Moss Nook

The Modern Jazz Quartet’s ‘Pyramid’ is playing on the car stereo as I turn left into Longley Lane. ‘Pyramid’ was written in 1957 by Ray Brown after hearing the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson in concert in Lenox, Massachusetts. The title came from the group’s attempt to impose a ‘tempo pyramid’ on the song’s arrangement. Very little remains of that experimental version of the song, but John Lewis’s quick little runs up and down the keyboard have the power to suggest the ascent and descent of a pyramid.

Pyramids are another thing.

Pyramids and straight lines.

Longley Lane takes us over the M56 and eventually into Styal Road, which heads away from Sharston and Gatley. Styal Road is not straight, but it is my preferred route to Moss Nook and the airport because as you meander south down Styal Road, sooner or later you will hear a plane passing directly overhead. If it is big enough you will become aware of the vibrations too, in your chest cavity, in your breastbone. You may even feel aroused.

Erica, my passenger, lives in Kenworthy Lane, Northenden. I hadn’t known that when I had entered the Cooperative Bank two days earlier. I hadn’t known her – Erica – at all. The Corporation Street branch in town is large enough that you can hang around without attracting suspicion. I watched the various tellers at their windows and eventually settled on the third from the end. Then all I needed to do was wait until the queue had gone down so that I could go straight to her window.

She looked up and smiled at me. Pleased that she didn’t ask ‘Are you all right there?’ as everyone behind a counter seems to do these days, I did my best to smile back. I could see from the tiny lines around her almond-shaped eyes that she was a little older than I had thought. But that could work in my favour. The absence of a wedding ring – indeed, any rings at all – was promising. There was a good chance that a bank teller in her late twenties, if not married, was not seeing anyone either, or not with any degree of seriousness. She was wearing a pale-blue wrap top, without any necklace or pendant. She would have known that with the wrap top none was necessary.

I told her I was considering opening an account and wanted to know what the bank had to offer to new customers. She started telling me and I pretended to listen while I watched her lips move and I pictured her dressing for work. I saw her kneeling on the floor in front of a full-length mirror, inspecting the tired skin under her eyes while waiting for her hair-straighteners to warm up. I imagined her getting out the wrap top and a plain blue round-neck T-shirt and putting them side by side on the bed as she tried to decide between them.

I waited for a gap and when it came I asked her if she would like to go out for dinner. She recoiled slightly and a little colour appeared in her cheeks. I apologised and explained that I was a writer and I had just been asked to review a restaurant at short notice and I had no one particular in mind to go with. I had acted on impulse, I said, with a little smile, and hoped she would forgive me.

‘Are you actually interested in opening an account?’ she asked.

‘Absolutely,’ I said and let her go on outlining the benefits I would enjoy as a customer. When there was another pause, I said, ‘It is meant to be a very good restaurant.’

If a half-smile hadn’t appeared on her lips at that point I would have walked away from the window and left the bank.

‘There is a dress code, by the way,’ I added. ‘You have to wear that top.’ I smiled again so that she would think I was making a joke.

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4 Responses to “Moss Nook”

  1. October 13, 2008 at 11:25 pm, smith3000 said:

    Bloody hell! It seemed like it was going to be one thing and then suddenly it’s something different altogether. A touch disturbing, I thought.

  2. June 12, 2009 at 11:48 am, Ian D Smith said:

    The A6 from Hazel Grove into Manchester never curves once. I like the comparison and awareness of the vast difference between London and Manchester, and the effects.

  3. August 15, 2009 at 11:18 am, Scott Devon said:

    Very nice, Nic. Again you use the effect of the dark journey to reveal your character. Nicely done.

  4. January 18, 2010 at 9:25 pm, Becky said:

    That was excellent. Full of tension, and great portrayal of both characters. I recognised that journey to the Moss Nook very well !


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