Flash fiction, short stories, poetry …
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Celebee

There is some moderate swearing in this piece, so if you’re easily offended look away now.

Still here?

Great. Time to talk about Celebee…

***

C

elebee knows she is a monster. It’s just that she can’t express it; get it out there.

She comes home each day, opens a carton of milk – briefly considers drinking it straight – but then sighs and gets a glass. Pours it out as normal.

One, normal glass of milk.

There’s nothing on the telly she particularly wants to watch. So what? She watches it late into the night until only static is left, and then she keeps on watching it, wondering what’s on the flip side of static – what other land belongs beyond that digital waterfall – envisaging, half in dream, the straight, powerful ride of a grey Trans-Am, plunging along the road. Thing is she can’t get her head up to see the horizon, so just follows the vision of that car as it increasingly wobbles along – until it’s doing a steady forty-five, top down, nobody at the wheel, slewing from one lane to the other.

Yeah, well, what’s it to you? Why should steak care about the cooking fat?

She has a bath. Tries to make it nice. Burns candles, dreams of flowers, pours in the thick, blue loop of bubble bath and exotic herbs, but her muscles remain as taught as iron and the water cools too quickly, and the bubbles vanish. Her breasts slop around as two inverted comas, adding ironic disgust to her already distorted body.

Her neighbour bangs his door and coughs – a young cough, maybe twenty five or six; there’s a lot of information in a cough – and presumably goes down stairs. She hears nothing more.

Scrubbing at her sparse frame until the water clops, pumice stone bloody, she follows the scars that run across her body from one side to the other, like a transcontinental railway. Slash after slash – self inflicted, animal brutality.

After all, she opened the door.

She remembers the skin punctures, the press of hot breath and teeth. The rake of long, scraping cardboard that was also talons, dragging and bucking across her thigh, back; fingers now smoothing across the raised rails of it all.

A blow here to the cheek, blood on her teeth picture-framing the enamel, wondering at the raw taste of copper and nausea.

The ripping sound of silk, a smooth, papery sound, as those miniscule threads parted in a red wave, sliding from her skin, one long strip hitching on blood, until – she’s running – it slopped to the floor, dragging out a long red streak like a flag.

Glass in her face, nostrils, mouth. Hanging there – funny really – over the brass shell of the glass coffee table.

Surfaces from the bath, lashes dragging, lips pressed, eyes and hair a liquid.

A towel, rough and blue, folded over like a cat’s back.

Towelling and too much talcum powder. Feet and legs duck-kneed, pretending to be a librarian.

Glasses she doesn’t need.

Walks along the street swinging a bag, in the way that she assumes other people pretend to be happy (as nobody can really be happy, can they?) skirt bouncing, wide-eyed and innocent; when in actuality, she can feel their pulses like waves, as if she had an ear uncomfortably close to them in sleep, and the sound is washing around in her inner ear, hearing her own pulse combine.

Sighs. Pushes up her hair. Tick-tacks across the foyer, nods and smiles – all canines – at the guard and heads for the tellers.

Stands for two minutes, nobody saying anything, until a woman with a pushchair says, “Hey, you gotta need a ticket.” She says it kind.

“Ticket?” Oh rat’s ass. Some electronic thing. Says thanks to the woman who is wearing low camel riders, a crop top and smooth, rounded pumps.

She shrugs and commiserates with a look.

Celebee grinds off to the ticket thing. Says no to the endless adverts and options to sniff about in her business, and gets a number. The exact digits are not important. Machine smells of ‘new’ and electrical burn – hot circuitry.

Back at the sofas, picking over the bank magazine, wondering at that huge wall of tellers and nobody up there. Feels a scar tugging at her leg; shifts uncomfortably and stretches another on her backside.

Chucks down the magazine.

Woman with the kid is up at the counter shouting out about the 1KO she’s got in her pocket. Everyone looks away as if they might be the one to steal it.

Finally she leaves, and the teller just sits staring into her monitor.

“Come on,” growls Celebee, dragging her bag to her thigh. Inside: a half brick because she thought it needed some weight on the way over.

Electronic voice says one more than C56. And she’s up, skating across the floor.

“What can I do for you today?” A wide, broad, smile, that is as perfect as a sea wall.

“Well, uh… Dianne, I’d like you to put all the motherfuckin’ money in the motherfukin’ bag.”

“What?”

Dumps the half brick. It clunks onto the desk with a scatter of cooked red clay dust.

Woman stares at this offering.

“Werewolf’s gotta eat.”

“Pardon?”

Even now, staring the brick in the face, she’s incredulous. It’s a word she associates with bullshit and stories; maybe her boyfriend’s favourite film, though mostly so he can watch the tits and ass and hear the changes happening on a kitchen floor, bones cracking like a macabre celebration of Christmas.

“I says, I gotta eat.”

This woman is wising up to the lack of obvious, pointy weaponry and is moving to press something with her foot; a delicate move in a pale-blue stiletto, which is a bullshit shoe to wear day-in-day-out behind a bank table.

