My Words, My World

First drafts – A few pages in the large wilderness of the world of writing

Archive for the category “Dialogue”

Dry

The old man stood with a length of coiled rope around his shoulder and spat into the dust.  The sky was cold and clear.  He looked at the sky every day but the clouds still avoided him.

“Giovanni, what’s the latest?”

“January, papà.”

In November they said early December, then it was going to be mid-December, then Christmas.”

“No one really knows, papa.”

“No one knows?”  The old man spat into the dust once again.  He took a leather pouch from his jacket pocket and started to roll himself a cigarette.  “My father could tell what the weather was going to do, a week before it did it.”

“You know as well, papa.”

The old man flicked a match.  He scuffed his boots in the dust, kicking up a little cloud.

“I did once.”  His rummy eyes looked up again at the clear blue sky.  “This year is different.”

From their lofty position on the lower slopes of the mountain, where the pastures lay brown and dry, they could see the distant Monte Rosa.  Even from that distance they could see its barren slopes; only its vague glaciers flickered white in the sun.

“There’s no tourism yet.  Tourism’s suffering and we’re suffering with it, Giovanni.”

“The snow will come papa, it has to.”

“Do you think?  When was the last time it rained, son?”

“October.”

“It drizzled for a couple of hours, Giovanni.  It hasn’t rained in anger since July.”  He flicked his head in a backwards movement.  “Those woods are a tinderbox.”

Giovanni nodded his head.  “The weather channel put the area on high alert for forest fire risk.”

The old man crushed his cigarette carefully under his heel.  “It’s about the only thing the weather channel has got right this year.”  He lifted the rope from his shoulder and placed it on the old trunk of a walnut tree that served as a chopping block.  He nodded down the slope.  “I want to get that fence in the bottom field repaired.  If the snow does come at least the animals will be contained.”

This last comment fell like an axe blow between the men.  They’d already lost a few animals, sickened by the drought conditions; they couldn’t afford to lose any more, there dwindling finances couldn’t take it.  They’d lost the annual orders from the surrounding ski resorts, whose slopes were bare and car parks were empty.  In his 72 years the old man had never known anything like it.  He was almost glad his wife had passed away the previous spring and didn’t have to see what the farm had become.  His son brought him back to the present.

“Five months ago we were enjoying a beautiful summer and everyone said we’d pay for it, that the winter would come early and the snow would be heavy.”

“Yeah, and I was one of them, telling the same thing to anyone who’d listen.  Now I’m just the foolish sheep farmer who can’t tell the direction of the wind even if I wet my finger and hold it in the air.”

“Come on papa.  This year’s caught everyone out.  It’s not just down to us anymore.  Think of all those satellites out there and they still can’t give us an accurate forecast.”

“Any farmer worth his salt should be able to mind his own, without the need for satellites or weather channels, son; just like my father and grandfather used to do.  Maybe the people are right; maybe I am just a foolish sheep farmer that prophesises ‘red sky at night’.”

“Enough papà.  Come on, let’s get the fence fixed so I can go to Cristina’s with that firewood.”

Giovanni looked into his father’s face.  This autumn had taken everything out of him.  His face was drawn and his eyes sunken and dark-ringed.  The quick smile was no longer there, replaced by a stare which admitted defeat.

“We can do the fence later, son.  Take the wood over to Cristina; if her father’s down in town, you’ll have to unload yourself, it’ll take time.”

Giovanni considered this.  It was true.  All the while the weather held, and it looked like holding for a fair while still, the bottom field fence wasn’t a priority.  The nights were cold and Cristina needed the wood.  He took the pick-up keys from his jacket pocket.

“Get some rest papa.  I’ll be back in a couple of hours, three at the most.”

“Give my regards to Cristina and her father, if he’s there.  I guess you’re right, I could use a little rest.”

“There’s nothing more any of us can do papa, at least until this weather shows signs of breaking.”  He got into the pick-up truck and the electric motor hummed as the window rolled down.  “Get some rest papa.  How about we go into town for a couple of beers this evening; it’s been ages since we’ve done that.”

“About the last time we saw any money coming through the door, son.”

The truck engine revved into life and Giovanni waved through the open window.  His father watched as the brake lights flashed once before the car drove out onto the road.

With a final spit into the dust, the old man looked once more at the sky.  With his head bowed, he heaved the coil of rope onto his shoulder and walked slowly to the still-empty barn.

