Roaming

September 9, 2008 at 1:03 pm Leave a comment


This is my most recent short story!!

The shadows were stirring inside Roger’s heart- relentless, penetrating shadows. Too many shadows. Too many corners. The night was warm, perhaps too warm and the shadows drunkenly poured into the crevices of the room. Sleep was not going to embrace him tonight.

Haunted by his own discomfort, Roger tossed the sheets to one side and unhappily left bed. Prying open the refrigerator, he discovered yesterday’s cold pizza and plopped onto the sofa. As he gnawed on the tough crust, he heard a peculiar rustle outside and got up to investigate.

Usually, the farm was peaceful. Situated along the town’s main road, their home was within easy access to the city but removed enough to allow Roger and his elderly mother to bask in the silence of the country. The town was miniscule, consisting of only a few well-to-do families and their glittering farms. The town folk were generally uninterested in the lives of Roger and his mother and that is how he preferred it; to remain unnoticed. As Roger left his front step to investigate the strange clatter of movement, he paused briefly to regret his exile from sleep. With a sigh, he allowed the subtle breeze to sweep across his body.

The unkept and barren land was far from beautiful. Grass had not grown for what seemed like years. Red stained earth was tainted with incredible sadness and isolation. Vast distance had gripped the wonder of the land and crushed it. The only redemption of this neglected landscape was a small cluster of Jacaranda trees near the northern wing of the home.

Under the tallest Jacaranda tree, Roger could make out a wispy shadow floating in the distance. As he approached, he realised it was a young woman huddling under a blanket. She had just settled between two young weeds peeking from under the ground and leaned her head back against the tree. The wet moonlight illuminated her fiercely delicate features. “Do you mind?” she breathlessly sighed. Roger didn’t. He invited her inside, although she declined. She said she desired to soak the summer night air. Quietly nodding, Roger left her. In the morning, the woman was gone.

Since there were so few homeless people in the town it didn’t take Roger long to hear the woman’s story. Sitting outside the barber shop were three clucking women who discussed the succulent tale of the roaming gypsy.

Her name was Meredith and she sold anything she could anywhere people would buy them. Despite strong discouragement from the priest and congregation, she spent her first few days in town sitting in the shade under the large cathedral. Parked on the pavement was a battered rusty car littered with a plethora of old greying bumper stickers. Apparently, she had broken down in town and was raising the funds to get a lift to the west.

That Sunday after Mass, Roger sauntered out of the church with the sleep weighing heavily on his drooping eyelids. His particular sluggishness melted as he inhaled deeply spiced and playful incense- Blue, green, red, brown dancing across the table. The smoke swirled, casting insignificant shadows on Meredith’s face.

“Hey handsome. Like what you see?” Her whispers floated thinly through the air. A stooped old lady, with her weight fully plastered on the elbow of Roger, reached out with her cane and slapped it against the flimsy table. Food and incense danced across the table and fell to the ground. The younger woman ducked to avoid another blow and the older woman proceeded to wail loudly. Roger placed the hysterical woman tenderly in his rusty pickup truck.

“… My mother….I am… I am terribly sorry… Are you alright?” Roger stammered viciously and this flustered him. English seemed to escape his tongue and these words were, at best, merely grotesque noises of sympathy. Meredith feigned a scowl him.

“Tell you what,” The glint in her eye was beyond mischievous. “Give me a lift to the nearest supermarket and say 3 Hail Mary’s next Mass for me and maybe I’ll forgive you.” A smile bounced where the forced frown had been. Roger introduced himself and agreed, allowing Meredith to climb into the centre seat between his mother and himself.

They took his mother to his home where the nurse would attend to her. And Roger just drove while Meredith stared out the window and chattered meaningless nothings to those on the opposite side of the glass. “Rodg,” she sighed, “Can your mother eat peas? I’d like to make her dinner tonight. Can I do that?” She continued her chatter not pausing to hear the answer, yammering on about peas and asparagus soup and the health benefits of such a diet.

Once in the market, Roger rushed directly to the frozen food aisle not wanting to allow Meredith to forget her generous offer. He turned from the icy shelf to face her, “For that soup you told me about, do you want frozen peas?”

