Flash fiction, short stories, poetry …
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Electrica Amor Vincit Omnia

Hello there. I’ve been writing some stories about love. I fancied throwing in some lighter tales, but of course it’s all wrapped up in my storytelling — which loves of the unusual. So, uh, yeah… let’s see how we get on.

Last night I was trying to work out what had happened to Google Friend Connect (one of the boxes of followers over there on the right) — it had stopped working — only to discover that Google has decided to stop supporting it for non-E-blogger folk. I’ll try not to rant, but ‘thanks’ Google — I won’t be transferring across to Google+ any time soon, in deference to your kind suggestion.

So if you were following before, or want to join what was once a slightly larger throng, do feel free to click that button on Networked Blogs. I miss your smiling faces and cherish those who remain. 

But enough of such technical things — we have love to talk about. 

***

I

dream of an electric heart. It sits in the windows of Amor and Astarte where the crowds come to watch it beat and pulse, throwing red heart-light into the street. I hear the seagulls calling, I see the litter blow, I feel the moments pass, when I see that heart beating – valves shiny, chrome gleaming, glass smooth. It rests amongst a display of wrapped packages, with floppy bows, and it makes me wonder what gifts love has to give.

I save, day by day – a penny here, a penny there – but love, it seems, costs. It costs a lot more than I can make in a year. I have a job that seems fulfilling (working for an Atherosclerosis charity) and I try to live in a way that others might admire, but I do not know whether I love life or not – or, indeed, can love – as I haven’t got the heart for it.

Days, weeks, months pass. I am back again – the dedicated, cardio window-shopper. Rain falls in soft trails from the sky and pitter-patters on the window glass. Nose touching, my breath blooms, and a message is revived: ‘I love you’, in a heart pierced with an arrow, drawn in finger grease.

Inside, the heart beats in its own light, but there are fewer crowds, now. Fewer people stand at the window, looking at the displays of cupids and paper hearts, and roses blooming. The flower heads are curling, the paper beginning to wrinkle.

The heart beats on.

A few years later, I swing by that old department store to look in the window, but the heart isn’t there. I feel a small start of panic, as if it had finally gotten into my chest. But I see, now, it’s been moved to a side window. A thick layer of dust has settled on the mechanism – its light dulled to a fleshy pink. The paper hearts have faded, the cupids are a jumble, and the banner proclaiming TRUE LOVE, droops and is marked, ‘50% OFF!’ It’s a still a fortune, though – I know it, though I’ve yet to see a price tag.

Hands in pockets, hat down, rain pattering off the brim, I shuffle off for a hot coffee in Mae’s.

Years pass. My charity closes down as the city seeks to invigorate the local economy by closing one good charity to give to another.

Somehow, I don’t seem to mind. Mine is not a life where love lives, but I do keep that cardioid vase on the mantle drip-fed with pennies – hope kept alive by dreams, in a deep-throated wishing well.

One day, I reach the top of the vase; coins touching its pursed lip. I decide to count them – to cash up, tot up the ante, and go see, at last, what kind of love money can buy. The coins are dark and unloved, somehow stale in their years’ collecting. I count them out and stack them and find I have very little. No reason to expect that this sorry amount is enough.

I pull on my jacket, fetch my hat, and wash my face. I put a hanky in my breast pocket – looking smart, out of habit – on the day I travel to love’s lost country.

It should be an unremarkable journey – but the sky is clear blue, touched to white on the horizon; cherry trees bloom in the electric sunlight, though the air is cold. Magpies flutter from one branch to another, chack-chacking, tails bobbing. A woman steps through long, triangles of shadow – touched with a cumulous pink – carrying her vanilla wedges of shopping.

I catch the Eastside bus.

A Guardian newspaper has been left on this seat. I read the small ads – ‘lonely hearts’ from those other true seekers in twenty-five words or less. Their creativity leaves me feeling humbled and hollow. It is great for them, I think – I still know what I’m missing: that patent, electric heart.

When I get to the store, I see that it is not just me who has bet on love and lost. Behind padlocks and rusting grilles – the colour of pistachio – the windows are dark and empty, streaked with long runnels of water and dust. Browning newsprint hangs on the glass, against a twilight gloom that stretches back into a cavernous darkness. The 1920s art deco, the cupid buttresses, the swirling lines through women, carrying urns or posed, hand on face, are left to question, ‘why are we?’ For love, itself, has gone.

There is no heart, no ‘love of the future’, and despair has taken its radium reactor. The gift box is closed, the ribbons shed. There is no elegant assistant to take the kerchief of coins I carry – the warm, heart-shaped bundle that weighs down my hand.

“Oh. Oh, I… I’m sorry.”

A woman touches my elbow. Brown jacket. Hat feathered; the arrowed-quill of a pheasant, dancing.

“I used to… well, never mind.” There is a distance. “Oh,” she says again.

One hand trails back from the grille, fingers rubbing a fine red dust from themselves. She gestures a hand to the Trojan windows and walls above, handbag hanging from her elbow – smooth, swing-low and elegant.

“Do you think it – all this – will open again?

The sun smiles in her face – fair skin, red lips, red berries. Blue eyes, sigh. Cupid’s kiss.

