Confusion infused

Ouch!

I jerked awake, surprised and irritated at the same time. A blinding light pierced my eyelids forcing me to look away, and only then did I realise that the comforting darkness had disappeared from our room. It was dawn, perhaps.

I felt another sharp jab in my ribs before I saw the cause. My cousins around me mirrored m uncertainty. Two large plump fingers reached out and grabbed three of us by the neck.

Oh, dear.

I’d dreamt of this moment, I won’t lie. For months shut up in that room, I’ve wondered what the outside looked like, and each day the plump fingers came, I wished to go along. I was disappointed every time. Until now.

Now, however, I was anxious. Are all three of us going, I wondered. What if they threw me back in, casting me away with the rest of my family? Oh, the shame of rejection. I can’t bear to face my cousins again.

But I needn’t have worried. The fingers took all three of us, and before we could absorb our surroundings, dropped us into a large glass jug.

Everything was so massive. I now saw that the fingers were attached to a big red arm and a round body. A speck of dark hair rested on a what looked like an inverted pot, stiff handles for ears.

I turned to the other side. From my place in the jug, I faced brown tables spread across the room. More round bodies with potheads. Some were big, some small. There was even one clutching something fluffy to its chest. A few sat while most stood, holding cups or bottles and fiddling with flashy cards between their fingers.

I couldn’t see much clearly. They were all mouthing at each other. I heard nothing, of course, but apparently they did and understood too.

I still couldn’t comprehend my place in this situation. What was this place? The moment I was picked, I knew I was about to fulfil my destiny—whatever that was. All along I’d dreamt of getting out of the box, but only now did it dawn on me that I’d never imagined what I’d do once I got out. Perhaps deep down, I never saw beyond the inside of that dank room.

Just then, the familiar red arm approached our jug. I opened my mouth, ready to ask what it all meant. Before I could utter anything, though, boiling steam hit my eye and water crushed my lungs siphoning the air out of me.

Uuuuuhhh

I inhaled in panic, and I felt myself rise towards the jug’s rim. I hadn’t seen this coming. Then again, I hadn’t seen anything. Beside me, my silent cousins were struggling too. We’d never spoken before, but just then, our eyes locked for a fleeting moment before I saw their colours vanish. They descended, swaying as they sunk to the bottom.

It was too much. I had no air left, and my organs were weighing me down. They felt heavier than I ever thought they could. My breath rasped as the world spun. My heart was telling me to give up. My brain already had.

And so I let go of my limp body, floating away with the water’s steam. The wind was pulling me further from the jug, but I managed a last glance before being swept away. As the arm fished our bodies from the jug, I saw what we’d left behind: a reddish concoction with a tinge of mint. And I understood. Perhaps that was my destiny—refreshing the sore.

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Rider

He paused at the sidewalk
letting passers by pass
he’d play by the rules
wait for the signals
though no van was in sight
one foot on the ground
another fiddling the pedal
just a few seconds more
assuring himself he stood
the system took its time
before it gave the green
and off he went a sailing
though dedicated pathway
for those pedallers as he
he rode by crooked trees
old, bent, and dying to die
their barks stripped bare
their roots gone barren
recalling as he flew past
plush, browning blooms
from a month or two afore
vanished in a slice of time
not even shadows remained
yet unstopping on he went
seeking his ultimate destination
going through a mangled maze
waving at the greying florist
settled beside a fading future
smiling at her dimpled smile
what great love for life she had!
the town centre came by next
and he barely squeezed through
high-heeled boots, long leather jackets
classy wristwatches and poor diets
oof—coming to a screeching halt
catching his breath at another signal
so much was going on all around
buying and selling and exchanging
trading, wading, and sneaking about
puffing, blowing, messing it all up
for each their own way of living
and he rode on through his

The police

“Holy shit!”

Geraud rose from his chair as the voice relayed grisly details over the receiver. It’d happened so fast that it was all over before the cops could even get to the scene.

Teenagers are stupid. Worse, drunk.

He’d seen a lot. In his twenty years in the force, he’d seen over thirty kids, plus his own son, who should’ve never cleared the driving test. How they’d gotten their licenses was beyond him. And yet, here he was again, looking down at the unseeing beetle eyes of an eighteen-year-old.

Spurting out from the vessels in her temple, think blood was creeping over her naturally blonde hair, now almost burgundy. He stood unflinching as the liquid flowed towards his feet. Forensics was late again.

Not that he needed them to explain what’d occurred. Surely, the lack of an airbag, the cracked old flip phone by the corpse, and the empty bottle of Shiraz, now resting against her lifeless libs, could only mean that she was a victim of heartbreak and lax parenting.

He signed, preparing himself for the inevitable dramatic tantrums the parents would throw.

Oh, well.