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50 word fiction – Beebee

“Have you seen Beebee?”

“No, where’d he go?”

“He was out of whisky, out of smokes; he went to the liquor store.”

“Where the fuck is he now?”

“He must still be there man.”

“Did he take…?”

“Don’t know.”

“Did you give…?”

“No.”

A siren screams in the night.

“Beebee.”

Grains of sand

A thousand grains of sand couldn’t grate on me as you do,
she said.
I winced.
Only a thousand? 
You can count them on a dessert spoon.
Is that all?

I must try harder.

Swimming and jumping

“You first.”

“Nnh, nnh.  No way.  You wanted to come here.”

“Yeah, but you’re older than me.”

“Two months.  Big deal.”

The boys stared across the lake.  It shone black in the high summer sun.  Black and deep.  Overhanging trees edged the lake and reflected in the shallows.  Further out a fish jumped, its body smacked the water, creating a noticeable ripple.

“Pike,” said one of the boys.

“Tench,” came the reply.

“Tench don’t jump.  It was a pike hunting something on the surface.”

A pike hunting on the surface.  This possibility changed the game although neither admitted it.  There were some big fish in the lake.  How big?  And pike could be nasty.  Rows of backward-facing teeth.  They’d heard stories from the fishermen who sat on the banks, passing away their time away from wives and children.

As they stood, their feet growing colder and whiter in the pebbly shallows as their indecision increased, the distant surface of the lake rippled and wavelets raced towards them as a fresh wind blew across the lake.  One of the boys crossed his arms and rubbed them.

“You’ve got goosebumps,” said the other, “you’re scared.”

“I’m not, I’m cold.  We could’ve been halfway across the lake by now if you hadn’t have been so scared of a few fish.”

“You mentioned the pike.”

“It was a pike, tench don’t jump.”

“Says who?”

“My uncle.  He’s a fisherman, he told me.”

“Go on then, you first.”

“No, you go.  You’re the one that was scared.  I dare you.”

“Let’s go together.”

They placed a hand on each other’s arm and shuffled over the hard slippery pebbles.  Clear water rose up their legs.  When it got to their knees they both stopped.

“It’s cold.”

“Yeah.”

A passing cloud blotted out the sun and the air grew chill.  The surface became leaden.  Another gust of wind tore across the lake.  A few yards ahead of them the water erupted as a huge fish leapt.  Its splash seemed to echo as its body smacked down on the still-boiling water.

“Pike.”

“Yeah.”

“Did you see the size of it?”

“Yeah.”

“Fancy climbing some trees?”

“Yeah.”

Sometimes, always – part II

“I’m already in town Stephie.  I’ve an hour before I have to meet Dan and Bill.”

“OK Jules, see you at Starbucks in 10 minutes.”

Julie gathered the various carrier bags and took a slow walk along the pedestrianized high street.  She stopped to look at the new releases in the window of W. H. Smith then made her way to Starbucks.  Her friend was already seated, looking at the coffee menu.  She looked up as Julie came in then looked at the bags.

“Hello Jules.  It’s not Christmas come early is it?”

Julie placed the bags around her chair, smiling.

“Bill’s birthday next week.”

“Where is he, with Dan?”

“Yeah.  They’re taking a walk along the beach.  Bill loves the sea.”  She shivered.  It didn’t go unnoticed.

“Have you tried talking to anyone Jules, apart from Dan I mean?”

She shook her head.

“I think it’s time you thought about it.  You can’t go through life with this fear that stops you doing something you always liked before.  Cappuccino?”

“Stephie got up and ordered two coffees, leaving Julie staring at the black plastic table.  A minute or so later she returned, coffees in hand.

“Four years have passed; you’ve got to move on Jules.”

“I will. I will.  I’m just not ready for that last step, to air it out in public.  Not at the moment.”

“What does Dan say about it.”

“That he understands.  He can’t though.  How could he?”

“Well, no one apart from you can really understand, it’s impossible.”

“At least, as a woman, you can understand me more.”

Stephie stirred in the sugar slowly, contemplating this last comment.  She looked up into her friend’s eyes, which were starting to glisten.

“You can see a psychologist Jules.  Professional secrecy and all that.”

“The psychologist will still know though.”

“Yeah, but you won’t have to go back there.  I’m sure it’ll do you good, you can start to enjoy walking with Billy again.”

“All Billy’s ever known is that I’m scared of the water, that I can’t bear the sight of it.  How will explain the sudden change, if indeed I do change?”