I have, I realise, a handful of gold.

24 comments

1 Steve Green { 05.01.12 at 10:34 am }

Oh, what poetry and wordcraft. There is a sense of sadness and reaching for the unattainable running through this, then one of hope and possibility. Beautifully written.

2 John Xero { 05.02.12 at 9:12 am }

That is absolutely wonderful, truly, madly. ;)

“TRUE LOVE… marked, ‘50% OFF!’”
is a genius line, and then the following line
“It’s a still a fortune, though – I know it, though I’ve yet to see a price tag.”
is so nuanced.

As the decay sets in there is a desperate hope that the ending will be the happy ending we so want it to be. And it is. Such a simple, gorgeous last line.

3 Joan { 05.02.12 at 1:17 pm }

Okay – straightaway – it’s a real heart – it beats and pulses – well, it’s electric, but no nit-picking over this.

Yup. Knew it was a real heart – ‘I feel a small start of panic, [as if] it had finally gotten into my chest.’

‘A woman … I used to … Do you think? … the sun smiles in her face … Cupid’s kiss.’ Told you it was a real heart. But then, you knew that.

4 Nadine Maritz { 05.02.12 at 3:12 pm }

you had me at – “amongst a display of wrapped packages, with floppy bows, and it makes me wonder what gifts love has to give.”

Great read from a fellow #flashfriday

5 Helen { 05.03.12 at 5:12 am }

This was just lovely to read, your word-craft is to be envied. I hoped he would somehow manage to attain that heart, yet even though he didn’t I think he found something better. Loved this line ” I am back again – the dedicated, cardio window-shopper.”

Stephen this is wonderful writing, I only wished that I had your talent. ^__^

6 Icy Sedgwick { 05.03.12 at 3:50 pm }

Beautifully written piece. I wish I could write this well!

7 Sonia Lal { 05.04.12 at 4:17 am }

That’s beautiful to read. Loved the imagery. Story, too.

8 Peter Newman { 05.04.12 at 6:36 pm }

John Xero sent me this way and I’m glad he did. Really liked this. I’ll put in a vote for the last line too, oh and the one before it.

Impressive…most impressive!

9 Larry Kollar { 05.04.12 at 7:50 pm }

At first, I thought our narrator was perhaps an AI. This was a wonderful illustration of how people seek for love (or mere contentment) through objects, while everything needed is already there.

10 John Wiswell { 05.04.12 at 8:11 pm }

I agree that the language has some lovely poetic effects, and I adored the dream of a robotic heart. How neat! Tweeting this out.

11 Stephen Hewitt { 05.04.12 at 11:09 pm }

@ Steve — thanks Steve. I do try to be at home to wordcraft and poetry. They have their own cat flap and everything. :)

12 Stephen Hewitt { 05.04.12 at 11:25 pm }

@ John — discount love, is so much better than Tesco’s Value Love. It kind of had to work out — but, for a moment, I was wondering, too. St.

13 Stephen Hewitt { 05.04.12 at 11:47 pm }

@Joan — okay, okay… it’s a real heart. :) St

14 Stephen Hewitt { 05.05.12 at 12:01 am }

@Nadine — thanks Nadine. Happy first comment at the Café and a warm #flashfriday welcome to you, too. St.

15 Stephen Hewitt { 05.05.12 at 12:06 am }

@Helen — thanks Helen, really glad you enjoyed my words. With such praise, I’ll go off and blush now. :) St.

16 Stephen Hewitt { 05.05.12 at 12:09 am }

@Icy — thanks Icy.

Blush.

St.

17 Stephen Hewitt { 05.05.12 at 12:12 am }

@Sonia — Thanks Sonia. Really glad you liked it :) St.

18 Stephen Hewitt { 05.05.12 at 12:20 am }

@Peter — I’ll, uh… give John his fiver later. Good one. Those votes are duly noted. My thanks to you both. :) St.

19 Stephen Hewitt { 05.05.12 at 12:24 am }

@Larry — AI? I like where your mind was going with that — a story to write in 20 years time, perhaps? As you say, all you need is already there. :) St.

20 Stephen Hewitt { 05.05.12 at 12:27 am }

@John — glad you enjoyed the dreamed-for heart in all its robotic-ness. And many thanks for the Tweet. St.

21 Aidan Fritz { 05.05.12 at 2:48 am }

I like the way she keeps at her desire for love until the very end. The final lines wrap it in a nice sense of hope and tie a pretty bow. Lovely word craft as always.

22 Joan { 05.05.12 at 4:48 pm }

Metaphorically speaking, of course . . .

23 Brinda { 05.06.12 at 8:34 pm }

Evocative, poignant writing, loved the imagery of the pistachio colored streaks in the rusting grills etc and everything else about this piece – wonderful!

24 Stephen Hewitt { 05.07.12 at 9:26 am }

@Aidan — Thanks Aidan. Our protagonist is certainly nothing but dogged :)
@Joan — of course :)
@Brinda — Thanks Brinda. Who knows where that pistachio grille-work came from, but it was definitely there. Welcome to Café Shorts :) St.

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