Hey everyone, so the piece below is a short story I wrote a while ago but was recently shortlisted for The Rachel Funari Prize through Lip. I thought I would share it with you. Note: It’s not my usual light-hearted stuff, when I told my parents what it was about I think my Mum was rather concerned. Yeah, yeah, sorry Mum.
Cigarettes will kill you
Beth sucked the cigarette like she was sucking oxygen through a straw.
‘I wish I had the damn abortion,’ she said, one hand pushing the trolley.
We moved in slow, jerking movements down aisle four on worn-out rubber wheels. I picked at the chipping nail polish the colour of burnt toast off my fingernails.
‘I mean, I had a fucking life.’
Two bags of corn chips, a two litre bottle of coke and some salted cashews fell into the trolley with a crash. Beth twirled the cigarette, showing off the faded green curves of a Japanese symbol for freedom on her wrist. It reminded her daily of the very thing she had lost sixteen years ago.
‘You have no idea what I gave up by having you.’ Her voice was smooth, with no harshness, or bitterness. She was just stating the facts. I gulped in the smoky air, and tasted the metallic rust of blood in my mouth. My crooked teeth pried my tongue to the bottom of my mouth.
Beth would not forget what could have been. She littered our unit with relics and objects which had now faded, cobwebbed and become food for moths. A photo of the smiling, tanned Beth with her armed draped around Billy sticky-taped on our rented fridge. A vase of plastic roses from Valentine’s Day 1994 in the middle of the kitchen table. A framed Big W catalogue of Beth’s last modelling shoot hanging in the hallway. A grubby napkin with Billy’s messy scrawl ‘I LOVE YOU’ blue-tacked to the toilet door.
Every morning I ate my breakfast, trying to swallow down more than just lumps of cornflakes. A lump in my throat that would never go away.
‘I was a size six, babe. I was beautiful and happy.’
I tossed a twelve pack of toilet paper in the trolley, two ply. Happiness was always skin deep I had learnt.
‘Maybe Billy would still be around,’ Beth said, her voice soft.
I removed a large chunk of the polish and flicked it onto the ground. It wasn’t the broken condom that sent Billy away, there were other girls, but there was no point reminding Beth.
We edged down aisle two, cheese and dairy. Beth’s smoke trailed us like low puffy clouds. Customers nearby frowned at us and waved the smoke away. A little boy pulled his red t-shirt over his nose and coughed loudly. In a few minutes security would be called.
Beth readjusted the straps on her top, dropped her cigarette to the floor and squashed it with the bottom of her wedged heels.
‘I felt guilty you know. All that “your womb is a baby” shit and “your baby has a right to live.” But now I know it was just blood and flesh.’
We grab some eggs and milk and then head to the check-out. The supermarket girl said hello and asked how we were. Beth told her fine thanks and asked her for a packet of Winnie blue 40’s thanks babe. I said nothing because I’m just blood and flesh. Blood and flesh followed Beth to the car and packed the plastic bags full of food into the car boot.
The crappy old car took nearly ten minutes to start. Beth swore and thumped the steering wheel but I just sat there wondering if a person can be unborn. We drove out onto the main road, the car radio’s idle chatter failing to fill the empty space. Beth’s kohl rimmed eyes scanned the rear-view mirror. Desperately she searched, trying to see behind the tree-lined suburbs, beyond the ink-splattered sky.
There was nothing.