Monday, 9 December 2013

Animals That Live Amongst Us by Ceri Lowe-Petraske

Third Quarter 2013 Flash 500 Winner

She sits cross-legged as the tourists pass; hair scraped back framing the latest slate-grey bruise. She has stolen the vagrant’s patch and, although they both believe they are entitled to it, only one of them has pissed on it as a declaration of that. It’s right by the square, a popular slot. She glugs at a bottle of vodka, folding pleats into pages she rips from the book at her side. She does this for hours, there are hundreds of pages. Rip. Fold.

Each tiny origami animal she makes is different. This skill, this behaviour – like many others – was learned from her mother when she was young. They would sit together after the beatings and make them. She remembers to fold and she folds to forget. A curious crowd are watching her arrange the fragile paper animals she makes. They gather around her in a semi-circle. These are the same people as you or I, the same people on the television, the same people that watch as she comes into work with a broken arm one week, leave the pub with a splintered nose the next. Smack. Crunch

They watch and they ooh-aah as she places a lion, a dog, a bear all in a row. These are different to the ooh-aahs the neighbours heard, ears pressed to the walls. They heard nothing officer as she fled the house with just a bottle of vodka and the bible her husband battered her with. Her mother left the same species of animal a decade before. Except she left in an ambulance. A woman captures the clever folding on her phone from three different angles. She considers a panoramic – there’s a good backdrop of lobelia on the wall behind. A blushing purple, the bruise of a good summer. A man scatters a handful coins like breadcrumbs near the bottle. Clink. Clunk.

She gently places the last paper animal down. It lands perfectly, one paw balancing on the next wing on the tail of another and, delicately, she spills the last of the vodka over the animals. With one match they catch fire like dominos and flare out one word in the street: Arsehole. No–one really understands what is happening or why but they think it is art and after a few seconds the words have disappeared into white curls of puff. The spectators cheer for no reason and give her whatever change they have left. After all, art is what separates us from animals, isn’t it? Clap. Hurrah.

She watches the arms and the legs of the Arsehole word which means nothing turn to ashes and blow away like cobwebs. The cobwebs disappear like a three day old bruise will. She knows there will always be more animals, but for now she sits with her bruise and her empty bottle, holding tight to the still-warm coins and the mistimed interest of strangers.

Flash 500 runs three competitions. We have an open-themed category for fiction up to 500 words. There is also a humour verse section, asking for any form of funny poetry, from a limerick to a poem of 32 lines.

Both of the above are quarterly competitions with closing dates of 31st March, 30th June, 30th September and 31st December.

The Novel Opening Chapter & Synopsis Competition is a new annual competition, opening for entries on 1st May and closing on 31st October.

For information on all three competitions, visit the Flash 500 website: 

1 comment:

  1. What a beautifully written tale. Great use of words, especially the bit about remembering to fold and fold to forget.