Tuesday, January 09, 2007


(This was a story in the first Skint Writer competition. The theme was - being skint, broke, lack of funds. This is my interpretation)

The sound came to me randomly, like bubbles struggling upwards through melted chocolate.
Whuruump, wherrrump.
I listened intently for minuscule changes in these strange noises. There wasn’t much else to do. I found myself repeating them, copying them, perfecting each nuance as they came to my ears.

Whirr rump, whirr roomp.

I could drift away from these noises if I chose, and I chose often. The noises were too confusing. I could close them off to the total relief of silence, but more and more I was listening. Straining my ears until they felt like they would bleed.
I came back once to a newness. A sound that grated rudely against my nerves and sent me scuttling back to safety. It was a long time before I could subject myself to the pain again but I figured that it was better than the nothing. The more I heard, the more my nerves stopping jangling and I began to get used to the scraping, metallic sounds that had invaded the warm, comforting confectionary.
These new noises had the familiarity of a long lost memory. They were sounds that had been locked the cupboard since a childhood disease, like something on the tip of your tongue, known but unknown. They stayed on the tip of my ear for a long time.
I picked each syllable apart, repeating them like a mantra, but it was only when my penis was moved that I put meaning to the strange language. I could feel the lukewarm, gentle wetness spread over my thighs, trickling down to pool somewhere below me.
‘I’m going to wash you, John, okay?’
I enjoyed those hands, but they departed and in their leaving, I could feel a part of me once again. The damp member irritated me more than it should but I usually hung to the right and those hands had left me on the wrong side. I had a penis, it was something.
The baby cried for a long time, a colicky baby whose cries would have woken the dead. Later the cries turned to sobbing that would outdo Scarlet O’Hara.
‘No, he can’t move,’ I interpreted when Scarlet had gone ‘both legs are broken and he has sustained extensive fractures and trauma to the chest.’
The words were clearer now and came to my ears fully formed. I didn't like what
I was hearing, so I scuttled back to the quiet and waited for the gentle hands that washed.
You know, when you live with someone for a long time their whole being is imprinted on your psyche. I knew it was Laura even before the dreadful crying stopped. I cannot see her face, or smell her perfume but I know when she is here.
She sits (I presume she sits) for hours, holding my hand, stroking my forearm, silently. She was told to talk to me but we both know that she would find that difficult. Poor Laura, she found it hard enough when there were two of us in the conversation.
Sometimes when the world is bereft of the scraping noises, she whispers in my ear. I can feel the warmth of her breath as she speaks and I have begun to dread the time when my ear goes cold.
‘I didn’t mean it John.’ she says ‘I didn’t mean it, you understand, please come back to me.’
‘I’m here,’ I shout back ‘it’s all right. I can’t really understand what you’re saying, but it’s okay, it’s okay.
I don’t think that she can hear me.

There is a silence again that I don’t think I made. When the sound returns I find that my chest is rising and falling by itself, accompanied by a harmonious machine that mirrors each breath. Scarlet has returned, sobbing over ‘brain injuries’ but the rhythm of the breathing lulls me into a long, dreaming sleep.
For the first time in ages I can see properly with my eyes, real people, real places, not the shades of grey that manage to get through my eyelids. I enjoy the dream but not its content. The argument is there in vivid Technicolor, the harsh words, the biting, the sniping, and the new car.
‘Why?’ Laura screams ‘For god's sake why? You know we haven’t got any money- we’re broke.’
I huff and puff and stroke the bright, glossy paintwork.
‘But I wanted it’ I say petulantly, and it is beautiful. My red heaven on four beautiful alloy wheels.
‘Selfish bastard,’ my wife spits ‘this is the last straw, Get out, and take that heap of trash with you!’
Laura is here again but she has left Scarlet at home. No more crying, only a desperate whispering that makes me listen when I don’t want to.
‘I didn’t mean it John. I don’t care about the money, I would live with you in a cow shed if I had to. You never bought me anything in twenty years of marriage and I don’t care, not now. We could buy another car, but the doctors say you will never wake up. They also say that hearing is the last to go, so I hope you can hear me when I say that it really doesn’t matter now.’

‘Oh Laura, listen to me,’ I shout, gathering the darkness around me for the last time ‘if I wasn’t broke I’d buy you diamonds…you know I would…don’t you?’

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