The Narcissist’s Vindication. A flash fiction.

I entered this flash in a competition recently. It didn’t win. Let’s be honest; it didn’t even get an honourable mention. I was quite pleased with my effort though, so here it is for #fridayflash. The rules required use of the phrase ‘a race against time’.

Please comment if you feel like it. Go on. You know you want to.

Nip over to #fridayflash to find many other writers flashing furiously.

 

The Narcissist’s Vindication

 

In his twenties, Nigel lacked the maturity to control his flashes of inspiration.

‘Life,’ he said, checking his date was awake with a judiciously placed poke, ‘is a race against time.’

‘And death,’ replied Jane, ‘is when you come in last. It’s three in the morning and I was fast asleep. Goodnight.’

Unused to having his genius reposted with such cruel efficiency, Nigel ended the romance over breakfast.

With the passing years, Nigel’s situational awareness improved enough to deliver his bons mots on occasions appropriate to the subject matter.

‘Eating in such an establishment,’ he announced one evening at The Ivy, ‘is simply disguising man’s bestial urge for self-nourishment with the culinary gewgaws of the privileged.’

‘Oh,’ said Rebecca, ‘and there was me thinking we were celebrating my thirtieth birthday.’

The trouble with other people, he’d decided by his forties, is that they lack enquiring minds.

‘The fact is, no-one seems to be able to analyse life like me.’

‘Is that another of your pearls of wisdom?’ asked Amy, whose capacity to endure Nigel’s insightful affirmations had significantly diminished.

‘Just one of many.’

‘I see,’ she said, rising from the bed, ‘well, string them together and there should be enough to hang yourself. Goodbye.’

As the door slammed, Nigel decided that such arrogance was misplaced and grossly inappropriate in a person of limited intelligence.

In his later years, Nigel resorted to specialist, MENSA-approved dating agencies and cleverly-worded, cryptic ads in the high-end papers. The few dates which resulted from his efforts proved predictably inept at matching his mental capacity; a fact which he shared with Fiona one evening, as he poured the wine.

‘Believe me,’ she said, noticing with approval how a well-aimed glass of Château Lafite stains a shirt as thoroughly as the cheapest of wines, ‘you’re no Stephen Hawking.’

Later that night, Nigel paused to wonder how the eminent professor might apply physics to the problem of measuring out just the right length of rope required to break a man’s neck.

‘I might not actually be him,’ he thought, ‘but I’m surely equal to the task.’

He was.

© flyingscribbler 2012

 

‘The Whale Crier’s Last Post’. A new flash fiction.

It’s been a while, but I’ve finally written a new story for #fridayflash. This one was inspired by a trip to Hermanus, South Africa. If you haven’t heard of it, Hermanus is the world’s top place for whale watching from the coast. Between April and October, Southern Right Whales head to the coast to mate, calve and generally roll around in the kelp. They do amazing things like ‘sail’ with their tail fins sticking out of the water, and ‘spyhop’, which is when they poke their heads out to have look. All this can be seen at close quarters from the cliff tops. This clip (which is a tourist info video) gives you some idea.

Hermanus is also home to the world’s only whale crier. I heard him blowing his kelp horn, which he does to let everyone know that whales are in the bay. It’s an amazing place. I hope this does it justice. (My whale crier is, of course, entirely fictitious).

 

The Whale Crier’s Last Post

Albert wasn’t used to competition. As the town’s, no, the world’s sole whale crier, he enjoyed the fame and celebrity which his unique situation attracted; it was an unexpected, but welcome joy at his time of life.

So, on the bright spring morning when the unmistakable sound of a horn drifted across from the other side of the bay, he was understandably concerned.

Until that moment, Albert’s professional worries extended to the small number of tourists who were concerned that the sound of his kelp horn represented a danger to the health of the whales; his explanation that it was outside of the animals’ sonic range appeared, somehow, to satisfy them.

But this was a new and altogether more worrying development. He listened carefully for a minute: it was definitely another horn, but not kelp. He listened again, recalling the days he spent playing in the brass section of his school orchestra (he had the perfect lip formation apparently). If he wasn’t mistaken, the horn that was now causing so much interest, at least amongst the whale watchers currently assembled along the cliff top, wasn’t orchestral at all, but a traditional hunting horn; the type so beloved of generations of English aristocrats.

