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Staircase Daniel Shand

Day Three

The Capital is undergoing a heatwave. For the past two evenings, the night sky has lit up with far-off lightning, but no water comes. I was sitting in the beer garden and all this dust was falling from an overhanging tree as a dry rain. The owner sent out workers to wet the gravel with watering cans. He watched them and said to us, ‘I am praying for this to break. I am praying.’


These young guys were selling drugs in the park behind my colleague’s apartment. I saw them do it from the window and I saw them calling out to other pedestrians when I approached this morning. They went silent as I walked by and, turning a corner into the park, I heard them laugh.


The place my colleague teaches in is a big, crystalline new-build. I knew this because its name was plastered on the side: Capital Institute of Arts, and it was on my route home from the records bureau. In our conversations, he had been rather disparaging about his school but it appeared from the outside to a be a cheery, energetic place. I tried to picture which window he worked behind and I thought, you’ll have to come out eventually.


On a whim, I ducked into the underpass that led to the foyer—a polished atrium of beige and brown floor tiles and wood-decked walls. I found the board near the elevator where staff were listed and looked for my colleague’s discipline, but could not spot his name. I checked with the man on desk.


‘I don’t recognise it,’ he said, in response to my query.


I described my old colleague’s appearance and mannerisms and the man gave me a significant look. ‘No,’ he said, ‘still nothing.’


‘OK,’ I said. ‘If you’re sure…’


He sort of rolled his eyes. ‘You are supposed to bribe me now.’


I found some currency in the bottom of my bag and handed it over.


‘It’s usually a bit more,’ he said.


‘I’m sorry,’ I said, ‘but that’s all I have left.’


He looked at my money and I saw him do the calculation—it wasn’t much, though something was better than nothing. He gave me a firm stare, then peeled a sheet of paper from the stack on his desk, scribbling a short note down for me:


Mg. 262, Niels Hammermann Building.


‘There,’ he said. ‘The Hammermann building is on the far side of campus and that’s more than you paid for, so no more questions now. See yourself out, this is summer school after all.’


I walked through the little park on my way home and it was now empty, the young guys having been scared off by the three police cars parked near the entrance. I was hoping I would bump into the old man, or even the superintendent, but my staircase was empty and all the other apartments were in darkness.


Once I was settled in, I tried to catch my colleague on his mobile, but it rang out.

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