Catch the boy out there standing like a bird with one foot tucked behind a calf looking at the sea. He isn’t at soccer practice. He isn’t on the scout tramp to Chatham Creek. He isn’t playing Dead Space 2 while Bridgie practices her scales. Up and down, up and down. The boy, Jesse, is allergic to scales and allergic to Bridgie who squeaks like a bird when he interrupts her. Dead Space 2. Necromorphs for god’s sake. I need to concentrate.
But she just squeaks and then she squeals and then Mum comes wiping her hands on a tea-towel, and she wants to know where he got the damn game from. Then it’s all over red rover, as his dad says, and he’s outside, like his dad usually is, smoking, except Jesse’s not smoking because he’s run out of smokes.
Catch the boy before he leaves. Not the boy leaving. The father leaving. Country Road bag in hand – Bridgie’s bag for sleepovers. He says to the boy, ‘Bye, Jess’, and he says to the boy, ‘Be good for your Mum.’
And his dad puts down the stupid bag, and the look on his face is that sort of look he gets when he comes home and it’s his birthday and Mum’s made a special dinner. Hopeful. Or something. He blinks too much, thinks Jesse, his breath smells like shit. When his dad hugs him, Jesse puts his foot down so he won’t topple. The scales have stopped. Jesse thinks of Necromorphs. He smells sweat and smokes. That’s how Necromorphs would smell, he thinks. And they’d blink too fast. His father used to play the piano. He bought the piano for Jesse to play but Jesse didn’t want to play. He just didn’t.
Dead Space isn't a poem, not really, but as Flash Fiction, it's a comely blend of poetry and short fiction. Three hundred words only and a lot of fun to write. More fun to discover my story was placed third in the National Flash Fiction Day Competition, June 22. It came in after the winning story by Frankie McMillan In the nick of time, a deer, and Rebecca Styles' second placed story Parade, and was read at a NZ Society of Authors open mic evening in Wellington last night.
Congratulations to Frankie and Rebecca and all those short and long-listed. Thanks to Tuesday Poet Michelle Elvy for encouraging me to enter with her fabulous flash fiction facebooking. And thanks to the kind donor who has given some money so the winners get a cash prize - how good is that?
I decided to enter the competition the evening of the deadline, and had a sentence in my head and went from there. As happens with this sort of approach, I didn't know where I was headed or where the Necromorphs came from (they do exist, in a game called Dead Space - but what are they doing here? and they are so right.) The point of view veers back and forth a bit from the boy to the dad. If I'd had time I would have worked at making it more consistent, but in fact I like the inconsistency and uncertainty now, and it works better with paragraphing, which wasn't in the original - becoming more like a play.