Albert was not given to expletive utterances. He was, after all, a public figure; one of not insignificant importance to the town’s economy. However, he made an exception on this occasion. Not that it mattered: the tourists were already migrating towards the new, vibrant sound, scampering like hounds around the cliff edge.

‘Shit.’

This wasn’t good.

He peered over the edge. The whales he’d spotted, and whose presence he’d announced so ably not half an hour ago, were gone. He looked out into the bay.

‘Oh hell.’

They were lumbering steadily through the swell towards the new horn, whose brass rim Albert could see twinkling in the sun.

Sensing a threat to his future prospects, Albert tucked his kelp horn under his arm and joined the throng in their progress through the strengthening breeze.

‘Excuse me,’ said Albert, during a break in the young pretender’s trumpeting, ‘the town has only one license for a whale crier; I am its holder.’

‘Perhaps, old-timer, the town should reconsider its selection.’

‘But I’ve been the crier for years.’

‘Indeed, and look how you rush about with your seaweed horn, trying to catch up with the whales like the fat kid in the back row of a marching band. I however, have studied the hydrophonic qualities of their sonic vibrations.’ The young pretender now blew his horn to demonstrate his theory. ‘I can dictate where the whales will appear. I am the maestro, old-timer; I conduct the whales.’

And he did. With astonishing precision. Before the week was out, the young pretender had become the de facto whale crier, revelling in the glory, not to mention generous tips, which his new status afforded him.

But still Albert blew his old kelp horn, standing alone on the cliff top. He blew it all day, in the gaps when the young pretender took a breath or posed for photos. He blew it not to announce the presence of whales in the bay; rather his own. But far from being a rallying cry, the town’s people assumed he was playing his Last Post.

Yet still he blew. And as he blew, his horn’s resonations surfed the air’s waves across the bay to the narrow headland upon which the young pretender performed his baleen symphony. He blew until the rocks began to crumble and the headland disappeared into the ocean; swallowing both horn and much-surprised maestro.

There were many explanations for the unfortunate accident. One which was given little credence by the local investigators was based on an old paper buried in a defunct scientific journal. It centred on the stability of certain coastal rock types and the possibility of sudden and destructive erosion caused by unusual sonic resonance.

None of which mattered now to the town’s reinstated whale crier, Albert van der Berg, Professor (retired) of Geology.

 

© flyingscribbler 2012

By the way, this isn’t my first story inspired by whales and Hermanus. I wrote this one last year after my first visit to the town.

Head over to fridayflash.org to see what other #fridayflash writers are up to.

 

 

 

Not My Mother, Teresa. A new flash fiction.

Being rather short on time at the moment, I’ve decided to offer up a story I recently wrote for some competition or other. The rules asked for a really short piece of flash fiction. I came up with, for some reason, a story about coincidence. The story didn’t place, leaving me at liberty to share it with you instead. I’d be interested to know what you think about it in terms of a story light on action.

 

Not My Mother, Teresa

 I once found myself sharing a table in a London café with a nun called Sister Teresa. It was the anniversary of my mother’s disappearance; her name was Teresa as well.

That encounter sprang to mind when the guy sitting next to me on the plane introduced himself as John Latimer. I didn’t tell him that we shared the same name; instead we discussed cloud formations and why they always seem to look like rabbits.

He told me he lived in Brighton and asked me where I was from. I lied and said Oxford; I’ve never been there but it was the first place I could think of. Thankfully he hadn’t been there either. It sounds like Brighton’s changed a bit since we moved away. Dad returned once after an old neighbour thought she’d spotted Mum at the train station, but it can’t have been her because her note said she’d never come back.

Before landing, John got up to use the toilet. I wouldn’t normally have looked in his passport but it was just lying there, on the seat. I wondered how many other people were born the same day that the two of us were; tens of thousands, probably.

‘You never know,’ he said, as we waited at the carrousel, ‘our paths may cross again, if you believe in that sort of thing.’

I don’t. What’s the point? It wasn’t my mother who turned up in that café was it?

