It's All About the Angles
by Ben Macnair
Joe had always believed that his grandfather had been killed by lightning. It was one of those stories that passed down the generations. The truth
was a lot more mundane than that though. Joe’s grandfather had been killed by a cow, which was frightened by the lightning, escaped from the field,
and ran into the path of his grandfather’s brand-new car. The car had killed the cow, but the cow had merely dented the front of the car, and yet the
sight that had met the village policeman when he had called into the farm on that rain-soaked night would pass into local legend.
Whenever Joe visited his grandmother, she always spoke of his grandfather, and that blasted cow.
Death by lightning always seemed so much better than death by livestock, but the story had left Joe with a lifelong fear of thunderstorms. He had
never had a problem with the cows. He was discussing this with his friend over a couple of pints and a game of snooker in the King’s Knuckle. His friend,
Tom, had no clue about snooker, but being a mathematician, he could play the table.
“It’s all about the angles,” he would say, as he sank the red. “There is no luck when velocity is at play,” as he sank the black.
Tom had a similar trick when it came to the ladies, like when he was selling double glazing. If he knocked at a hundred houses, and ninety-six turned
him down but four were interested, he would still make his commission for the week, so the many rejections he faced never fazed him. He knew that somewhere
out there was a lady who would love his taste in music (Shakin’ Stevens, and Nana Mouskouri) and have an interest in nostril and ear hair.
Joe still had his fear of thunderstorms though, and the impending winter did nothing to allay them.
At the dentist’s, Joe was trying to act interested when the dentist kept asking him questions. No, he had not seen the game. Yes, it was getting colder.
Yes, he would pay on his way out. Yes, he would be back in six months. The dentist looked at Joe and said, “I expect I don’t need to tell you this, having
a good set of gnashers yourself, but it is all about the angles. Keep your brush straight and your tongue down, and you won’t go far wrong.”
Joe was at work in the office, counting paper clips out for his new manager, thinking of The Who’s “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” but
knowing, as he always did, that he would not pick up a guitar and play, and he would get fooled again. Life was all about the angles. Joe was in his
early forties, the same age as his grandfather when the cow had crossed his path. The men in Joe’s family never lived long. His father was in his late
sixties and healthy, but Joe knew it was only a matter of time. A heart attack would take him, suddenly.
It was the details that made each life different, but it was the tragedy of the human condition that so many random accidents happened. If the cow had
not wandered into the road, if Joe had studied harder at school, if he had the gift of the gab, then he would not be wasting his days in a thankless job,
doing the bidding of people who were still in primary school when he graduated, and who had an unshakable sense of entitlement.
Trigonometry, geometry, and protractors had not meant much to Joe. He now knew that life was all in the angles, but every angle had an upside, a steep
climb, and a sudden fall, and Joe did not know where he was.
That night, Joe was driving home from work when it began to rain. He was heading, slowly, up a country road, when a blast of lightning and a boom of
thunder split the sky. He was suddenly aware of a shadowy black shape ahead of him. He saw a flash of fetlock and hooves, and heard a shriek, as a horse
thundered down the road towards him. Righting the horse expertly, the rider bought the animal to a stop only inches from Joe, who had his foot on the
If Joe’s grandfather had been at a different place on the road, the two men might have met, but life is all about the angles.