Posted by: sulya | 29 September 2009

500 Words of Fiction: Staggered


Jess still points out your car to me.

Her hands were shaking as they held her wine glass and twisted the pedestal base two staggered twists clockwise and then two staggered twists counter-clockwise over and over again. One hand raised up from the glass, index finger pointing to an imaginary car that her eyes were seeing somewhere on the beer stained, broad planked, wood floor about two tables away. She used two voices and had both sides of the conversation in a rush and burn.

It’s a blue one this time Mommy! His is red, isn’t it Mommy? Yes, baby, his is red. His is a red one, right Mommy? But that one was blue? Yes, his is a red one and that was a blue one, sweetie, you got it. But we saw a green one too didn’t we? Yesterday, right? We saw a green one? Yes, baby we saw a green one.

She stopped. Smiled.

And by yesterday, of course, she meant about two weeks ago. Their sense of time always amazes me ’cause they don’t really have one. It all happens within about 24hrs. Their whole life. Everything happens pretty much right now all the time always. Fuck I’m talking a lot. Sorry.

He opened his mouth, she held up one of her nervous, fidgety hands to stop him. He laughed.


You were about to say it’s okay, that you don’t mind listening, that it’s fine if I want to just keep on talking. And it’s always sweet of you but it isn’t okay. It isn’t. It never was. I shouldn’t be the only one talking. Not all the time.

Her eyes. Green and brown. Flecks of yellow, the inside corners just a little red. She’d cried sometime today. It was that kind of red. Not tired. Sad. It was the first time she’d made eye contact since she’d met him at the pub, the first time he’d seen her since he’d moved away. Something in him pulled up tight, a thread wrapped around a finger until the tip starts to throb and turn blue. The black of her pupils showed him the cool defiance of his posture.

His mind felt her fingertips run over his lips, her cheek and hair brush his rib cage, the soothing texture of her real laugh in private. In the dark.

I wish I hadn’t heard you were coming into town, she said, I mean, you wouldn’t have called me.

There was no question in her tone. Her eyes turned inward, traced the edges of her stupidity. The wine glass staggered four more times and stopped. Her spine straightened and the thread pulled impossibly tighter inside him. He brushed a thought over the nearly-numb achy blue parts of him to the blood-filled pink parts of him, felt how both sensations were painful and real. Nothing he could say or do would ever make it right.

You’re wrong, she said, like he’d said it out loud.  And then she left.


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