But then, this bank is so open plan, about five other ticket holders are all in on this farcical robbery. They look at each other, but nobody joins in. Ticket machine ain’t said so.

When Celebee changes, right there in front of the cameras, right there in front of the late C50’s and the low C60’s, right there in front of the daily, insipient shit her life has become, it isn’t even a relief. It’s a nothing – one wide open howl.

I should be a librarian. A good girl. Not a bad dog.

Instead, she says, “Now put the whatever in the whatever before I rip your head off.” Bad motherfuckin’ dog.

 

8 comments

1 Mark { 06.08.11 at 9:28 am }

I like the slow reveal of the werewolf imagery. Excellent work, Mr. H!

2 Joan { 06.08.11 at 2:59 pm }

I like the idea about what might be on the other side of the static, plus even the idea of Celebee putting the milk into the glass – to prove she isn’t a monster.
Plus – that sense of unexpectedness and non-judgement – she’s a monster, but her problem is she can’t express it – that is, it’s not a bad thing to be a monster, but it’s maybe a problem being an unexpressed one.
There we are – I’ve read just the first part of the story so far, and these are some of the thoughts I’ve been getting.
Yeah! Why should the steak care?
Oo! Pity about the pumice stone. (I’m just commenting as I go through.) Things seem to be getting serious in the story.
‘She opened the door …’ – oh no, she doesn’t think it’s her fault?
Wondering what’s going to happen now – as a reader, I’m hooked.
Lots of details I’m picking up – teeth all canines etc – but I’m at a point where I want to know what happens.
Love the idea of the half brick in the bag.
Yep. The way she asks for the money – love it.
The brick is handy as a threatener also –
Okay – I’ve got it she’s a werewolf and she can hardly believe it herself.
I hope the bones cracking on the kitchen floor were her boyfriend’s.
Like the way the ticket machine is such an authority in the place.
Yes. Love it. (I’m at the end now.)
I’ve just gone through the story as I sometimes do, giving comments as they occur to me – I hope this may give you some indication, anyway, of how at least one reader is taking it.

3 Aidan Fritz { 06.09.11 at 5:48 am }

The hook is a piece of wonder, smooth, two-pronged, feinting with the monster, delivering with lapping milk. The language as usual is fresh and wonderful and I like the completeness at the end with the were-dog.

4 Steve Green { 06.10.11 at 11:11 pm }

I am always impressed by your writing imagery, the colours and sounds that you portray.

I like the werewolf reveal, that was a twist I didn’t expect, I think there is something darkly humourous in the bank robbery scene, or is that just my dark humourous way of looking at things?

5 Stephen Hewitt { 06.12.11 at 10:10 am }

@ Mark — I enjoy trying to get things across with (the classic) showing over telling, so tend arrive at the slow reveal. Occasionally things get a bit too obscure, but most of the time things seem to work out. Thanks for popping on a comment, Mr. W.

@Joan — a great way of giving some detailed feedback. I’ve done a similar thing for various folks as part of my work.

Don’t know where it came from as I wrote it, but I was partial to that idea that you could be a repressed actual monster within normal, human society, because of lack of self expression. The pumice stone probably was a little grim a little early, though wanted to prep for the coming events and demonstrate her own self horror. Sounds like I got to the point of saying what’s happening at about the right time. Alas, not the teller’s boyfriend’s bones on the kitchen floor, but probably should have been. And, after an annoying trip to my own bank, I thought: if there’s any place a werewolf’ll flip out, it’ll be in here. Luckily I didn’t write that on the customer survey.

@Aidan — hi there Aidan. Looks like I managed to provide a complete journey, from milk to werewolf. All the major food groups. Glad you liked the hook going in and some of that wordage 🙂

@ Steve — thank Steve. Never quite sure about where the line is on too much description, etc. Often feel I want to ‘bake a lighter cake’. But on the other hand, this is pretty much how I naturally write (with an eye on the editing or will start ‘decorating’). Getting the right balance is probably going to be a lifelong project. There may be some rock cakes along the way, for which I apologise. I’m still trying to ‘become one’ with Soufflé. Will now stop talking about baking.

And yes, I’d say darkly humorous. For instance, was amused by the idea that bystanders wouldn’t wade into a robbery situation unless they had a ticket.

6 Harry B. Sanderford { 06.14.11 at 7:46 pm }

Ha! Now that’s a ripping good yarn! Love it!

7 Lara Dunning { 06.20.11 at 12:36 am }

I agree with Aidan, the hook rocks. Pulls you right in, you want to know what kind of monster she really is.

8 Stephen Hewitt { 06.21.11 at 1:24 pm }

@Harry — a ripping yarn in more ways than one, perhaps. 🙂

@Lara — thanks Lara. Alas, for society, she’s your a-typical hungry, bank-robbing kind of monster, as I discovered while writing. I must find a way to clone that hook. lol.

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