Friday, 17 February 2012
It had taken Richard months to get hold of precisely the right kind of tailor’s model. There were so many to choose from, articulated, semi-articulated, ethnic, short, tall, thin or very thin. Finally, after prolonged negotiations on the maker’s website and with his bank’s overseas department, Euridice had arrived, extremely well packaged in an excitingly large cardboard box, with efficient German documentation in a transparent pochette stuck to the upper side of her stout container, flanked by This Way Up Bitte! and Fragile!!!
After a few weeks of what Richard came to call The Grand Charade, he realised it was taking far too long every morning to get Euridice prepared in her elaborate dress, complete with long blonde wig, painstaking makeup, Ferlinghetti shoes and French stockings. So he took to wheeling her out in a tatty old dressing-gown at coffee time, just before Anna was due to pass by. Every day the same scene, Anna walking along on the other side of the road, with barely a covert glance, pretending complete indifference as always.
Until today. Richard was good with gait-analysis – after all, that had been his Honours PhD subject – and he knew immediately that his strategy was beginning to work. Anna’s stride was shorter, more uncertain, maybe a little annoyed. Two paces more along the street, and there could be no doubt. Anna was powerfully, extraordinarily angry. Success! … but perhaps, he reflected, today would have been a good day for one of his carefully calculated periodic absences from this little mise-en-scène? After all, even if Euridice couldn’t walk or talk, she was quite engaging company, especially when she was in the mood to model lingerie upstairs….
Anna crossed the street towards him, and he was able to read her face now, rather than merely the language of her stride. As she pulled the 9mm Mauser automatic from her handbag, through the chaotic veil of emotions he could see her intentions with crystal clarity: a spectrum from jealousy to white-hot anger, and, as Richard discerned too late but with urgent intensity, murder and imminent death. Suddenly he understood which of them he loved more.
The gun spoke. Three brief, imperious, barking commands: Die – Die – Die!
Euridice toppled backwards, limbs akimbo on the gravel.
“Darling!” he murmured.
© Donnie Ross 2011
This story first published in Anneke Klein's Rammenas Flash Fiction 2011
Going down the steps to the basement flat, Gary was thinking about his Atlas of Facial Expressions, from Aardvark to Zebra – and considering how far he’d travelled from the early days of his limited lower-lip concept of canine semiotics to the full complex of muzzle – eye – ear - stance systematic theory now generally accepted as being universally applicable to mammals.
As Gary crossed the path through the small sunken garden, he could hear the distinctive sounds of a familiar cello piece, the long, sonorous, rhythmical notes plangent and beautiful.
Approaching Gwynneth’s door, he realised to his astonishment that his composition had acquired lyrics – or rather, that someone was singing wordlessly but passionately, underscored by his music, which now seemed to take new life and meaning from the song. She had made very rapid progress with his piece, that was certain; and yet the frantic intensity of her performance was oddly unsettling.
As usual, the door was unlatched, and he crossed the hall quietly and entered the music room without knocking, to avoid disturbing the performance.
Although Gwynneth was looking straight at him, from her face it was unclear whether she was actually seeing him. His initial reflex was naturally to observe and analyse her facial expressions scientifically, but after a moment it struck Gary that he’d never thought a woman could play the cello in that position. At the same time he was impressed and rather flattered that his own work could be used in such a sophisticated way.
After a while, Gwynneth stopped singing, put down her bow and unstraddled the instrument, examining the strings and bridge carefuly to make sure they had not suffered structural damage from the unusual stresses to which they had been exposed.
“Hello, Gary,” she said, her voice still husky from the exercise, “I didn’t see you come in.”
“That’s coming on rather well,” he said.
Gwynneth smiled. “I’m looking forward to your next composition,” she said.
“Nearly finished!” Gary replied, “It’s another solo piece.”
Her face was flushed, eager, the eyes sparkling, lips slightly parted.
