Thursday, 24 September 2015

Six Songs, a short story by Catherine Edmunds

There are six songs worth singing. Finney claims I made them up. I don’t care. I hardly know him any more.

The first song happened when we made love in the dark, with the sound of ‘Blade Runner’ on next door’s TV. I imagined Finney as Deckard, I shivered, he thought it was down to him and that was when he crooned the first song.

The second time, we were at his farm. His father was in the barn, leaning over doing something with hay for the sheep. His red jumper smelled and had holes and he looked old and tired, but warm, I wanted to hug him. I said as much to Finney and he gave a short bark of a laugh, but he taught me the next song. Later we had supper, colcannon, and I watched his father.

The next time was when he’d come back from the desert, he showed me a photo of a burnt tree that wouldn’t rot away, not enough moisture, might have been like that for one year or a hundred. The cacti nestled at its base, the sky was indigo. Something wrong with the processing, he said. I held him, he was close to weeping, and I sang the song as he slipped inside me, needing my warmth.

Last May we went for a drive, we hurtled by fields of yellow. The scent was heavy as gold. We got out of the car, could barely breathe. There was no one about, we pushed through plants into the centre of the field, we were pollen covered, we lay down, we choked and sneezed, we found a lurching sort of a song. It didn’t work well. We went back to the car, dusty and embarrassed and didn’t speak for twenty minutes.

At the beach the next day, a man was floating along on a machine, part kite, part jet pack – something went wrong and the machine stuttered, he dropped into the sea, came back pulling his machine, swearing. We helped him retrieve what he could, drove him back to the place he had rented for the spring. He said he’d make us something to eat, and while he was preparing the food, we sat together on his threadbare sofa and looked around. This place had nothing to do with us, everything was strange. We crept out. We didn’t feel like tasting his food. On the way home, Finney tried to sing, but his voice faltered. I took up the song, but I couldn’t sing it either.

I said let’s go visit your father. I missed the old man, so we arranged it, and his smile when he saw me was a song, and Finney could see it. He never sang to me again. His father took me to bed that night while Finney went down the pub. I found him the next morning lying outside in the yard. There was vomit in the cattle trough.

Winner of Flash 500 Second Quarter 2015.

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