She had her eyes closed. Standing still, she allowed a low, guttural moan escape from deep within her throat, “Quiet. Hear that?” The supermarket was bustling with activity. To the left of Roger stood a wrinkly old lady hunching over a frosty bag of frozen brussel sprouts. She whispered crazily to the bag before hugging them closely to her sagging chest and hobbling towards the exit. To the right of him screamed a young girl with blonde drooping pigtails tied in pink ribbons. The girl yelled, face up-stretched, until her young mother hauled her off towards the sweets. And Roger just stood there, back against the open freezer, a raised eyebrow and pursed lips, completely dumbfounded.

“The song, listen to the song,” Her emerald eyes flashed open, tantalizing him with her impatience. Her arms encircled his captivated neck and she pressed her body against his. She was perfectly cognisant of her own beauty. Fighting to keep breathing, Roger was hypnotized as she began swaying her hips rhythmically to the melody on the supermarket radio. Her long flowing skirt swished around her knees as she found the seductive rhythm of her dance. Eventually his arms stiffly found their way around her, but by then, Meredith had already released her tantric hold on his neck. The mesmerizing bracelets clanked together around her outstretched wrist. Low and sultry, her voice began to seductively play with notes, lacing them together into her own majestic tapestry.

The chill from the open freezer reached out and caressed Roger’s rigid spine sending currents of thrill to his fingertips. She grabbed him forcefully and held him to her body. He didn’t pull away. They struggled in avoiding both the pyramid of canned soup and the fellow shoppers as they staggered. Collision upon collision with the glass cages echoed through the aisle. His grunts at impact and the giggles of the spectators seemed to enliven the moment.

Roger’s eyes forgot time and self-consciousness. He fought to see both where he put his feet and where his partner put her body. In the end it was a futile effort. The dance could not have lasted long as the floor was freshly polished and Roger was so incredibly unsure as to where to put his feet. The eccentric and passionate tango collapsed into a muddled heap on the floor. Meredith erupted into an unrestrained guffaw while those around stood idiotically.

“That was fun!” she squealed, picking herself up off the floor. She assisted Roger to his feet. “You enjoyed that.” It wasn’t meant as an observation, nor was it meant as a comment. She stated it as if she spoke another language and knew no one else would recognise the sounds as words. Roger was stunned and off Meredith swished, pushing by the crowd of gawking onlookers, “I’ll fetch the bread.”

When the trolley was bursting they headed for the till. The teller slid item by item across the scanner and Meredith inched her arm edge by edge across the tense muscles on Roger’s neck. His throat rumbled at her suggestive gesture and she dropped her arm. Not that Roger wanted her too.

She had raced him to the car. She won. Her auburn hair glittered; her carefree beauty enchanting even the setting sun himself. Roger really had no option but to let her win. As they sped on the highway, the day seemed just that much more glorious- more surreal. The wind pounded through the window and they screamed over the song on the radio, singing raucously along to the crashing guitar riff.

Raking through her bag, Meredith giggled. She removed a fat tube of rolled leaves and lit it. Breathing in deeply and passing the roll to Roger, she allowed herself to separate into a thousand different fragments and float around the car. She chanted her memorizing words into his aching ear, caressed his tingling shoulder, and pressed her breathtaking lips to his temple in encouragement.

“I’ve never felt so alive than in this moment.” He had never meant something with such depth before. At that exact moment in time, Roger was more than in love with Meredith. Somehow his emotions felt deeper than the lust for the innate sexuality of the woman. It went deeper than that intoxication he felt being around her. Somehow the way she lived life hypnotized him. If love could be boiled down to its very soul, and its essence could be extracted, then Roger was in that kind of love with Meredith’s life and her love of that life. “You remind me of my sister. She died a long time ago. And you, somehow, someway encapsulate all that I adored in her.” And at the mention of Claire, Roger embraced his own fragmentation from reality.

His sister died when she was sixteen. He was eighteen and should have watched after her. Claire really knew how to live. She really knew how to taste the colours in the day and dance in the idea of vibrancy. It seemed like so long ago.

