Home > The Not-classics (2012- )

I know what I'm like, no matter how many books I'd like to read, have vague intentions of reading, "should" read, there'll always be a baseball biography or something that will come along and delay me reading books considered to be great. I have only read nine of The Guardian's The 100 greatest novels of all time, and four of the World Library 100 Best Books of All Time. That's a lot of pages of great stuff I've not read. So I've decided to write my own short stories based on the titles of books I've not read.

1. The Old Man and the Sea 3 June 2012
2. Ulysses 16 June 2012



The Old Man and the Sea
Albert stood on the promenade, eyes watering from the wind. He stared out at the dark, grey, sea. Waves broke silently in the distance, loudly on the beach. Albert stared, his hands deep in the pockets of his overcoat. He stared at the horizon. He was building in his mind. Building structures, pillars in the sea, solid as oil rigs. The pillars should be arranged in a zig-zag pattern. On top of each structure would be a mirror. He made a mental note to research the geometry. And Albert would build these structures at precise intervals across the ocean. Then he would put 50p in the coin-operated promenade binoculars, focus on the first mirror, and he would see all the way to New York.

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Ulysses
Ulysses was an incredibly rich man. He was the only surviving child of William Franklin, property and shipping magnate. Ulysses and his seven siblings - all brothers - received a small portion of the Franklin empire as a coming of age gift from their father. William Franklin, in truth, was protecting the family business by looking for an appropriate heir. Ulysses was the penultimate son to come of age. On the eve of his birthday, his father took him to his favourite bar, and just as he had done with his other sons, bought Ulysses a shot of whiskey and delivered his speech about the family business, responsibility, and his hopes for his son's future. William and Ulysses raised their glasses, and Ulysses was instructed to name his gift.

"The Pioneer Hotel," said Ulysses. They clinked glasses, downed the whiskey, and shook hands.
"It's yours, son," said William.

Three days after the Pioneer Hotel had been signed over to Ulysses, his parents and brothers all left for a summer travelling in Europe. Ulysses chose to stay at home to familiarise himself with his new hotel. The liner which was transporting the Franklins to Southampton disappeared somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. Ulysses's parents, William and Anna, and his brothers, George, Thomas, Andrew, Zachary, Millard, and Rutherford (all the Franklin boys were named after presidents), all of the Franklin family missing; presumed at first, and eventually legally dead.

Ulysses inherited everything. He soon appointed a business manager, one of his father's key men, who in turn employed a team of astute young men to ensure that Ulysses would never have to think about the family business. All Ulysses wanted was to run the Pioneer, and once a month glance at the bank statements. After a while, he stopped bothering with that, so great were the monthly increases in his wealth. Money no longer meant anything. He didn't waste money, he only spent what he needed. And after some initial costs, he needed very little.

The Pioneer Hotel was mid-range; favoured by management-level businessmen and moderately well-off European visitors. It had a grand foyer and attractive rooms and suites. The hotel's manager had a knack for spotting talented young chefs, and the Pioneer restaurant had won several awards. None of this was Ulysses's concern, though. After the Christmas and New Year holidays, Ulysses informed the staff that he would be closing the hotel for the refurbishments. He gave several of his most trusted employees a year-long vacation on full pay to ensure their loyalty. The remainder of the staff were given two months wages and excellent references. Ulysses had work to do.

The day after the last guests had left, the construction work began. The Pioneer was eight storeys high, and took up half a block, one side of which faced Central Park. The work began on the eighth floor, first clearing the rooms, then demolishing the ceilings of the rooms, and then the walls. The process was repeated on the seventh floor, then the sixth, then the fifth, fourth, third, and second floors, until all that remained above the ground floor was one enormous, empty, seven storey high cube. The ground floor restaurant was refurbished to give the illusion of a normal reconstruction, but aside from the restaurant, its kitchen, and the untouched foyer, the ground floor was left empty.

All enquiries about renting a room were dealt with swiftly and politely. I'm sorry, sir, we have nothing available. The Pioneer Hotel was fully-booked every day of the year to anyone who asked. There were many mid-range hotels in the city, the Pioneer would not be missed, but the restaurant, with its splendid reputation would've been. It re-opened, and remained excellent. Ulysses donated all of the hotel's furniture to several orphanages across the north-east. But he kept one bed, a wardrobe, and a desk for himself. He left his midtown apartment for the very last time on the day the Pioneer refurbishments were completed. He entered through the delivery entrance, and took the service elevator up to his new quarters; his new seven storey high room. He put his clothes in the wardrobe, and taped photographs of his mother, father, and brothers to to wall next to the bed. Ulysses sat on the edge of the bed, untied his shoelaces, flicked off his shoes, and swivelled around to lay down. He looked up at the dust in the sunlight coming through the hundred of windows above him, and drifted off to sleep.

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