Same ol’, same ol’. Thoughout the years, nothing ever changed.

And so it was when he met the parents three hours later. Windswept and panting, they scampered into his office, tears and perspiration mangled together in the mother’s face. Just as he’d expected. The father remained stony—a look Geraud knew only too well. They all looked courageous at first. He’ll break down soon enough.

It was an intense sixty minutes. Not that Geraud wasn’t used to it. He listened without interrupting, as the mother wailed and eventually moved on to a muffled moan. Rebekkah had been the perfect daughter, Geraud learnt. She’d never had a drug problem, no boyfriends, and no late-night parties. In fact, her mother whimpered through sobs, she’d thought her daughter was at a study group that evening.

Geraud nodded sympathetically. He knew. Noting surprised him anymore.

Though he was looking at the mother, as she spoke, Geraud saw from the corner of his eye what he’d been expecting all along—the father’s gaze weakening.

He was good at this. People at the office had thought Geraud would leave the force after his son crashed a motorcycle into a moving truck. They’d thought dealing with his son’s split scull had been too much for Geraud to return to work.

But he did. And as he sat in his rocking chair at home that night, sipping his whiskey neat and straight, Geraud knew he’d never retire. He’d seen empty sockets, crushed bones, broken sculls, and overflowing brains. He’d seen mangled manes, twisted arms, and cracked ribs. He’d seen so much.

Not enough.

The intervention

Chap. Chap. Genny slathered her lips with the little moisture left in her tongue. Her throat had dried out before she’d passed out. And though awake now, she still felt too dizzy to stand up and walk to the kitchen sink. She extended a weak left arm to the bottled water on the table over her head. It’d been standing there where she left it three nights ago, when she returned from Michael’s new apartment. Though she’d gotten the house, the furniture, and the friendly neighbourhood, he’d somehow come out of the divorce far more satisfied than she.

The bottle toppled from the table, plopping on the floor beside her. Luckily, the cap was still on. Twisting it open she drank like she’d never seen the flavourless liquid before. As the insides of her parched throat gulped the water, she remained lying on the floor, her body turned sideways, propped up by her right arm.

When she’d had her fill, she set the bottle down, careful not to tip it over. Then turned around and fell asleep.

Beyond her glass windows, the sun went down again. As the light faded away, it glinted on the dining table china, the framed photos she’d forgotten to dust off, and the wall art her three-year-old had done at school. Darkness engulfed them all.

She hadn’t noticed the sun rise that morning. Or the day before that. She hadn’t heard the cockatoos cawing on her roof, or observed the wintry breeze lashing the surface of the lake across the street.

It’s amazing what a bottle of whisky could do. The stench of stale alcohol had masked the smell from rain water dribbling down her garden soil. She slept peacefully—oblivious to the world revolving around her, forgetting the pain of losing her family, ignoring the aftermath of that drunken accident. The corpse of her bloody child no longer haunted her dreams. Gone were the shrieks and wails of her younger self. Tires screeched no more. Michael’s arm wasn’t round her shoulders anymore. And they weren’t the couple pretending to move on.

No more. Of any of that bullshit. Only sleep.

That’s all she had now.

Knock.

Knock.

Knock.

It didn’t stop until Genny forced herself to sit up. Suffocating darkness pressed around her.

She opened the door to a bright full moon above.

And below, a puppy walked into her life, bringing along a flood of light.

From the sidelines

Richard watched as Miles emerged from the shower rooms. Dripping in cold water, he shivered ever so slightly as he stepped on to the water’s edge and dipped his toes in the pool.

It was a warm day. It was his first big race.

Richard had observed him long enough to know that though a little thinner for his age, Miles had enough muscle strength to power through with powerful stokes. His height was only an added advantage.

Miles was now talking to his coach, signing intently to advice. Richard flinched at the sight of the coach. He hated every bit of alpha-ness that that emitted from him. He was a bad influence on Miles, Richard thought. But he had no right to say anything. After all, when it came to swimming, he was a mere spectator.

And that’s what he did for the next fifteen minutes. As the swimmers took their lanes, Richard was on the sidelines, unknown to the rest of the world, his eyes focussed on Miles’ flexed arms and ready-to-pounce feet. When the whistle blew, he took a sharp breath almost hurting his nostrils. It had begun.

The next few minutes were a blur. Richard heard yells of sadness mangled with cries of jubilation. People had crowded in front of him, blocking his view of the pool. The announcer overhead managed to make his voice louder than the rest of the din. “And it’s Miles who takes home the first place!”

Richard had never loved anyone more. Or been prouder.

The crowd suddenly split to let through a dripping athlete. Miles knelt down so he was level with his father’s wheelchair.

“Thanks, Dad,” and he hugged the once-Olympic swimmer.