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Not Good Enough for the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology – What Do You Think of It?

April 17, 2012

This one was longlisted for the @NFFD Anthology 2012, but weeded out before the final cut.  I like it a lot, but what do YOU think?

Tattoo

Image Courtesy of Jemal on Flickr

Tattoo

The red heart pulses under the sweat-wilted creases of his rolled-up sleeves.  Greenish-white fluorescent light flashes off the stained metal of the blade, dances in the eyes after you look away.

“Two pounds of steak, please.”

Chop.  The blade singing through the flesh; edge sharp as scalpels.  The vine-coiled heart pumping with the movement of his boiled-ham bicep. 

Coracobrachialis. Brachialis. Biceps and Triceps. The muscles of the upper arm.

They wait in line, making small talk until their turn.  The butcher has a word for each of them.  Deep, dark words, filled with secret meaning.  Pulsing, humid innuendo that sends them, flushed, out into the cutting November wind.

His mother waits, shopping bag over her arm, to take the tightly-wrapped parcel of meat, transport it home before the blood oozes through the creamy paper.  Why doesn’t she have the money ready?  She knows the price – “One pound Two and six, to you, Doris.  Nice bit of breast?” A frisson passes through the ladies in the queue while her fingers fumble with the catch on her purse.

Bones of the hand: the carpus, metacarpus, distal, middle and proximal phalanges.

She’s not here, of course.  That was years ago, before.

He has come back to this place to discover what can be remembered.  Because there is a space in his life; a hole in his consciousness that he has never been able to fill.

Leaving the high street, he takes the route past the park that he took on that day.  He probes the space inside his brain where the memory should be; takes the flashes of recognition as he walks around and tries them for fit in the emptiness.

There are pieces he has collected already; ragged impressions.  Memories, yes, but so removed from linear narrative as to be meaningless.  The pulsing red heart tattoo.  That is one fragment.  And something less defined, darker and deeper: the burning, shameful sting of those leering words, whispered in a hot rush of foul, carnivorous breath.

The day is dark, remembrance wreaths fading on the Memorial.  He enters the park beneath sticky lime trees.

Don’t do that!  Stop!

At the pond he halts.  A drake moves lazily on the slate water, its yellow eye and bottle-green head the only colour in the grey scene.  He remembers many things.  He can enumerate the physiology of the human body.  The precise enunciation of the classic syllables relax him, give him focus.

Straight home from school!  Mustn’t go near the park.  Beware of strangers!

Six hours missing, and found wandering in the park.  His mother frantic, cross and smothering.  The policeman with his endless questions.  And the only certainty that pulsing, red, guilty void.

With no obvious evidence, no reliable witness; the police soon lost interest.  His mother permitted no further mention of that day.  They bought their meat from the Co-op.

He glances at his watch, and steps off the path.  Nearly time for the children to come out of school.

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3 Comments
  1. I love the muscle groups lines punctuating the rhythm and the description of the tatoo.The flow of the piece is great as well.

    In fact, I can honestly say I like it! Having just started my blog I have commented on other peoples blogs just to get people to check out mine, giving some bland approval of their post when actually I think it’s very mediocre. Whereas this, I can genuinely say I like 🙂

    Keep up the good work and I’ll keep tracking it.

    • Thank you! It means a lot to me that you have taken the time to comment honestly and fully. I appreciate it, and will return the favour!

  2. I bet I say that to all the nice bloggers 🙂 Only kidding, I meant what I said.

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