“That you did it for him.”

“And how am I going to tell a psychologist?”

Stephie looked into her friend’s face.  Her eyes were still glistening.  They were more than glistening.  Her eyes wrinkled around the edges.  She pinched her mouth shut to control herself, but she couldn’t hold it back and sprayed coffee over her jeans.  Customers looked round as Stephie howled with laughter.

“It’s like this, Doctor.  I was sunbathing on a beach when a bloody big crab came along and nipped my tit.”

Sometimes, always

The pebble skipped across the water, hit an incoming wave, flipped and sunk into the grey shallows.

“Five bounces Dad.”

“Best one yet Billy.  We call them skips, when the stone bounces like that.”

The boy picked up a stone of his own and launched it.  It went more sideways than forwards and landed with a plop.

“You’ll get there Bill.”

“I’m too small Dad.  I will when I get bigger though, won’t I?”

“You will son, you will.”  He ruffled his son’s tangle of blond hair that shone even in this miserable, murky light.  It looked like rain.  They turned and walked along the water’s edge, enjoying the sound of the waves breaking on the pebbles and the rattle and sigh as the water withdrew, rolling the pebbles with it.

“I’d like to live here Dad.  Would you?”

“I’d like to Bill.  Your mum wouldn’t though, she can’t stand the water.”

“If we lived here she wouldn’t have to come with us to look at the sea though Dad, she could go shopping.”

The man smiled.  He envied the innocence of the child’s mind and the questions it generated.

“It’d still be too close for her bill.  Your mum doesn’t just dislike the water; she can’t bear the sight of it.”

“Why’s that Dad?”

They continued walking along the shore, their feet sinking between the pebbles that rattled under their feet.

“Let’s make a move now son.  We said we’d meet Mum at 2 o’ clock.  She’s probably loaded down with bags and needs our help.  Feeling strong Bill?”

The boy picked up a last pebble, crouched down and threw it, his arm straight, in a sweeping motion.  This time it didn’t go sideways.

“Well done Billy boy.”

The boy ignored the compliment.

“Why’s that Dad?  Is it because she likes shopping?”

“You and me like walking by the sea.  Your mum feels good walking in the town centre.”

“Shopping, Dad?”

The boy wasn’t looking as a grin stretched across his father’s face.

“Sometimes Bill, sometimes.”

“Sometimes always Dad.”

Broadsheet

I looked up from my phone.  My girlfriend had texted me.  She’d changed her mind and decided to go for a drink with the girls from the office so could I get something for myself?  Yep, I thought, I’ll also pass the off licence for a bottle of Australian red.

I started people watching, something I never do.  I’d never taken much notice of how much people now walk around in their own world, without passing a word between them.  People passed each other like unlit ships on a foggy night, unaware of each other and in danger of colliding.  Heads tilted, eyes down and in total ignorance of their surroundings.  I guess once upon a time people used to wander along with paperbacks or something.  I can’t remember.

A man stepped out into the middle of the pavement, a newspaper (a newspaper?) under one arm, an umbrella under the other.  With his Bowler Hat, he gave me the impression of a Magritte painting.  He looked around at the tide of people ebbing and flowing around him, smiling and amazed as they avoided walking into him.

“Excuse me?”, he said.

Screen-lit faces continued to shine briefly then they were gone.

“Excuse me?”

Palm-held virtual reality maintained its silence.

The man looked around once more, coughed politely and took the newspaper from under his arm.

“Very well.”

He unfolded it and shook out the creases.  Looking around once again he opened it, arms wide, and stood in the middle of the pavement.

Two lines of people opened up, one going east, the other west.  I watched him stand like a beacon in the middle of it all.  A low hum of voices murmured.  He watched their faces, gently lit in the phone-glow, as they approached him, an unwanted distraction as they tried to avoid him.

“Can’t you move?”

“Mind out!”

“Do you have to just stand there?”

A gust of wind rustled the paper in the man’s hands. He ignored it and continued to stand there, arms wide, as an army of new-age hunchbacks flowed around him.  I laughed.  The other people at the bus-stop looked at me, now distracted from their own telephones.  Smiling, I left my place in the queue, forgetting all about the number 38 that would take me home.

I took an Evening Standard from the rack and walked up to the man.  Standing in front of him I opened the newspaper.  I heard his paper shuffle as people continued to tut and moan their way around us.  A face peered round his newspaper.  He raised one eyebrow, disappeared behind his paper and cleared his throat.