Gary thought for a moment, looking deep into her mind and feeling bonded with her as never before. He smiled.
Gwynneth’s laughter was as pleasureable as her singing. “Maybe you’d like to hear me play your piece one more time?” she said.
It wasn’t easy, next day, to fit the cello into Gary’s car, but it was going to need quite a lot of repair.
© Donnie Ross 2011
This story was first published in Anneke Klein's Rammenas Flash Fiction in 2011
“Quiet round here, ain’t it, stranger?”
The voice was reassuringly growly, a veneer of cinematic drawl barely concealing the clipped precision of the oddly familiar Oxbridge tones, as a shadow detached itself from the wood-house slap-board siding. The short dark cowboy ambled across to where a powerfully built and handsome young figure was standing in the yard.
“Hmm, Coco,” (for it was he), said Oncaillgh Donnaigh, “I didn’t know you were into rough chaps.”
“Very droll, sir. But I venture to suggest it may be a little unwise to appear in these threads.”
Coco’s left eyebrow raised itself by a tiny fraction of a millimetre, a reliable sign that Something was Up.
Oncaillgh Donnaigh glanced uncertainly at his Custard-coloured cardigan.
“Precisely, sir. And with those shoes….”
“Oh dear. Well, but perhaps it will click with me eventually.”
“Indeed, sir. And it may be that an audible phenomenon answering to that general description impressed itself upon your sensibilities a nanosecond or so ago.”
“Could easily have been the safety on a Winchester Super-X, maybe.”
“Connoisseurs inform me, sir, that the click of the safety-catch being disengaged on a Winchester rifle at fifty paces is not dissimilar in terms of audibility to that of a Glock 17 pistol at five.”
“Really, Coco, that’s most interesting.”
“Even more germane, sir, is the corollary that the ballistical effects of their respective projectiles are similarly comparable”.
“And talking of ballistic, sir, I believe I spy Aunt Diane rounding the corner of Shed No. 2. And she doesn’t look too pleased.”
“I imagine she’s noticed you taking the piss on one of her posts, not a very tactful thing to do, was it?”
“Oh dear, Oncaillgh Donnaigh sir, that was a little remiss of me. But one is a canine person, after all. However I shall be more careful in future to ensure my article is indefinite and my object less metaphorical.”
“Well…..perhaps we should go out for lunch, jolly sharpish. Are you hungry at all?”
“I take it, sir, that His Holiness the Pope has not yet succumbed to the schismatic attractions of Protestantism. As it happens, there is a Trout Pastiche Restaurant is just down the road.”
“Don’t you mean pasta restaurant, Coco?”
“I know what I mean, sir, if I may make so bold. As it happens, I’ve already sequestered my lunch there in the traditional canine fashion. That’s how I got this injury of the lower leg.”
De brown person stifled a sigh.
“Why, you literary old dog,” cried Oncaillgh Donnaigh, “I bet you’ve buried a favourite book or two along with it, eh?”
For a fraction of a moment, a distant smile passed across Coco’s urbane set of chops.
“Given the velocity of approximation and evident intentions of Aunt Diane, sir, videlicet, she’s ‘gonna whomp your butt’, sir, I think we should high tail it outta here ASAP, as the local vernacular has it.”
“Lucky you brought along your incredible machine, Coco!”
“It’s an italian-Russian motorbike-sidecar combo, I got it at a Sugarland Mall down the road. It’s the Deux Catties Karamazov model with Keyboard App built in, the QUERTY Booster.”
“Gosh, that’s a gigantic cylinder right enough!”
“One does try not to make it too obvious, sir, but it’s rather hard. But there’s no time to waste, jump in, if you would be so kind, and we’ll be off.”
“Gosh, this is just like Wallace and Grommit, I’m getting quite carried away!”
“On the contrary, sir. Hold tight!”
“Yee-haw! Hurrah for Karamazov!”
“Yee haw indeed, sir.”
© Donnie Ross 2011