Tuesday, March 10, 2015
“I want to do this flash fiction challenge to get exposure for my blog, but you have to use one or more of these ten sentences that are just so uninspiring and or strange I couldn’t possibly engage with them and would have to totally contrive something, which I don’t want to do, not even for my blog” I said, turning away from the sea to look at Em as we were walking together along the beach just before dusk, Em not swimming for the first time this year, as the summer draws to a close.
Sea-craft were out in force on the calm, silvery grey water, kayaks and canoes criss-crossing each other, windsurfers in training (because there was not much wind), stand-up boarders, long and stick skinny in silhouette, and even one of those jet skiers that you don’t see around so much anymore; people wanting to be near the water to prolong the summer, but not so much to be in it.
His face as I turned towards him was only half listening, the other half either on his work or his music, or maybe the sea – anything but me…
“What are they?” he asked, surprising me a little so that I didn’t immediately recognise the question, busy wondering, as I was, how much of my babble about words and blogs and writing he actually hears.
“The sentences. Give me an example of one of them,” Em said, reading my hesitation exactly.
I felt put on the spot then: “I haven’t memorised them, I only glanced at them today, but they’re too weird to memorise. One of them, hang on, one is: ‘A glimmering gem is not enough.’ See what I mean? What can you do with that? And then there’s: ‘An old apple…’ no wait; ‘The old apple revels in its authority.’”
“What does that mean, the old apple?” he said, fully engaging now.
“I know. I told you. It could be something Christian, I guess, but I'm not writing about an old apple, whatever it means,” I said, happy to have Em’s full attention now.
As we kept on walking, our shoes off, the sea’s thin hem nudging our toes, I reeled off the rest of the sentences, finding I had in fact memorised them, almost word for word. The ‘Abstraction is often one floor above you’ sentence, produced the most satisfying contortion of Em’s face, followed by a wry laugh.
“Jesus! Watch out!” he said then, just in time, before I was about to step on the biggest, ugliest jellyfish I’d ever seen, beached up onto the shore, right in front of me, a blubbery, transparent spaceship with all its internal controls on display, ready to trip me up as I was busy explaining to Em that the ‘Sixty-Four’ is singular and capitalised, so it has to be a name rather than a number.
“Oh, my god!” said I, my turn for a contorted face, as I leapt back out of the blubbery thing’s reach to stand and stare, just close enough to marvel at the ghoulish sight of its strange, colourful innards exposed beneath a glassy, glimmering dome, everything a quiver, as if with life, but Em reckoned it was dead.
I am not good with ghoul, but I couldn’t look away. I’d never seen jellyfish innards quite like these before. Inside its huge dome there were several clusters of solid yellowish matter, suspended in a reddish-brown swirling substance that might have been blood, while the clusters resembled brain matter almost exactly, except for the colour, which was more like those witchetty grubs Aborigines eat. The thought of eating those nobly clusters, whatever they were, turned my stomach to the point that I almost vomited all over the jellyfish, which wouldn’t have been very nice, for either of us. But still I stared…
“That’s not its brains, surely?” I decided to ask Em, who was also staring, but with a much calmer face than mine.
“It looks like brains” he said, half laughing, “but they don’t have brains” he added, not so much in a telling-me voice, because he knew I knew jellyfish didn’t have brains, more or less, but just to finish his sentence.
“I knew that, but what the heck?” I said, moving off with a shiver, picking up pace to almost leave Em behind, keen to put some distance between me and that bizarre blubbery beast that seemed not only to have a brain, but a heart that beat with greedy life and eyes that stalked me as I hurried away, not so close to the water’s edge now, nervously watching my feet.
On the way back, he wasn’t there. Had the tide come in and taken him out? The beach is not that long; it didn’t seem more than twenty minutes since we’d left him. I couldn’t figure it out. The more I scanned the shore for his distinctive dome, the less anxious I became to avoid treading on it and the keener I was to find him.
“Where do you think it went to?” I finally asked Em, adding “the jellyfish” when I could see from his face that he hadn’t been thinking about that.
He stopped to look back along the beach.
“I forgot about it. Are you sure it wasn’t there?” he asked, turning back round to continue walking homeward.
“I didn’t see it, and I looked. I hadn’t forgotten it,” I said, catching his eye so that he knew what I meant; knew that I would not have missed it if it was there.
“Perhaps the tide took it. Or perhaps it wasn’t dead after all and took itself off… Look out!” he said, after a short pause, giving my arm a tug while pointing at the sand in front of me.
“You bastard!”, I said, shoving him away, when I’d recovered from my heart attack, before laughing too, because it wasn't such a bad joke, as look-out jokes go.