“Shares due to plummet.”

Smiling, I scanned the pages.

“Sex scandal secretary wants top job”, I replied.

“Do you have to bloody well stand there?”, asked someone as they almost collided with us, his sappy smartphone face a picture of indignation.  He went back to his phone and moved on.  The man behind the paper coughed.

“Environment minister to quit over unethical shareholdings”

I took up the game.

“Woman jailed for manhood attack.”

“Price of oil to continue dropping.”

“Actress in no-underwear shocker.”

It continued to and fro as we worked our way through the papers, ignoring the protests of passers-by.  Finally, we’d finished.

He doffed his hat to me as he folded the newspaper and stuck it under his arm.

“Same time next week,” he said, “but next time, bring a broadsheet.”

Love thy neighbour…give me space.

Enclosed space behavioural patterns, what’s it called, lift behaviour? The doors close on two people who only seconds before were having a friendly chat over an espresso in the hotel bar. Now they shut up shop and silence ensues when the doors close like a pair of folded arms. The will to wish the lift to rise is strong and the relief is almost tangiable when it arrives. It seems like the lift and its occupants are holding their breath and finally let it out when the doors open, when those arms unfold. It’s a unique situation; it doesn’t happen when four people are squashed into a car. Space.

Then we have train space conservation; we do, so bear with me.

Four seats and only one of them occupied, their occupant relaxed and probably reading, playing Candy Crush or possibly, Heaven forbid, writing, with a pen and paper don’t you know. A second person arrives and sits down diagonally opposite. A shuffling of feet and space, reluctantly, is conceded. This is still bearable. The first occupant continues as before; reading, Candy Crushing or maybe writing. The new arrival starts to rummage in his bag and out comes a book, a phone or maybe, just maybe, a pen and paper. Two people sitting diagonally can share the same space comfortably; they may even swap greetings – sometimes it still happens, it really does. This sense of conviviality continues, each to their own doing what they’re doing with possibly the occasional glance out the window, looking at the black and white cows in the fields. Why are all the cows black and white when seen from the window of a train? Where are the other cow colours? Is there a law that says only black and white cows can graze near railway lines?

Then the train pulls into the next station. Both occupants look up from what they’re doing, look at the seats next to them, move their bags half an inch nearer their feet and wait. They hold their breath. Time doesn’t stand still but they wish it would; they want to remain with an empty seat next to them forever. They don’t want their space encroached upon but they know it’s going to happen, it has to.

The doors of the train open with a swoosh and people file in, looking for a seat, any seat. It doesn’t matter next to who, they just want to sit down, to have their own place where they can sit and read a book, play the telephone or possibly write. The two original occupants frown, engage in more feet shuffling and move their bags another half an inch to see if that is enough. If not they will sigh, sometimes audibly, and rearrange their space; four seats, four people. With space dramatically reduced the original occupants will have to get used to it. The two new arrivals on the other hand are as happy as Larry. They have their seat and now they can relax, coat off and a big, happy sigh of relief and then out come the books, phones or pen and paper (all four of them?  Oh come on…). They’re on holiday these newcomers, look at them! Any more relaxed and they’d put their feet up (well, if the seat opposite wasn’t occupied) and ask the ticket inspector for a pina colada. The two original occupants are most definitely NOT on Holiday.  Their winter has returned; it’s darker now the light from the windows has diminished in the crowded carriage. The book has become harder to read, Candy harder to crush and the thoughts transmitted from pen to paper are harder to come by.  Frowns indent foreheads and half-hidden glares stared.  Goodwill to all men, except those sitting next to you.

Love thy neighbour, but only if you have the space to do so.

Keep her well hid

They were sitting in the corner, I guess looking for a little privacy but they came to the wrong place if they wanted that. The tables were too close together for one thing, and besides, everyone had to pass by that table to go to the toilet.

She was angry, upset, pissed off. Choose any adjective you want; she looked ready to stick her cocktail stick and untouched olive where the sun don’t shine, his sun at least.

I arrived after being dragged around the shops for two hours and I’d run out of patience and my credit card out of, well…credit. I put Lucy in a cab, with bags, they were all hers anyway, and made my way down to the King’s Head. Football was on the TV and I wanted, no, I needed a pint or two and anyway, I was busting for a lash. I nodded to the barman, asked for a pint of ale and made my way to the Gents. That’s when I noticed them.

