. A part from my indignation with your MC, I do understand (hypothetically) how a person with such a recluse and regulated life would be interested in following his robber's footsteps. Nagging premise!

Linda said...

Hmmm, I've been wanting to reinvent myself... great premise, and quite believable. And of course, marvelous writing. Peace...

flyingscribbler said...

I can well believe that he decides to live his life through someone more exciting: having a framed picture of a sponsored zoo animal next to your bed is not healthy. I thought your MC was going to go on to discover the joys of lap dancing for himself, but it works better and is more subtle with the path you chose.

John Wiswell said...

It is a little funny that you even needed to outsource credit card category information like that. That's dedication to a story, Mr. Marc.

Sulci Collective said...

Ah well you see John, I am not as others. I don't have a plethora of credit cards. My name appears on as few records as possible, not owning a car and all those other official things that require documentation. I was years ahead of my paranoid times

Deb Rickard said...

This character sounds like he has an 'afterlife'! Might we have a follow up story exploring more of what he gets up to in his new life?