By Jon Ransom
A fuck-you fly-by. These geese don’t care about me. Nor does the big, hungry sky. But like an idiot, I lay flat beneath both in the dirt and grass anyway, because anything’s better than looking at her. I want to go fetch the tin of tar on the workbench, inside the shed. Wouldn’t trouble myself with a brush. Instead, I’d steal the geese one by one from above, spread thick tar across their feathered wings with the palm of my hand, press the hurt into the black wetness, and watch it fly someplace else.
Now the weather’s rolled over. The clouds, about ready to bust, drive me off the marsh to her. Inside, the kitchen is all leftovers. There’s the taste of old smoke in the air. Walls sticky with chip oil are hanging on to the last something she said. She being his mum, the woman sat at the table, smoking a cigarette. I kick off my trainers and leave them next to his at the backdoor. His trainers are two sizes bigger than mine, laces untied for good. Makes me ache for the taste of his big-toe in my mouth.
“Tell me—” she says.
I could say anything about her son and she wouldn’t hear it. This woman is not welcome here.
I tell her about the river because everything starts and ends with the water, and she might understand this. The tides around these parts chase after you if you’re not looking out. I say he was reckless and stupid, and that now I need to lie down. But she is lapping at my shadow like a thirsty animal, bent on stealing it out from behind me. She follows upstairs. My bedroom smells like armpits. I crack open the window. She is standing in the doorway, watching the bed.
“Rain’s coming down hard,” she says.
The elephant between us is not really an elephant, but the bed her son fucked me on.
“I should leave.”
And I want to do the leaving. Go out to the shed in the pouring rain, and find that tin. But I don’t. I say, “It was the end of the day— I can’t remember what song was playing in the kitchen.” His face had me hypnotised. Hot and flushed. Eyes full of trouble. “And he takes hold of my hand with his. Puts the other around my waist. Pulls me in. Tells me to give over.” And I did. “Then we’re dancing. The two of us. And we’re rubbish. But— I swear,” because it’s the truth. “It was the best five minutes I ever had.”
Jon Ransom is currently writing his debut novel, The Whale Tattoo, selected for the 2018 Arts Council England TLC Free Read Scheme. His short fiction has appeared in SAND Journal, Foglifter Press, and Lost Balloon. He lives in Cambridgeshire, UK.