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Requiem for Fragile Dreams

Ian C Smith

His daughter emails news of her mother’s recent death and funeral.  He responds with care, deleting, rearranging, his usual fussing with words.  She then attaches a tape of the service, this gesture, modern methods, his ways of thinking outdated, not helped by memory lapses, surprises him.  Late, he opts for sleep, his swirling world of wild dreams, knowing he would lie awake if he watched the tape first.  Mementoes of his adventures surrounding him, signposting his gradual decay, he makes infuriating mistakes, especially when rattled.  He plans time without distraction for an expected explosion of emotion after his early waking ritual, brewed tea with delivered newspaper, this putting off the inevitable a mini-metaphor for ageing, he thinks, wry humour his bulwark.

Crossword completed, time for the tape.  Fiddling with kitchen chores, staring into his always near-empty fridge, he gives himself a mental pep-talk about avoidance not helping his miasma of woe hovering since hearing of his long-ago girl-bride’s diagnosis.  His waiting computer’s darkened screensaver matches his mood.  Her service is on You Tube, soundless.  He has had trouble with the audio dropping out before, watches in silence realising many of these young adults are more than likely his direct descendants.  One reminds him of someone.  Then he sees his son in the young man’s face, and later, all three of his young children in their own middle-aged faces sharing a microphone, the distant past strongest in their features when they smile together.

Black midnight.  Brake-squeal shocking in their rutted driveway, flattened horn abusing the village silence.  Under the porch light, alarm outraging him, he gapes as she scrambles from the car, voice frantic, another car lurching to a stop in their street, a bully inadvertently cut off who hammered after her for miles, metres from her arse all the way home.  Sailing heart first into trouble, an instinct still smouldering beneath his ribs even now, he drove that moron off, brain chipping in for once to note his licence plate.  The cops told them later after investigating the chaser, he had to touch or threaten her to face a charge.  They also said his wife’s fury flared when the woman learned what her husband had done, so he didn’t go unpunished.

He knew no significant loss back then, phones had cords, road rage, women as victims, not yet common news.  Trying to outwit debt’s baying pack, both working for low pay, him by day, her, evenings, he tucked the kids into bed, smoked, watched the clock, TV, the clock again, slowly darkened the crossword.  In the blur of such marriages romance gasps for air.  After scrimping a deposit they had moved out to the sticks, a pinprick of light to former teenaged sweethearts, mortgage instead of rent.  Four years later they sold up, hit the road towing a caravan, him devouring latitude in a rage to live, her loyal alongside him, kids squabbling behind them, that mad midnight action already history, recalled these many years since they unravelled, when he stopped saying us, shimmering in memory’s mirage.

Ian C Smith’s work has been published in BBC Radio 4 Sounds,The Dalhousie Review, Gargoyle, Ginosko Literary Journal, Griffith Review, Southword, The Stony Thursday Book, & Two Thirds North.  His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide).  He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island.

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