 

© flyingscribbler 2012

 

 

 

Plus ca change!

If a change is as good as a rest (and who am I to argue?), then I’ve been terribly greedy. Not only have I had a lengthy rest from my blog, and therefore story posting, but I have also gone for the change option too. Regular, (or at least, previous), visitors here will note a new look to my blog. I’ve had the old one since the beginning and it needed a refresh. There are too many options out there, but I rather liked this one; it focuses on the content and I think it looks terribly grown up. But is it too serious?

I have decided to ditch the picture of the aeroplane wing in the sunset. I love the photo, but it didn’t seem relevant any more.

Also finding its way to the trash can is the Mythical Creatures page. I finished the saga ages ago, and whilst the characters may appear somewhere else one day, it won’t be on this blog. In any case, virtually no-one clicked on the link anyway.

I’ve been finding it hard to keep posting stories on a regular basis. This is due to time constraints as much as anything else. I’m working on a children’s’ novel at the moment as well as writing flash fiction for competition and for submission to journals. The nature of the beast means that I can’t post these here at all, as they immediately become ineligible for use elsewhere. I would love to share them with you all, but that will have to wait until either (a) they are accepted or win something, in which case I will provide a link to where they are featured; or (b) I give up and post them here anyway.

However, my intention is to keep posting flash fiction as often as possible. If nothing else, it will provide a much-needed kick up the proverbial. Oh, and useful writing practise. I may also blog on a more general basis about my efforts to become noticed in the crowded throng of hopeful (desperate) writers who vie for the world’s attention.

So, until my next posting, please let me know what you think of my new look blog. And for a final time, here’s that picture….

‘Black Widow’ A new flash fiction

Third, and I think last, in my series of stories inspired by my recent trip to Andalucia is ‘Black Widow’. The idea for this one originated in a visit to one of the region’s famous ‘white towns’.

Casares, Andalucia

An Andalucian ‘white’ village.

These beautiful places, seemingly clinging to the rock itself, are scattered across the steep hillsides, shining like beacons in the sunlight. Definately worth the effort if you are ever in the area. Please feel free to comment at the end.

Black Widow

The first crack appeared in Señora Alvirez’s monochrome existence during her daily visit to the village mini-market. Entering innocently under cover of her black umbrella during an unseasonable downpour, she caught the tail end of a conversation about the recently- deceased Señora Fernandez.

‘Of course,’ said the girl behind the counter, ‘you know she was Señor Alvirez’s lover for years.’

So engrossed in their gossiping were the women that Señora Alvirez managed to steal away from the shop unnoticed.

‘That Puta,’ she muttered, making her way carefully down the rain-soaked cobbles towards the Iglesia, ‘and to think I lit a votive for her salvation just this morning.’

Señora Alvirez entered the church quietly, but found herself alone with Santa Maria who was perched, as always, above the altar, surveying her peaceful domain.

‘You’d better look away,’ whispered the widow to the icon, before approaching the votive stand and blowing out her recently-lit candle. ‘That’s one soul who’s getting no more help from me.’

Stepping out of the church, Señora Alvirez shielded her eyes against the searing whitewash of the village, now pulsating again with the sun’s full force. She gave her retinas a moment to readjust before making her way back up through the winding streets to her house, where she was greeted by her neighbour, Señora Montero, sitting, as usual, in her doorway.

‘You haven’t bleached your step Señora,’ said the widow, ‘have you forgotten it’s Wednesday today?’

Later, as she heated some soup for lunch, Señora Alvirez studied her reflection in the side of the pan; a distorted image loomed back like a ghastly dark spectre draped in widow’s garments, bulging obscenely as if in a fairground mirror.

‘Ugly clothes for an ugly philanderer,’ she told herself, ‘surely a little colour wouldn’t hurt.’

The revolution began placidly enough: her pink petticoat that Sunday visible only to God and the spider which had spun a web underneath her regular pew. The following week however, she added some pink lipstick purchased brazenly from the village pharmacy.

‘I expect this is for your daughter-in-law,’ suggested the assistant hopefully, desperate for gossip to nourish the local grape vine, ‘I don’t suppose they get colours like this in Malaga these days.’

