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Sign outside Bromley-by-Bow station.

Picture by Nicobobinus: Bromley-by-Bow

It’s not unusual to share your name with others. Zeitgeist children cluster in their schoolyards, inscribing worksheets with Olivia P, Olivia J, Olivia F, and on through the alphabet. Funny David Mitchell vies for attention with Writer David Mitchell, both of them overshadowing Politician David Mitchell and Canadian Lacrosse Player David Mitchell, while Accountant Down The Road David Mitchell and That Guy From Karen’s Sister’s Choir David Mitchell languish in obscurity. Even people with more peculiar names—Felicity Matheson, Shari Akbar, Giacomo Corrado—frequently have to share.

All the same, you’d think that one of the few advantages of being named Barnabé Wender would be some level of uniqueness.

Unfortunately for Barnabé Wender—and indeed for Barnabé Wender—there are two of them. Even more unfortunately, they both live in places named Bromley.

Barnabé Wender arranges to meet Barnabé Wender on neutral territory, in St James’s Park, far from either Bromley. The lake’s been drained for cleaning, but there are still a few ducks left, fighting for space around the remaining puddles; Barnabé tears off a chunk of bread and throws it onto the concrete.

Barnabé Wender arrives late, carrying a bulging Somerfield bag. “Barnabé Wender? I’m Barnabé Wender,” he says. His smile is wide.

“Hello,” Barnabé Wender says.

“These are for you, I think,” Barnabé Wender says, hefting the bag. “Amazon wishlist books. They arrived last week—your birthday, I suppose? Lots of notes from people I’d never heard of, anyway. Carmen says she misses you.”

Barnabé Wender takes the bag; he has little choice. “Thank you,” he says stiffly. There’s a teach-yourself-Spanish book on top, and a copy of Singstar Abba, and he tenses at the idea that his friends have seen a wishlist with Singstar Abba on it and thought it belonged to him.

“I’ve updated my profile to make sure it won’t happen again,” Barnabé Wender tells him.

“I appreciate that,” Barnabé Wender says.

They fall into silence. Barnabé Wender has his bread in one hand, and the bag of books in another; he can no longer feed the ducks. Barnabé Wender watches him.

“So,” Barnabé Wender says.

“So,” Barnabé Wender replies.

They’re silent again.

Barnabé Wender has an itchy nose, but it would be a sign of weakness to scratch it, and his hands are full anyway. He concentrates on looking steadily at Barnabé Wender without blinking too much. “This can’t go on,” he says.

“No,” Barnabé Wender replies.

This has happened before. Bromley (home of Barnabé Wender) is five miles north-east of Charing Cross, which is confusing in many ways because Bromley (home of Barnabé Wender) is also nine miles south-east of Charing Cross. North-east Bromley’s addition of “-by-Bow” is enough to distinguish the two locations in casual use, and on careful maps; but it’s a clumsy solution at best, and unequal to boot. Barnabé Wender feels that it’s time for south-east Bromley to make some concessions.

“What I suggest,” he says, “is that you change your name to Barnabé Wender-by-Chislehurst.”

Barnabé Wender smiles again. His hands are empty. “Interesting idea,” he says.

“It needn’t be a legal change,” Barnabé Wender says. “Everyday usage would suffice.”

“The trouble with that,” Barnabé Wender says, “is that I like my name as it is. And I’ve already registered”

“But I,” Barnabé Wender says, “have”

“Now that’s hardly the same thing,” Barnabé Wender says.

Barnabé Wender tries not to show his anger. “I also,” he says, finally solving his hands problem by putting the loaf of bread in the bag, “have an extensive supply of business cards which I do not wish to waste.”

“And I,” says Barnabé Wender, “know how to punch you so it hurts.”

Barnabé Wender flails defensively with the bag, but it’s too late; Barnabé Wender is already too close, grinning. His eyelashes are dark and long. Barnabé Wender raises his arms to protect his head, dropping the bag; Barnabé Wender goes for his stomach. He’s right; he does know how to punch so it hurts. Barnabé Wender stumbles backwards, out of range, then runs back in to kick, but he’s slow and clumsy and Barnabé Wender evades him easily, moves in to hit him again.

Barnabé Wender turns around, almost falling into a bench, and runs. There are no footsteps behind him.

He reaches the bridge, panting, and then dares a backwards glance: nothing. He turns around completely, to check: still nothing. There’s a tree blocking his view of the place where he and Barnabé Wender met, but there’s no sign of pursuit. He bends over to catch his breath.

A voice comes from close behind him. “You forgot your books,” Barnabé Wender says, and swings the bag up in a wide arc into the side of Barnabé Wender’s head.

It’s dark by the time Barnabé Wender-by-Bow makes it back to his local tube station, bruised and nauseated; he stumbles out of the carriage and over to the wall, where he rests for a moment, then forces himself to straighten up. He makes it outside before he slides towards the ground again. His shirt catches on the brickwork behind him, a plastic supermarket bag is clutched to his chest; his tie is missing, along with one shoe. He blinks, slowly, as Singstar Abba spills from the bag onto the footpath beside him in a shower of crumbs.

Posted in District Line, Hammersmith & City Line. Tagged with , , , .

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  1. Alex Fleetwood said

    I particularly enjoyed this one Holly. Barnabé Wender used to go to my school, incidentally. He was a vicious brute even then.

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