Un titled. Flash fiction from Chloe Tomlinson

She had felt it coming like a dog, that much was clear. A few days ago she had written the following words: ‘I am sitting on the sofa, listening to Ella Fitzgerald, listening to the rain, drinking wine for warmth. I must keep all my money, like my wits, about me. My dad always told me to keep my wits about me but instead I let them float away like dandelion seeds, languorous and dreamy, and now I am alone. Who will look after me when everything collapses? Where is my Louis Armstrong?’ Who would look after her when everything collapses? It had been a rhetorical sort of question but the world had been listening after all and now here was its cruel riposte. The wind howled at her mad presumption. Her phone gave her the silent treatment. She went down to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and made eye contact with a squirrel. Hello darling rodent, she said, but it ran off at high speed. She climbed slowly back up the stairs and lay back down. Her eyeball s felt like pickled eggs. She thought about hanging herself, but she did not feel ready to dangle bloated and purple like a bulbous little fig, because she knew her death would be like a siren. Suddenly people, men, would come running, would bang her door down. They would find her and they would snip the cord and carry her body off for inspection, shove their gloved finger s into her. She imagined herself springing up saggy and blue and cackling in their faces. But no, she would not. She would like there naked and passive like always. She knew she would not do it, but for comfort she inspected the ceiling for butcher’s hooks. There was nothing up there but white paint. It hurt her eyes to look. Upstairs, something fell, a chair; somebody had beaten her to it. Yes, it could really be a man thumping to his death up there, but she had not moved so much as a tendon. Well, it’s no use crying over spilt milk. Anyway, she did not know her neighbours. She had always peeped through the blinds to make sure that nobody was on the street before leaving the house and fleeing the cul-de-sac. That was just the sort of person she was. Oh, she was good, radiant, fundamentally a golden light in the world, a friend to humankind, she really believed that, but unfortunately she had nothing to show for it. At school she had sung the hymn about having a little light that she would let shine, and she had meant it, she had gone forth into the world with her light shining, only for it to be snuffed out by a series of exploitative interactions. Now she was a pulsing lump of sorrow with nothing to eat but crackers. She had wept this morning at the realisation that she was no different from a flower. How poignant they were, delicate and persistent even though the worms are always there, writhing around below the surface, gnashing their jaws. They were trodden on in full bloom, they were cut and displayed, and it was dreadful. Really, truly putrid. Hunger, she thought, is a dry throat and pulsing purple eyelids and a body that is cold unless in the bath. And no doubt he was with that bitch with her orange segment lips, and no doubt she was making spaghetti bolognese. Basic, basic, basic bitch, filming her onions and her mushrooms to a hip hop song she had never even heard of before. How nice it must be to have a mother who brings you lentils and pasta and baked beans, sanitary towels and kind warnings, how nice to lie down on a velvet sofa with a pomeranian on your lap, clutching a glass of prosecco, your family like warm jam all around you. She had had a text from her boss, that was it. Do not come in, it said. Life had done a nasty little number on her but she had to be stoic. But when she looked out of her window there was nobody singing, not even so much as a pigeon cooing, and there was nobody to do jigsaw puzzles with. But when she went down into the garden and sat on the bench she found she did not want to kill herself. She listened to the birds and felt as pale as the gardenias, a hunched little woman bathed in restorative light.


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