hello all, today i have two posts. first, this one, about a piece of short fiction (or ‘flash fiction’ as i believe some of the kids are calling it) and later, my small stone for the day. first, this piece called ‘the book group’.
this is one of those pieces i write that stands slightly apart from my other stuff. it’s not quite able to fit into any category i try and squeeze it in, but it’s sometimes nice to perform, and sometimes nice to discover and read. the background behind it is merely a feeling of nostalgia. i wrote this perhaps a year ago, maybe more. i don’t want to put it in my book because it won’t fit in there, so instead i’m letting you lot read it. hope you like it:
the book group
That day at the book group the postcard from Florence fell out of my Voyage in the Dark (of a cathedral, and the cathedral’s steps) and fell to the floor without grace. it was Yorkshire, and it was raining outside. The book group were too consumed with Rhys to notice, and Nicolas pushed his glasses up his nose and continued to glance occasionally at my breasts which caught his periphery from across the room.
I had walked three blocks home before I noticed the card was gone and so started to walk backwards. Nicolas told me the look on my face was that of a woman who had realised long after the event that if you take antibiotics, the pill doesn’t work, and was trying to work out the first day of her last period. I remembered having a fever and the remnants of a chest infection the last time I had sex with anyone. “You didn’t tell me” said Nicolas. “He was nobody” I replied. “Someone told me he’d be good for me but I don’t want to stay in touch with him”. Nicolas turned with a wince and gestured to a taxi, which we rode the rest of the way home.
Six years had passed when Julia and Robert moved out of the house they held the book groups in. They tracked me down at a house in Manchester to finally return the postcard. They must have swept it up and put it away; it was found nestling between a potato stamp painting and a box of spare christmas cards in the Rubbish Drawer. It was a unique moment that Nicolas would later describe in a cento as:
“All the world dropped dead; the
Evening, spread out across the sky.
From a grief ago” (Plath, Eliot, Thomas).
I should mention here that Nicolas was the one who saw him off at the airport when he flew out to Florence, three days before the card was sent, and wishes he’d been the one to send it himself. His motives were suspect, and so his thoughts here are as sincere as they are his own.
I took the postcard from Julia in the kitchen whilst drinking tea, suspicious of the leaves for their bitterness without sugar. It was my birthday, and presents were on the dinner table. Julia said she’d read the postcard (hard not to, really). She said every day she is overwhelmed by codes of normality and social fallacy; she said it might have killed me if she never returned it, even worse if she pretended not to know its significance in my life now.
The week after, I framed it and put it up in the hallway. My daughter, now three years old and able to talk. Her father Nicolas, out in the village meeting beautiful new men. Outside, she kicked a half deflated football against a curb, awarding herself points every time it bounced upwards. “It’s not a competition if you aren’t competing against anyone so you already lose” I told her.
At that same moment in time, unknown to me, my publisher in Berlin took a fatal overdose of Zopiclone and Depokate, so my book never went ahead in the end.
The groups resumed again when the kids were old enough to play out on their own. We all lived near eachother now so we didn’t need to get the bus, like when we were students, when we were young, and the idea of getting on a plane to Florence seemed immediately possible, when everyone could just marry eachother and we’d all still be here years later to celebrate.
How the bus would heave and lurch forward at every red light.
How my body would never jolt like that again.