Furious Fiction rolled around again at the start of this month, and I wrote something for it. My wife’s comment, at 11pm on Sunday night, when I needed to submit the piece, was: “Richard, you are a good writer, but this isn’t good writing.”
I would tend to agree, but I will leave it for you to decide.
This month, we needed to meet the following requirements:
- Each story had to include the name of at least ONE element from the periodic table.
- Each story’s first and last words had to begin with S.
- Each story had to contain the words TRAFFIC, JOWLS and HIDDEN.
- And finally, each story had to include something that BUZZES.
“Sentimentality,” she said, “that’s the reason I did it. I wanted him to remember.”
“I wanted him to remember what it was like to really fear,” she paused, “I didn’t expect him to die.”
Alessia sat across from me in an orange jumpsuit. She looked both twenty-five and fifty-five all at once: beautiful blonde hair, made frizzy by the humidity of a crowded holding cell; day-old make-up that once covered and now accentuated the bags under her eyes; her streamline jaw tensing and releasing over and over as she replayed the events of the last twenty-four hours.
Even though the lower half of her body was hidden from me, a faint tapping suggested that she was nervously shaking her leg. I watched her face carefully as her jowls tightened and sagged.
“Why are you telling me this now?”
Alessia’s leg stopped tapping. Her face settled.
The silence was punctuated only by the buzzing of the neon lights, suspended perilously from chains that were bolted to the roof.
I smirked involuntarily.
It all created a nice bit of symmetry. Above, the noble gas was trapped in its tube, its electrons excited by a current, lighting up the room. And just below it the noble woman, dressed as brightly as the light, in chains and bolted to the floor.
Neither had chosen to be here, and the only way either would leave was broken.
“Why not?” she said, “What do I have to lose?”
* * * * *
It’s not like Alessia had never seen a dead body. As a good Catholic girl, she’d been dragged to open casket funerals, and she’d only vomited once. She’d never understood why they’d made such a fuss about her Nonno’s suit when he was going into the ground soon. Anyway, she’d said to her mother, I bet he’d find it funny.
There was a difference, however, between seeing a dead body, and causing one.
Years later and just yesterday, while Alessia’s mother cradled her in her arms for the last time, she’d said that “the police will understand. After all, you were defending yourself.”
“No Ma, I wasn’t.”
“Then what happened?” her mother’s voice caught as she asked.
“I remembered his eyes.”
* * * * *
Traffic roared across the bridge overhead and Jacob repeated himself, thinking Alessia hadn’t heard.
She had, but it bought her a second.
“You owe me, Al,” the affected sweetness in his voice making the situation even more threatening.
“I don’t owe—“ she trailed off and looked down the path home, blocked off by his arm. Her heart was in an adrenaline-fueled frenzy.
“Oh, shut up,” he pressed himself closer to her, “you don’t need to—Ah!”
The taste of iron filled her mouth as she unclamped her jaw, and even though the pounding of his feet behind her had died away well before she reached her house, a part of her had stayed there, under that bridge, and it hadn’t survived.