Señora Alvirez remained silent, angry to have been reminded of the angular girl with the sharp tongue who had turned her son’s eye. Even so, the lipstick felt good, luxurious and soft like thick chocolate.

The following week, Señora Alvirez availed herself of the bus service to a nearby town where she experienced her first manicure ‘with colour polish’. She marvelled at how even her step-scrubbing nails could be transformed so boldly, holding them up to the light like ten glorious stigmata.

Alighting from the bus in the village square, Señora Alvirez felt every eye watching her from shrouded windows. In any other place her smart outfit – a sensible skirt and jacket in deep burgundy – would be unremarkable, but she could sense the ripple of condemnation spreading upwards through the narrow streets. A quick visit to the Iglesia confirmed that the Virgin Mary at least remained unmoved by her daring; but she lit a hasty votive, just in case.

The kaleidoscopic changes in Señora Alvirez’s life gathered pace as she raided her widow’s pension to fill the house with vivid colours; curtains, rugs and a joyous bedspread all found a home inside number six, Calle San Pedro. The outraged gasps and muttered disapprovals drifting in through the open window brought a guilty smile to the listening owner’s lips.

When she placed an order for fifty litres of blue paint at the local iron mongers, the town’s committee was, as she anticipated, quick to react.

‘It’s the tourists, you see Señora Alvirez,’ said the deputation sent to plead their case, ‘they only come here because we’re a white village. It’s our unique selling point.’

Señora Alvirez had a limited understanding of modern business terminology; her insight into human nature, on the other hand, had increased considerably of late. After a timely pause she acceded to their wishes; nevertheless she took delivery of the paint the following Wednesday.

‘In case I ever feel the need for colour,’ she explained to her neighbour, who had observed the paint’s arrival with pursed lips from behind her freshly-bleached step, ‘it’s the same blue as our Holy Mother’s eyes in the Iglesia. Imagine that!’

© flyingscribbler 2012

 

‘Swami Knows Best’. A new flash fiction.

I can’t account for my laxity in updating my blog other than I have been busy with another writing project (more of that in due course) and then of course we decided that we couldn’t face the rain any longer and nipped over to Spain for a very last minute holiday. That pesky jet stream; it’ll be the ruin of the Olympics at this rate. Which reminds me: I was in a shop yesterday and overheard the assistant talking to a customer. “Well”, he said “there’s nothing we can do about it, is there? It’s the bloody jet stream.” As if we COULD do something about the weather at any other time. I though it was amusing anyway. Moving on then.

I didn’t waste those hot, sunny days in Spain you know. Far from it. I took my notebook along for the ride and have decided to put together a series of flashes inspired by my trip. Here’s the first, which, logically enough, occurs entirely at the airport. Comments, as always, appreciated.

Swami Knows Best

I always thought you knew everything there was to know about someone once they had their clothes off, but my friend Sue (who used to date a Swami, so has a rare insight into these things) would say you only see the real person when they’re out of their comfort zone. For most of the men I’ve known this pretty much amounts to the same thing.

‘What’s taking them so long?’

‘There’s a lot of people in front of us,’ I say, ‘the other desks are empty.’

‘They charge twice as much.’

‘Ergo, we’ll be queuing twice as long.’

‘What? Did you just say “ergo”?’

I look away. Getting to know someone’s sense of humour is supposed to be half the fun. I don’t think he enjoyed that.

We inch closer; I kick my bag forward.

“Pack light,” he said, “they charge for baggage.”

The golf clubs don’t count, presumably.

‘Couldn’t run a bull fight in a bull ring.’

‘It’s called a “corrida”.’ Did I tell him I spoke Spanish?

‘It’s called barbaric. Not that they care.’

His nine-iron has lost its fleece jacket and Brian’s head is reflected on the surface, sweat shining on his gargoyle pate.

‘Some start to a holiday this is.’

We’ve only been here ten minutes.

My mother would not have been impressed: “Such impatience is unbecoming in a fortunate man,” she’d have said. His impatience with the crew on the plane would be unbecoming in any man.

‘She probably doesn’t even speak English.’

