Winning the tombola – Maria Sledmere

 

She turned the package over in her fingers. Silken, purple, properly gift-wrapped. The thought of what might lie inside glazed over her mind like the sweetening glow of a bar of milk chocolate, crunched alone on a cold evening.

She had a full hour to herself, before they returned. This kitchen, the room of her life, seemed transformed before her. The bread bin was open, the fridge was bursting with its hoard of treasures. She didn’t need to touch anything, though it was seductive, to think of the carrots neatly lined up like pens in a stationer’s, the orange juice, the dark bitter rye bread, the drawers chockfull of hazelnuts and brazils and the luxurious sugared lemons they’d bought for the festive season.

Earlier, he’d pinned her against the mahogany wardrobe.

“Do it like this,” he whispered. She remembers such words like a litany.

There were seven words to be said for the lottery. The old women tittered at the sight of her skirt, the hole in her tights. It was an unfair judgment; she had done nothing but turn up, as was her right. Seven words to be said. The music was harsh and synthy; dissonant, like the music they play in a mall, only slowed down to a creepy, molluscan crawl.

He poured dark muscovado sugar on her tongue, lovingly. He put his finger in her mouth, swirled it around, till the coarse stuff got sticky and wet and dissolved. It was as if he had drained the juice of her blood and here she was, dried and rasping. Come.

He used to scrunch her hair in his palms, and later it would lie a certain way against her neck, limp and curled, the filaments crushed.

He had been a jazz musician once. He had played the saxophone in her sleep, the shrill buzz of those notes swivelling through the staves of her veins, twisting her organs to a new truth.

The old women drew papers from a golden box. The one with an amethyst scarf waved a number, triumphantly, as if declaring the birth of an age.

“That’s me!” she had shrieked, leaping from her seat. Their eyes had been upon her, and maybe for a moment she had felt ashamed. Still, it didn’t last. The parcel was duly handed over; she treated herself to a taxi home.

What was the use in waiting? She had dallied long enough.

The ribbons fell apart in her fingers. Her heart backflipped, a ballerina. So this was the promise?

What she saw made her vomit.

 

author-pic-maria-s

Maria Sledmere is currently studying for an MLitt in Modernities at the University of Glasgow, and is otherwise an assistant editor for SPAMzine and part-time restaurant supervisor, a job which provides her with many ideas for strange stories. She regularly writes music reviews for RaveChild Glasgow and has had work recently accepted by publications including From Glasgow to Saturn, DataBleed, Robida and Germ Magazine.  When not obsessing over the literature of Tom McCarthy she may be found painting, making mixtapes or writing about everything from Dark Ecology, Derrida to Lana Del Rey at http://musingsbymaria.wordpress.com.

Advertisements

Scattered ashes – Maria Sledmere

 

