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May We Have A Little Gore?

February 26, 2012

Okay, I think it’s time for one of my darker tales…

‘May We Have A Little Gore?’ was published last year on Rammenas, a Dutch flash fiction site, now closed.  Readers seemed taken with the style but couldn’t quite fathom the goings-on.  One even suggested I was a tease!

There’s more to the story than the words on the page, of course.  Flash fiction buffs, like poetry buffs, know they’ll have to apply themselves to get the most out of a piece.  Maybe I misdirected readers not by playing it crooked, which is what they’d expect in a crime story, but by playing it fairly straight…?

I wanted to see if I could suggest the sense of the story to a live audience by reading it aloud with plenty of cadence and intonation.  So I took it along to our February BLAZE event at Hartford Hall in Northwich last week.

It’s a great venue, this 17th century former manor house and nunnery, now a hotel.  White stuccoed walls and black-and-white gables outside; exposed oak beams inside.  With the ghost of a nun too, so legend has it…

Being tall, I just have to avoid braining myself on the low beams in the Nuns’ Room upstairs, where our BLAZE events – organised by poet Angela Topping – are held.  And what a great meeting it was, our guest this time the Manchester poet and musician John Calvert.

Scatty hair, snazzy in a brown waistcoat with black-and-white shirt, he sat before his keyboard and began: “Hang on whilst I take this call.”  A ringing sound, a pretended pick-up and he was off…  John’s funny stuff had us rolling in the aisles, but there were other sides of his talent to enjoy too.  We share a passion for the Clwydian Range, so naturally I liked his poem about Cilcain village church and its medieval carved roof with angels…

So what about my story?  Let me put it this way: an audience capable of coping with the intricacies of a double-column poem read by a ukulele-toting conceptual poet from Tyneside, should have found it easy-peasy.  And yet…

 

MAY WE HAVE A LITTLE GORE?

 

Dozens of them cluster the spit.  Oystercatchers.  Their cries pierce her heart as they take off low over the bright waves.

Sidestepping bladderwrack, driftwood, rotting crabs, Kay makes her way back up the beach.  The black cliff chills her marrow.  Here it was, on the nibs of gneiss, that his body was found next morning, broken.  He’d jumped, so they reckoned, though never a note was found.

Baldwin…

Day after day he’d rung her at 5:35 and she’d listened wearily, with a hand to her brow.  It was pathetic.  A manager terrified of his own security chief.  A manager in daily dread of…a question!  A question that must be a joke.

There’d been a few too many accidents at Park III, some fatal: true.  Complaints were almost unknown: true.  Loutish behaviour completely unknown: true.  But to read something sinister into this, to imagine his security chief capable of… It was nonsense.  Paranoid nonsense.  Had to be.

Kay has been posted to Park III as Baldwin’s successor.  And Cheemo put the question to her yesterday, in relation to Abe Kelman.  A joke?  She doesn’t think so now.  No, she does not…

***

Gulls wheel over the clifftop on a salt-breeze fragrant with wildflowers.  Sailing craft dot the blue bay below.  An acer tree stands in a tub at the cabin door.

This will be her first meeting with the American artist.

“Mr Kelman?”

“Abe, please.  You must be Kay.  Come in.”

Strange, after reading that huge file.  She’d expected a firebrand.  Abe is anything but.  A big, bearded, bear-like guy with warmth and humour.

Pen and wash sketches adorn the pitch-pine walls.  He’s something of a Tunnicliffe, something of an Augustus John.  Wonderful wildlife.  Stunning portraits and nudes.

They talk some.  Now breakfast is served.  Breakfast Yankee style, hash browns, the lot.  She cannot believe it.  He’s wonderful.  But Abe will be heading back to Ohio once his claim is settled, his cabin sold.

“Poor Baldwin,” he says, quietly.  And squeezing her hand, just once, “I understand.”

He does too, Kay’s sure of it.  He’s sussed it as surely as he did the crooked accountancy used to cheat vendors of their dues.  The scam that would finish the company if he went public.

Abe understands about Cheemo.  His brown eyes melt her fear.

***

At her desk, Kay recoils from the reek of peppermint on her security chief’s breath.

“For the last time, ma’am, may we have a little gore?”

Slimy lips curl as he bends closer.  “You know it’s the only way.”

Whispering now: “Wouldn’t want him blabbing, would we?  Even if Baldwin did.”

“Get out, Cheemo.  Go.”

The door closes with silent menace.

***

A half-moon rides the incoming tide as it pounds the black cliff.

Almost there now, the cabin in view, a waxy light at the curtains.  A silhouette, a bar of light: he’s watching out for her.  Kay is on foot despite the danger, serene in a curiously fatalistic way.

She’ll pose for him – yes, any way he likes.  Her complete trust she’s placed in him now – Abe the man, Abe the artist…Abe the brave.

A little gore?  Why not?

Above the leaping waves, the nibs of gneiss await.

-oOo-

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2011

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2 Comments
  1. Jackie Jordan permalink

    I loved this story when I first read it. It’s intriguing, perplexing and a very clever whodunit.

    • Thank you, Jackie, much appreciated. My recent writings haven’t been quite so dark, but I’m sure there are a few demons lurking in the subconscious, awaiting their moment…

      All best, Paul

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