He had his hands out in front of him when I passed, and, relieved at being relieved, I made my way back with less haste and he still had his hands in front of him, like he was praying or testing for rain or something. Whatever he was doing was having no positive effect whatsoever; maybe he’d run out of credit too. I got my pint and made my way to a little table, a little way off to the right of them, with one of those retro Heineken mirrors on the wall next to me and I could see them in action, as well as hear them.

“You were a twat Paul.”

“I know love, I don’t know what happened, it just happened.”

He’d chatted up, touched up or ballsed up by the sounds of things. Typical bloke, I know how you feel mate, I thought. I went back to the football, trying to concentrate on the game which was slower settling than a pint of Guinness. The ball was pinging about all over the place, no fun to watch but I watched it anyway, it certainly beat the hell out of shopping. A free kick got my attention but not for long.

“Where is she? Where did you put her?” Her? This made my ears pick up a bit. I pretended to watch the football.

“Behind the allotments near the railway embankment. There’s some old garages there and I left her there.”

“You f…”.

“Do you want some more drinks?” It was the barmaid, taking their empties from their table. He said yes, she said nothing so I guess she either nodded or shook her head, there are only so many things you can communicate without words. The barmaid plonked the glasses on the bar and poured a lager.

“It won’t be for long, it was like a temporary measure, you know. I didn’t have the time.”

“You could have done better than that. She’ll be found in no time Paul. What the bloody hell were you thinking?”

“Shh…, she’s coming back.”

The mirror told me she’d folded her arms, a frown that looked furrowed with a hand-plough creasing her forehead. She looked at her phone, he looked at her. The barmaid put two glasses down, it was a nod then.

“I’ll go now, after this drink, alright?”

“Yeah? Well, I suppose it will be dark in half an hour, won’t it?”

“Yeah, it’ll be alright, you’ll see.”

Who was she? What had she done? What had he done to her? I had a hundred questions and didn’t know what to do with the information I’d heard.

“I hope you’re right Paul, she’s been in the family for years.”

“She’ll be alright Trish, really. Who’d want an old car like that anyway?”

************

I entered a competition recently where I had half an hour to write on one of three subjects given.  I chose “a conversation” and out came the above.  While I was writing I didn’t know who “she” was but as the minutes ticked away I decided I wanted to write something that didn’t involve death or murder, and as we English-speakers have a penchant for talking about our cars as feminine, the little ending came to me.  I submitted with one minute left and received a ‘commended’ so it was ok. 

Hemingway once said “write drunk, edit sober” – when you only have half an hour to do both, which do you chose? 

Flash Fiction Friday 146: Colours frozen in time by Chris Farley

My ever present and never diminishing thanks once again to Morgen.
I’m still unsure as to whether I should be disturbed about the fact that I sat in a pub looking at a tattoo and invented this story around it…

MorgEn Bailey - Editor, Comp Columnist/Judge, Tutor & Writing Guru

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the one hundred and forty-sixth piece in this series. This week’s is a 436-worder by Christopher Farley.

Colours frozen in time

The tattoo was the first thing I noticed; it was beautiful. She sat opposite her friend drinking Belgian beer from a huge glass and I saw it as I walked past, making my way to the men’s room.

Her thin, white arms poked out from her even whiter t-shirt, then a waterfall of colour burst from the sleeves of the t-shirt. Three lotus flowers, red, green and pink, one on top of the other. But oh, the arm. How could something so pale and delicate suffer so much pain? I returned to the bar and pretended to look at the game on the big screen. Her friend rose from the table and headed for the toilet.

“Hi.”

“Hi.”

“Sorry, I couldn’t help…

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The shrink and syllable

Message / psycho / disyllable

Sounds like an English pub name, in fact, should I ever own a pub (dangerous Farley, dangerous) it wouldn’t be a bad one.  I digress.  This piece came from an early morning idea of opening the dictionary, closing my eyes and jabbing my finger three times and seeing what words were found…the first two were ok. At 7am I really had to think about ‘disyllable’ though. Anyway, I gave myself 20 minutes for the exercise and it rolled out like this:

***

He sat there staring at me, just wouldn’t drop his eyes. I could feel myself squirming inside, uncomfortable was not word enough for how I felt. In some far off corner of my brain though I rationalised; he had a point, some twisted logic that made his argument plausible. He waited.

“You must understand Mr Brunton that I am not an expert in that field.”

Yes, but what do you actually think doctor?”