I look at Brian, his red face now streaked by viscous sweat. I’d been feeling fortunate myself only yesterday when he surprised me with our tickets.

‘They’d better bloody have a convertible left.’

“Do you think that’s wise?” I want to say, “to expose your head like that?”

‘I was rather hoping for air conditioning,’ I say instead, diplomacy being one of my stronger points.

‘It’s probably best if you leave me to deal with the car, Fiona.’

So that’s what it feels like to smile compliantly.

‘At this rate I won’t even make a six o’clock tee time.’

‘You’re playing golf this evening?’

‘Well I didn’t bring these along for the hell of it, did I?’

No, but he appears to have brought something along for the hell of it.

‘Your turn,’ I say. I smile as kindly as I can at the agent, hoping to lay a cushioned barrier between her frazzled exhaustion and his acid glare.

‘And will your wife be driving the car?’

‘No, the “wife” will not be driving.’

I couldn’t feel any cheaper if he’d said “whore”. Thank God I keep my driving licence in my purse.

‘The “wife” will be driving actually,’ I say, pushing his clubs to one side, ‘and she’ll be needed her own wheels. Espero que es posible, señorita. No tengo una reservaciòn.

Later, from the air-conditioned comfort of my car, I watch him drive away from the airport. He turns to his clubs which are strapped into the front seat and I swear he smiles at them. He’s better off with them anyway: at least that shiny nine-iron’s smiling back at him.

© flyingscribbler 2012

 

 

 

‘Magpie’s Nest’ A new flash fiction in (dubious) honour of the Queen’s Jubilee.

The upcoming jubilee seemed like a good enough prompt to write a quick piece of flash fiction. I don’t think it’s treasonous…..comments appreciated as always.

Magpie’s Nest.

 

I stole the crown jewels once. It was easy: I simply strolled up when no-one was looking – and let’s face it, people generally try not to see what they don’t want to have to deal with – and took them.

Of course I knew they weren’t the real crown jewels; I must have known. My report card that summer said “Intelligent, if prone to lapses in concentration” so I wasn’t exactly stupid, and every school in the country must have had an identical display.

But I had to have them, real or not. The minute I saw the light from the assembly hall window refracted through the diadem in a purple-tinted spectrum I knew they would be mine; the crowning glory to my hoard of magpie’s gewgaws. When I squinted, its points of light became frosted stars, like the fairy lights on our Christmas tree or the sunshine glinting like daytime constellations off the pins and piercings of punks at the bus stop.

Gran’s silver teaspoon, my sister’s necklace, tubs of gold glitter pinched from the stationer’s: Mum found them all in a covert raid of my under-the-bed nest. Returning the crown jewels the next day, I was treated to one of the Headmaster’s infamous ‘chats’, (you know the drill: responsible behaviour, respect for property, self-improvement), before being stripped of my milk-monitor duties. How I missed those glittering bottle tops.

Unfortunately, unlike the headmaster, my father was not a devotee of progressive views on punishment; thoughtfully though, he used the buckled end of the belt, seeing as I liked shiny things so much.

Dad lasted till the eve of the ’81 royal wedding, when Mum booted him out.

Years later my behavioural therapist suggested I channel my compulsive obsession into a career, which I did; albeit a nocturnal one. Over the years I’ve strutted my shining stuff across stages all over the country, but tonight is special; tonight I debut my latest creation and Mum’s right there with me, pinning me into a gown that few self-respecting men entering middle age would attempt to get away with. As the house lights dim I look down and squint at the thousands of sequins twinkling under the single bulb hanging above me in the wings; another constellation is born.

‘How do you feel?’ says Mum.

‘Jubilant,’ I reply.

Then, taking a deep breath, I leave Michael behind and Her Royal Majesty, Queen Betty Swollocks takes to the stage.

© flyingscribbler 2012

 

‘Teenage Kicks’. A new flash fiction.

It’s been ages since I posted a piece of fiction on my blog, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I have. I’ve been working on  several pieces for various competitions and journals and am thrilled to say that I have won the current Flash500 flash fiction competition. It’s my biggest win to date and I am pretty pleased with myself. You may (if you wish) read ‘Dandelion Breeze’ over at the Flash500 site.

