The Pirates

Most of the men in Sophie’s room are prisoners. Not of her room, of course – they escaped from elsewhere and found refuge here. But their prisoner status hangs on them in ways they find difficult to scrub off, even against each other, rubbing body on body like furry backs against tree trunks.
Sophie’s bathroom is off-limits; the men are not allowed to use the shower. Despite these established rules, the space Sophie is able to occupy in her own bedroom eventually shrinks to a small section between the left-hand side of the bed and the floor-to-ceiling closet, with just a small sliver of the window available. The rest is covered in the moulting bodies and thrumming voices of men. The way the men behave is how Sophie imagines pirates do; they make large rounded gestures, with their teeth at all angles, and sounds shoot out from deep within their colossal barrel-like anatomies.

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Twenty-Six

The cat dances on the largest leaf of a potted plant. It is a small cat, tiny, hardly bigger than a bumble bee. The cat seems to levitate above the dusty surface of the leaf. The leaf is dusty because the house has not been cleaned in a while, and skin cells keep sloughing off its inhabitants. The inhabitants are watching TV with the sound off in a brightly lit living room. The sound is off so the inhabitants can have a conversations, but they’re all just silent, looking at the people flickering on screen. A man shoots another man through the back of the head. In the room, one of the inhabitants flinches and remembers where he is. He looks around, meets no-one’s eye, and extends a hand towards the table where a glass bowl is filled with nuts. His hand puckers into a kind of beak, like delicate water fowl, and collects a few nuts. The man sinks back into his chair and places the nuts in the palm of his other hand, above his lap in case he spills any. It is a mix: some walnuts, some hazelnuts, which he discards, and some cashews. The hazelnuts return to the bowl in pairs, and the rest are slowly placed into his mouth and chewed into a paste to which more nuts are later added. His teeth are grinding cement. Eventually, he swallows the paste and on screen a man surprises his wife, perhaps, in the shower. Their relationship isn’t clear because the subtitles aren’t reliable and never addressed their marital status. The inhabitants all assume that it doesn’t matter what the naked woman’s official title is, because all we know about her from the way the scene is shot is that she is young, pretty, and that she is played by an actress with an unfortunate contract. The houseplant glimmers in the TV light. The cat is so small the inhabitants cannot see it slide off the dusty leaf of the houseplant and into a watering can at the foot of the pot. Yes: the cat has fallen into the watering can and is seen no more. Presumably, it can swim; but only for so long. It cannot fly, yet there is only one way out of the watering can, and that is through flight. A few hours later, the cat is presumably dead but no-one checks on it because the inhabitants don’t know it’s there. One by one they stretch and yawn and leave the room until the last one, the man who ate the nuts, gets up, stretches for the benefit of no-one in particular, and turns off the last light in the room, the TV.

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[In other news, NaNoWriMo nears its end. Today is the second-to-last day, and I’ve amassed about 43000 words so far, which means I’ve got some serious work ahead of me if I want to reach the required 50ooo by Wednesday night.]