Well, I suppose if I had an opinion I could proffer it, I guess I can’t see the harm.”

He waited. I cleared my throat. I wasn’t so much worried about his reaction, I found myself wanting his approval. I held his gaze.

“The first thing is you need to stop thinking everything is some kind of subliminal message, with some hidden agenda. It really isn’t like that. You…”

“Doctor, you work for the system, you would say that.”

“System? What system? I am a psychologist Mr Brunton, you came to me remember?” I heard my tone change. No matter what the situation I’ve always kept a lid on my feelings. Impartiality is my middle name. However, with this psycho sitting in front of me thinking God knows what about me, whilst the colour drained and returned to his face with every fleeting emotion that raced through his mind, his eyes constantly wandering round the room. I could feel tiny bubbles of anger rising up, like champagne in a flute glass.

“There is nothing untoward about it,” I continued, “and I really don’t see the problem Mr Br…”

“Ah! But you wouldn’t would you doctor. For you it isn’t a problem you’ve ever considered. How many people go through life blatantly ignoring fundamental questions such as these? Too many I shouldn’t wonder.”

“Mr Brunton.”

“You ignore these things at your peril doctor. These issues must be confronted, they have to be…”

MR BRUNTON!” I was now shaking visibly and any trace of impartiality had flown out of the window or crawled under the door. “Mr Brunton, I am not an expert in either linguistics or grammar, therefore I will now find you the contact details of the Oxford English Dictionary, whereupon you can contact them yourself and ask them just why the word “disyllable”, which means a word containing two syllables, itself actually contains four.”

StoryADay May 2014 – Getting Home

Well, I didn’t expect to take part in this, I never have done. When I received my StoryADay May 2014 email this morning I paid it little attention as I had a busy, busy day ahead of me.  However a couple of inspired hours this evening have produced 1,500 words – whether they’re good words or not I’ll leave up to you.

I’ve no knowledge of Ohio but Google maps gave me a geographic idea. I’ve no way of knowing if there’s a bus station in Marion, Ohio. I know there’s a Route 23 – Google told me. Anyway, here it is.

Thanks Julie, thanks Neil.

**********************

It isn’t normal, there’s no way this is normal. Bob Dylan once said you don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows and normally I’d say Old Bobby was right. I do however wonder what he would’ve said if he was stuck here with me in this dog-turd bus station, where the lounge caters for both arrivals and departures, somewhere in these back-fields of Ohio, watching a little Vespa getting blown around like a dropped chewing gum wrapper on a Chicago street. The wind and storm came from the north; now it comes from everywhere. What can I do to get back in time for my presentation tomorrow in Chicago?  I look out of the greasy, finger stained window. The rain meets the glass two inches in front of my nose horizontally.

‘It’ll blow over,’ says some farmer Joe, probably a local from two fields down the road, ‘it always does.’

Genius. A down-home nougat of wisdom from the corn flats of Ohio. It most certainly always does, it’s called a weather pattern, and weather patterns; unlike other patterns, like those of the floral leaning on my wife’s dress, blow over.

‘You hear that honey? The man said it’ll blow over.’ Mrs 1978 big floral dress speaks just as I was thinking of her. Is that a sign of true love?

‘Blow over, my ass,’ not even bothering to turn around. I can see her reflection in the darkening window, trying to look sympathetic with arms folded, at least, when one of them isn’t shoving a donut into her cake-hole. Then, joy of joys, the baby starts crying. Tommy was fed only an hour ago but now he took up a wailing normally reserved for paid mourners at funerals. He takes after his mother; two peas from the same pod. I snatch half the piece of donut from her hand and shove it in the baby’s face. He shuts up and eats, he always does. It’ll give me a chance to think. If I wasn’t at the presentation at 9am the next day I was out of a job and out on my ass. And here I was stuck near Marion, Ohio. Not even Marion, Indiana, where at least they have the ghost of James Dean for company.

‘Don’t give him crap to eat; it’s not good for him.’ I presume she must’ve sprayed donut as she had a mouthful when I took half of it from her. Shame it didn’t fall backwards.

‘Start taking some of your own advice sweet cheeks and lemme think.’

‘The hell you think you’re talking to? I’m your wife and dammit you better treat me like it.’

I jump with a start as horizontal water turns to horizontal hail, big enough to bring joy to any gin tonic. My reflection mopes back at me in the now-black glass. The overheads come on full and an announcer’s muttering something through a wall of static. Hell you say boy?