Father died at sea, like most of the men on the island. We didn’t hold a funeral. Ma came with the ashes one Sunday morning and we skipped church, the three of us plus Ma’s friend Fiona, to drive out to the docks. It was quiet, the fishermen still out on the water, or else having a lie-in. I thought how strange it was, the quiet. Normally there’s such a bustle; clanging of metal and tugging of rigging and bumping of sterns and shouting. You could only hear the sea, its constant, sheet-like rustle, the evil cries of gulls overhead. I remember looking out across the purple water, its shivers of grey, the mounds in the distance that formed the archipelago. I thought: he’s on one of those islands. Daddy’s out there. He’s coming home some day. Ma said: Do you want to do the ashes? I frowned. I didn’t know what she meant. She was holding out this wee tupperware tub so’s you could see what was inside. It looked like flakes of rust, or mouldy cereal. I didn’t want to touch it. She seemed to understand; I guess she was disappointed. Fiona, gem that she always is, rubbed me on the shoulder; held my hand as Ma scattered the ashes. I was worried they were going to blow back in all our faces – wee Tyler crying with impatience, Johnny playing with the zip of his jacket – but somehow the wind caught him and the ashes were swept up in this swirling breeze which disappeared somewhere across the sea. We stood there for ages afterwards. I kept watching for boats, because I couldn’t stand just being there all sad watching the waves take my father away. I was still thinking: He’s out there. Maybe they had him on a boat; it was a mixup, the wrong body. Maybe they burned a deer and said it was him. It was quite possible. They’d done it before, to trick the grieving families into believing there was a body. Most of them were forever lost at sea. We’d done it in school, the fishermen’s stories. Fiona must’ve noticed I was crying then, because she gave me a bunch of tissues and pressed my face into her soft belly, itchy with a thick woollen jumper. I wasn’t really crying; it was the way the wind stung my eyes. I felt something hard and sad inside of me, like a thing I couldn’t lodge from my chest – like when you have a bad cold and it all builds up. It was just this…object. I guess I carried it around for a long time. In the car back home, Fiona drove while Ma kept her head out the window, the wind blowing back her greasy hair. Johnny played his Game Boy while Tyler watched, scrabbling for a shot. I tried to breathe, but my chest was so sore. I would write it down on Monday: he’s still out there. The teacher would give me a star, and I’d think of him out there at night sometimes, all those ashes up-scattered to the one particular silver-glinting star. I wish you could peel it off from the sky, the way you could with the stickers in your jotter.

 

Maria Sledmerauthor-pic-maria-se is currently studying for an MLitt in Modernities at the University of Glasgow, and is otherwise an assistant editor for SPAMzine and part-time restaurant supervisor, a job which provides her with many ideas for strange stories. She regularly writes music reviews for RaveChild Glasgow and has had work recently accepted by publications including From Glasgow to Saturn, DataBleed, Robida and Germ magazine.  When not obsessing over the literature of Tom McCarthy she may be found painting, making mixtapes or writing about everything from Dark Ecology, Derrida to Lana Del Rey at http://musingsbymaria.wordpress.com.

Sid and Cassie – Maria Sledmere

 

If you told me, aged sixteen,

I’d be alone on a hilltop, sipping vodka

from a water pistol borrowed off my brother,

I’d have said, wow, cool. 

 

If you told me then, that in a bedsit

I’d be gold-toned, honing sapphic desire in my underwear,

poking slugs around a fish tank

and naming them in lieu of past lovers,

I’d have said, lovely. 

 

If you told me he’d write me a letter

with real imprints of tears in the ink,

I’d have opened my glossy lips

and laughed with careless teeth.

 

If you told me I’d end up

gazing down at the boats on the Brooklyn Bridge,

I’d have wondered how I ever felt

at all before this.

 

In the hospital garden once I sat

in my straw hat, with pin-curls and a mugful of gin

and he would come to kiss me

in his mismatched pyjamas, but I

 

was half-dreaming – I said I would love him forever

and for a while I meant it. I thought

the pink mist would surround me again;

I thought he would eat my chips

and in the darkness we would twist

as clumsy as those slugs,

 

like the day in the ambulance

when everything was bright and plastic and blue;

almost forgotten, the world not turning,

yet everything lovely,

lovely as you.

 

In the mirror I splash my face with glitter and lightning.

Maybe he has that hand-knitted hat

still full of my stardust, the nicotine traces;

I miss him, totally, but you know

it’s only the boats that go places.

 
author-pic-maria-sMaria Sledmere is currently studying for an MLitt in Modernities at the University of Glasgow, and is otherwise an assistant editor for SPAMzine and part-time restaurant supervisor, a job which provides her with many ideas for strange stories. She regularly writes music reviews for RaveChild Glasgow and has had work recently accepted by publications including From Glasgow to Saturn, DataBleed, Robida and Germ Magazine.  When not obsessing over the literature of Tom McCarthy she may be found painting, making mixtapes or writing about everything from Dark Ecology, Derrida to Lana Del Rey at http://musingsbymaria.wordpress.com.