A Fragment

Gosh, it’s been a while since I posted any original fiction on here, hasn’t it? I’ve been a bit tied up with editing my two short story collections, A Door in the Mirror and The Burial.

Anyway, no time like the present. Here, this isn’t a complete work by any means, but have a gander at this early scene from the book I’m just now getting started on…

The Third Age

Somewhere there is a child. Touch it. Press your fingertips into its skin, put your lips to its body. You can feel the shape of it, a thing of promise and misery. Another life. How this life goes on and on. A parade of broken things all in a line. Your child is dead and gone.

“Yeah. Yeah, that’s me.”

She blushes, playing with her hair, biting her lip. All the little games. “I thought it was you…”

“Yeah, well.” Mark grins. He likes to play this game. Likes to flirt. Drawing flies.

Kate watches him, half-interested, as he laughs with the girl. As he strokes her bare arm casually, almost accidentally. As he brushes close to her. There is a flute of champagne in his hand and a folded linen napkin in his back pocket.

The girl is like any other. A slender creature of bright lights and bathroom purges. One can see the way her body is set upon her bones, like paper or lace draped, only a wisp of a thing, hardly human. She stands with one hand on her hip, one finger between her lips whenever she stops speaking. Her heels are like knives, clacking the hardwood. Jewelry dangles from her like crusted slime, a hundred thousand dollars in borrowed diamond. Her cheekbones her practiced smile her painted face.

Kate knows her. She is a familiar girl; the thing which orbits about fame, the bobble to be hung from every producer’s arm.

She likes girls like that. Slim delicate creatures who cry when they are alone like lost dogs for a master. Placid as a lake now and desperate beneath the surface. They’re tragic shapes, ghosts of sorrow and lives left behind. Somewhere a listless heartland woman and her fat husband are missing their bright-eyed girl, wondering if maybe tonight she will call and perhaps we’d better stay a few hours more by the phone. She’s here, gone dull and glazed with betrayed hope. Girls like that are gone and gone forever. Girls like that were never children, they’re built in a factory from eggshells and crocodile leather.

Mark laughs softly. He leans close and whispers something in her ear. His lips brush her cheek.

She smiles and she looks down, teeth parted. She turns away, eyes distant, mouth red as an opening flower. And her hand is on the collar of his jacket, touch light as a breath.

We’ve come a long way now. Infinite repetitions of the essential act. Somewhere back there our mothers and fathers are rutting by the naked fire with dirt under their nails and blood in their mouths. And history is a great gear turning, a generator of love raised like a blister on the skin of time. We’re far off.

Kate twists the cork and pops it. She drinks from the bottle, poking about the kitchen, her hands running over every shining surface. So this is Sophia’s kitchen. How strange to think of her in a place like this, chrome and ceramic, knives in the block.


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