Claire had giggled about the Guy and his Party, threatening to sneak out alone and sleep over. Responsibility neglected him as he snuck out with her and into the exclusive gathering. Soon after arriving, Roger spotted some girl who travelled outside of colour and while they chatted someone spiked Claire’s drink. Roger didn’t notice. He didn’t see Claire down drink after drink, nor did he witness as she plunged the lethal dose into her throbbing arm. He wasn’t there as she writhed on the floor. He should have been there. He should have stopped her. It was Roger’s mother who made sure he knew this. Bad Roger. Evil Roger.

At Claire’s funeral, it was Roger who closed the casket. And as the lid clanked closed, he buried his life within himself. The Jacaranda’s bloomed grey that summer. Each breath, heavy laden, passed a moment- catalysing death. What became of his life since that moment was merely a waste of his own encroaching passing- a wasting of his mortality. His mother became his troublesome and needy baggage. She would constantly guilt him into taking her to Mass and saying his penance- after all, he killed his sister. His beautiful sister.

Meredith was just like her- gypsy presence and all. The spirit of his sister was sitting beside him and imaginary shackles dropped from his restrained joy. As his story spilled from his gut, Meredith sat allowing tears to flood her face. When he was finished, they lingered in the silence. Overwhelmed, Meredith leaned over to kiss him lightly on the cheek.

Urban design grew sparser as they drove. Single farms began sprinkling their dreaminess across the landscape. The roads were very quiet as it was already past dark and the roads were so poorly lit. The full moon glistened under the thick dark clouds. And it began raining.

The torrent fell in thick, heavy drops and quickly flooded the windscreen. Even at full speed, the mechanized arms failed to disperse enough water to encourage sight. Since the roads were so quiet, Roger didn’t pull over.

“I’m just going to push through this one. No sense pulling over and waiting it out if we are so close to being home.” Roger stated it more to convince himself than Meredith. She was starry-eyed, ridiculously silent and didn’t seem the least bit bothered. Yellow globs of light peeked through the blanket of wetness over the car. Not knowing exactly which lane their car was travelling, Roger pulled the wheel slightly to the left, hoping to avoid the approaching vehicle.

Meredith saw it first. She screamed. The piercing, echoing, rattling screaming disorientated Roger. The car spun ferociously, swirling the two until dizziness obstructed their senses. Colours churned nonsense as Roger gripped the steering wheel fighting to control the car; Thrusting left, thrusting right. And one thrust to many whirled the car off the road.

The swollen lake was just metres from the highway. Trees were sparse and every hope of stopping before the icy water was abandoned as each and every tree zoomed by them in a ferocious glory. Roger quickly unlatched his seatbelt. Within a single moment the car was sucked into the depths of the lake.

The water was freezing and sucked the breath right from their groaning bodies. Urgency and panic clutched Meredith. Her body was still constricted by her seatbelt. Fighting, kicking. Her hair swirled around her bulging eyes. Adrenaline had swollen a vein on her pulsating forehead; arms and legs flung about attempting combat with the immensity of the water. She paused. Her eyes, haunting, rose. Roger was watching her as if reality was less rigid than believable. Bubbled words fled her mouth as she pleaded…

And Roger floated there, suspended in his own inadequacy, staring. Her face stirred inside him. He saw his sister lying in the bathroom swimming in her own vomit. He saw her eyes, open and empty. In her death she was pleading. Expression reincarnate. He reached out- arms driving through the water towards her. Towards Meredith.

Roger could save her. He saw her belt, merely jammed under the shifted arm rest. But he didn’t. He pressed his face against her lips and sucked on her warmth for a moment before cutting passed her and climbing to the surface. Breath burned his tongue and his gasping choked his agonising throat. He pressed himself out of the lake, rain pelting his blue body, and looked back. The car was just visible under the surface of the water.

While he swam out the open window past her, Meredith knew. Not everyone can be the hero; someone has to roam… She surrendered to the swallowing pressure and the water casually embraced her. One of her bracelets slid off her limp hand and rose to the surface. And it floated there, watching Roger walk back to the farm- back to Mass- back to his life.


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