The best thing about receiving recognition like this for my efforts is that it has made me want to write even more, so to get back in the swing of things after an evening spent celebrating I set myself a quick writing challenge: I sat down and wrote out the first phrase to come into my mind. This turned out to be ” just the idea of it makes me feel like throwing up” (and that has nothing whatsoever to do with the celebratory drink (s) last night). I then used it as the starting point for some flash fiction. I hope you think it is worthy of a place in #fridayflash this week.

Teenage Kicks

Now, just the idea of it makes me feel like throwing up, but back then I can’t have given it more than a second thought. I might even have pretended it was teenage bravado; the word was in our vocabulary having just done that essay on ‘Bravado in Romeo and Juliet’. Or was that another one you never finished?

‘Kiss Paula Dobson on the mouth. With tongues.’ That was the dare you set me. But it’s not her lips or tongue I remember; it’s what was left of her lunch hanging from the front of her train track braces.

I knew what you were up to. I was your proxy; I always was. You dared me to do all the things you couldn’t face up to yourself: nick a sherbet dib-dab from the corner shop; piss on Mrs Phillips’s roses; snog Paula Dobson. They probably call it transposed desire or something. I haven’t got that far with my therapist yet.

You didn’t give me any more dares after that. Was it because I was looking at you as I was kissing her? You can call that transposed desire if you like, Simon.

I can still taste it by the way; they always gave us Irish stew on a Wednesday.

© flyingscribbler 2012

 

Curriculum Vitae. A flash fiction.

After a few weeks away from #fridayflash I’m back with a short flash inspired by Icy Sedgwick’s photo prompt, (although I deviated a bit from her title). If you haven’t discovered the delights of Icy’s writing, I’d recommend a quick peek at her blog.

Please feel at liberty to post your constructive comments, and I’ll try to do the same for you.

More flashing goes on every friday at fridayflash.org.

And now for the story…

Curriculum Vitae

During his two years at the company, Gerry’s principal satisfaction lay in collecting the subject headers from the daily office memos which arrived in his inbox. They were invariably more intriguing than the content of the memos themselves. He had taken to printing them and carefully cutting out the bold type from the top, which he then placed artistically on his cubicle divider with blu tack.

Recent favourites which held prominent positions at eye level included:

‘INAPPROPRIATE CASCADING OF SECURE DATA STREAMS’, ‘BLUE SKY THINKING FOR CLOUDY DAYS’, and ‘R.E.S.P.E.C.T: EQUALITY IN THE WORKPLACE.’

He’d had a scare about three months earlier when the subject box read ‘HOT DESKING TRIAL.’ Gerry had been forced to depersonalise his work space according to the new company policy. He was wise enough to take the precaution of carefully placing his collection of memo headers in a box file; when the trial ended in failure after only two weeks he was able to quickly replace them, only this time in an infinitely more interesting helix pattern.

The memo which had arrived this morning merited immediate consecration: ‘SCORCHED EARTH DISCIPLINARY POLICY.’ The subject’s intriguing mix of gravitas and mystery promised much;  Gerry, however,  knew from experience that the attached memo was unlikely to live up to its billing, so he deposited it unread in the waste bin having first cut out and saved the title.

He was deciding where to place it when Bob from Procurement appeared.

‘Did you get the memo?’

‘Yeah,’ said Gerry, ‘classic.’

‘What’s it about, do you think?’

‘No idea.’

Bob raised his unruly eyebrows.

‘Sounds like someone’s been a naughty boy.’

Gerry waited until Bob had slouched back to his desk before retrieving the memo.

“Inappropriate behaviour is causing the lawn by the external employee rest area to scorch and die. If this does not cease immediately, necessary disciplinary action will follow in accordance with company policy”.

Gerry ripped the newly-placed memo header from the cubicle screen and tore it into pieces. How the hell was he going to fit two cigarettes and a piss into his break now? Personally, he’d been impressed with his time-saving multi-tasking and had been trying to find a way of working it into his already impressive CV.

 

© flyingscribbler 2012

‘A Brush With Death’. A flash fiction.