‘I said, you skinny son of a bitch that you’d better treat me like it.’ A sugary paw that seems to be growing around the wedding band given aeons before pinches my shoulder and scatters refined fat-powder over my jacket. Enough weather watching. I drop my shoulder and spin round, nose to donut-crusher. The view outside was better. The rustle of the donut bag plays me in.

‘We flew to Cincinnati and we came here to this forsaken land of the corn, to see your father who doesn’t know who you are, your mother who’s too drunk to remember who you are and your shit-for-brains farmhand brother who doesn’t give a ding-dang-doodly who you are. Any why? Because you get…’

A chubby hand with weight behind it pushes me up against the window. A spray like a winter gritter truck fans out to great me. I blink.
‘You leave my family outta this.’ Another push and a podgy finger wave. ‘You leave my poor daddy outta this. Ma mama’s worked double shift trying to bring up Billy and care for pa.’ Tears somehow found their way around her ample cheeks. She’s a-hurting. Not as much as she will be if I lose my job and she has to cut back on her pastries. Hell, this is her fault anyway. Even the lack of rental cars is her fault.

‘Start eating three, yeah just three square meal a day and maybe, just maybe, you could get your ass in the car and travel further than the KFC before you start complaining and threatening to throw up. If we’d brought the car we would’ve been halfway to Chicago now.’

‘Maybe if you had yourself a decent car I’d be able to travel in it; that thing stinks and makes me sick.’

‘It stinks from the shitty Marlboros you smoke and the greasy food you eat. And what about my frigging presentation tomorrow?’ I bang my hand against the window, punctuating every syllable, raised voice barely audible over the wind trying its best to rip the roof off and the windows out.

People start to give us some space and make an unconscious ring around us. Great. End of the world weather outside. Hey honey; let’s watch the Laurel and Hardy couple go hammer and tongs in this excuse for an bus station lounge.

‘Maybe if you were the sort of husband you should be, I wouldn’t eat so much.’

‘What? I do 12 hour days in the studio to keep you in ices and him in diapers.’

‘You don’t know what it’s like bringing up a kid on your own, cos your husband ain’t there half the time.’ Thank God for small mercies. I take a series of deep breaths, my eyes blaze fire. She steps back and takes her hand away.

Noses and glasses peered over sports pages. To hell with them; I have to get out of here. I look around just as a gust hammers the window. Suddenly a garbage bin, the size of a small car, spins away from its post and heads toward the window. A communal intake of breath: even we’ve taken second billing now. I push my wife away from the window but she takes it badly, falls over on her ass and curses me to the four winds, except I think there are more than that outside.

Mr “it’ll blow over” comes over to me, holding up a key. ‘Son, we ain’t going anywhere yet. I got a cousin down in Columbus, you can take my car and leave it with him. You can get a plane from there; sure as hell get you there quicker.’

I liked the sound of down. The storm came from the north, from the lakes. Maybe it wouldn’t get that far. My wife, still sat on the floor, looks at me and shakes her head.

“It’s the job or us,” she says, without a hint of emotion.

I take the key and thank the man, and promise to fill up with gas when I get there. The address of his cousin is written on a torn flyer for a nearby agricultural show and tucked in my back pocket. I go over and ruffle Tommy’s hair and bend down to kiss him.

“Without my job there’ll be no us. Now get up and get going.”

She pulls Tommy away from me and holds him close. “Get away from us you selfish piece of shit.” The last word spat with cobra-like venom.

Against the advice of a security guard I head outside. The door is almost ripped out of my hands as I step out and hail rips into my body as I look for the brown pick-up. It’s sitting 50 yards away, rocking on its springs. I’m finding it hard to breath but tuck my head down and try to run. I fall over twice before getting to the door, fumble with the key in the lock and get inside. I turn the ignition and the truck starts straight away. Even with the lights on visibility is difficult. I head out onto the back roads trying to find my way onto Route 23.

I manage about a dozen miles, the last two through a black wood, without seeing another vehicle, which begins to concern me a little. I think back to my wife and kid sitting there in the airport, no doubt wondering how I can be so callous as to leave them there. Lost in thought I don’t see the fallen tree until it’s almost too late and I slam on the brakes. That was a close one. Now what shall I do?

I’m sitting here feeling the will drain out of me and join the puddles of water around my feet. A head-wrenching ripping sound comes from outside the car and I look up, and see a huge, dark shape crashing down in my direction.

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