now in the debut issue of Splonk
now in the debut issue of Splonk
If someone handed you a matchbox with their phalanx bones inside, and referred to it with a shy smile on handing it over as ‘Toe of Toe Hall’, you’d be charmed, wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t yell out to a cafeteria full of teenagers “He’s giving me his boner!” You wouldn’t join in the laughter pouring down like pig’s blood.
I had my first body parts removed at the age of six. Airborne Foot versus Metal Bed Railing. Several bones in the second toe on my right foot didn’t make it. The doctor at the hospital took one look and said “amputation”, right in front of me. I got to take the removed sections home, as a bribe to stop me screaming.
For years, I kept them in an empty matchbox, which I dubbed Toe Hall. Push open the drawer: Toe of Toe Hall. My parents laughed at that every time.
And they bought me a new bed.
Sixteen-year-old girls apparently don’t like receiving body parts. Personally, I thought it a sweet idea, that I was offering something of myself. I wasn’t good at small talk.
Daphne was in my tutor group. We were in the same room for roll call every morning, five days a week. It wasn’t as though I were a total stranger. It’s not as though I necessarily expected her to display my toe bones against her own skin, in the warm, scented hollow of her suprasternal notch, say. She could have kept the box on her bedside table. I didn’t include instructions.
I tossed the box in the trash as I ran out of the building.
Doubled over. Stepping gingerly through the nettles and the low-lying gunsmoke. A chill on the morning, dew darkening the shin-high leaves, the bark. Straightening up, arching back, pressing knuckles into flannelled kidneys.
– A sharp crack.
Scarlet jellied sneeze splashes the nettles.
Don’t lose a contact lens in the forest during hunting season.
I’m a one–man band, when the crowds are tough, a one–man marching band. I’ve had more coins thrown at me by the afternoon cathedral drunks than dropped into my hat. I’m an unloved one–man band.
The bass-drum’s my Achilles’ heel. I’m old school, I don’t think it’s right to perform to backing tapes like seems to be the norm nowadays, but can I keep a beat? Can I fiddle!
I practice at home, foot, pedal, foot, pedal, ’til the neighbours bang on the walls. They’re better percussionists than me, I should rope them into the act.
The precinct on a Saturday, rain curtaining off the eaves. A couple of Community Support officers look over as they pass, but they don’t seem too interested. Them and everyone else.
Can’t wait to go home today, before I mould. My harmonica suddenly makes the most godawful squawk when I blow. I blow harder.
Flash fiction now at Spelk Fiction
I couldn’t get the splinter out, even with tweezers.
“You realise that if I DO pull this out,” I said, “it’ll be like pulling the pin out a grenade and you might explode any second after?”
“That’s not true!” he protested. “I only just got this splinter and I didn’t explode before that!”
Oh from the mouths of babes. How are you supposed to reason with reason?
His pinkie, meanwhile, was looking more and more like a bloodwurst. Before I could decide on the wisdom or otherwise of an unmarried man sticking his neighbour’s child’s fingers in his mouth, his dirty digits were between my teeth. They tasted of sweat and creosote. He stood, I knelt. He quietly broke wind in his shorts, which I could have done without. I kept sucking but the splinter wouldn’t budge.
“Don’t touch the fence, Mum!” the boy suddenly cried out. “It’s still wet!”
(my 3rd Ad Hoc Fiction winner)
You tease my heartstrings out and tie them in a bow. But not before you’ve YANKED with all your might, unreeled me to my spinning, naked core. Not until you’ve run with my quick around the neighbourhood, twice, (I grab the door frame with both hands, not to be dragged after), wrapped my sweet and tenders ‘round house and lamp post and dazed-looking dog. (The door frame’s splintering.) THEN we get to the neat, tidy bow.
Not as light as you’d think birds alight on my wires. After-school kids use my innards for skipping. Total strangers stumble over me. The Special Brew crew use my elastics as hammocks in the lager-y light of evening.
I’m all out there.
Spooling through this pinhole in my chest.
That’s what you do to me. Every single day. And every day I come back for more.