I was in Calgary this week and took a stroll down by the Bow River. The ice had bugun to melt and the water was flowing exuberantly between the frozen banks. Crossing over on the footbridge I paused to look down at the gushing river and spotted a toothbrush hanging over the edge of the bridge. I immediately decided to make this my prompt for this week’s #fridayflash. I’ve been a little short on time, but hope you like the results all the same.

Incidentally, I’ve been interviewed over at flashquake. My flash fiction piece ‘Fast Lane Phonetics’ appears in their Winter 2011 issue.

Back to this week’s story anyway…

 A Brush With Death

The mortuary smelt much as Emma had imagined it would: chemically clinical. Keep breathing, she told herself, you’ll be fine. This she did, using her mouth to avoid the stink. A few more breaths and she felt calmer than she had all morning.

‘Mrs Dawson?’

‘Yes.’

‘My name’s Brian. I’m a forensic officer. Would you follow me please?’

The young man’s smile was all kindness and empathy; part of the training, assumed Emma.

‘It’s very good of you to come down here so quickly,’ said Brian, holding the door open, ‘I take it the police called you?’

 ‘They left a message, but it cut off halfway through. The machine’s pretty full, you know, well-wishers and that.’

‘Of course.’

‘So, I take it they found something?’ Emma’s head swam under the white light of the room, so she tried to focus on the table in front of her. Something was placed on it under a small piece of cloth. ‘Oh God!’

‘I’m so sorry Mrs Dawson, this won’t take long. Would you mind telling us if this is your husband’s?’

Emma gulped.

‘My husband’s what?’

The man lifted the cloth.

‘Your husband’s toothbrush.’

‘Thank God!’ she gasped, ‘I thought you were going to show me part of his anatomy.’

‘Didn’t the police tell you?’

‘I didn’t get that part of the message.’

Brian blushed violently.

‘I apologise Mrs Dawson, that must have been rather a shock.’

‘You might say that,’ said Emma approaching the table. ‘Yes. It’s Gary’s. He always buys the most expensive ones. Where did they find it?’

‘On the footbridge over the river I think,’ said the pathologist, ‘of course, it doesn’t mean anything.’

Emma smiled. She paused for a moment.

‘It means everything, I’m afraid.’

‘How do you mean?’

‘That was Gary’s favourite place: looking at the river rushing by. He once told me he liked to imagine it whisking him away on an unknown journey.’

‘It’s just his toothbrush, Mrs Dawson. We haven’t found a body.’

Emma nodded.

‘My husband was rather particular about his teeth. Over-zealous, you might say. Two minutes precisely, twice a day. He used to time me too. He even did it on our wedding night; sent me back to the bathroom to finish the job.’

Brian turned away quickly and covered the brush back up with the cloth.

‘He never left the house without one,’ continued Emma, ‘just in case. If I ever had anything stuck in my teeth he could always produce a toothbrush from somewhere and make me clean them straight away; said it created a bad impression otherwise.’

‘As I explained,’ said Brian, ‘there’s no evidence he jumped.’

Emma sighed.

‘How long could a person survive in the river at this time of year? With the ice and everything.’

‘Not long,’ said Brian, ‘a few minutes I should think. But please, you mustn’t think…’

‘Of course, he might have hit a piece of ice first; could have broken his neck or something. Might that have happened, Brian? What do you think?’

‘Mrs Dawson, please.’

‘I need to know. I’m sure you understand.’

Brian directed Emma to a seat near the door.

‘In theory, yes. There’s certainly enough ice in the river now that the melt has started. But as I said, there’s nothing to suggest your husband has taken his own life.’

‘Gary’s uncle broke his neck falling down the stairs,’ said Emma. ‘There were mutterings at the funeral that his wife might have pushed him, but Gary said he’d always been a clumsy bastard.’

Emma looked at her watch.

‘I’m sorry, Brian, I’m rambling. I do that when I’m tired. I think I’d best go home and see if there’s any news.’

‘Good idea. And please remember, there’s no need to lose hope yet.’

‘No,’ said Emma, ‘you’re right.’ She pointed to the table. ‘One thing’s certain: wherever he is, he’ll wish he had his toothbrush.’

 

© flyingscribbler 2012