Flash fiction, short stories, poetry …
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Feyada

F

eyada has a feeling for these things. That’s why she got a rope-burn from the stand-up-hold-on strap on the bus when she pulled herself free, and rang the bus-stop bell so many times that the driver swore blue-bloody-blind in Brežec until the bus juddered to a halt.

“You stupid wife!” he shouted, banging open his Perspex box around the driving seat. There was a rattle of coins in the ticket machine, a rattle of rivets and aluminum and plastic; the thumping toil of the engine with the wheels disengaged. It rose up to her through her feet like a big dog barking. The driver didn’t get out, but he thought about it.

“You are a bitch pressing like a mad-woman. You think I can’t hear? That bus-drivers can’t hear? We’re not deaf! Button wife!”

Feyada thumped her wooden-heeled shoe on the running-board and glared first at him, second at the door. Faced with Feyada’s resolve, a face that said ‘I will get off this bus now and it means more to me than it can to you,’ the Desterna bus-driver threw up his hands in disgust and slammed his door. There was a pneumatic hiss of a hundred angry snakes and the battered yellow door next to Feyada concertinaed open with a bang.

Feyada jumped free with her raffia-woven bag of vegetables. The bus roared into life and country faces slid past in affected disinterest, of Feyada, as she click-clacked hurriedly along the pavement; a pregnant woman wobbling along like a railway train in a flowery dress. She barely caught the last “Shatal Bena!” from the bus driver, who had moved like a spiteful monkey to his rear-view mirror and his side window: “Fuck you, little woman!”

Feyada shook her head and grimaced, having bitten into a personality like a lime rind or a salt-fish, like kebosh – the ones her grandfather used to catch – bitter tasting, fresh-water crayfish.

It was a hot day, cloudless and baby blue. Feyada felt the heat on her blotchy legs, once beautiful like the ballet; on her toes, bare in the shoes she bought from Pello for a coin and a smile. Little winds fluttered her maternity dress. It was new and nylon; an uncharacteristic present from Mother Lenska, her husband’s mother. The white-haired wolf had seen an episode of her favorite program Columbo, subtitled ‘Colembe,’ on her battered black-and-white TV with its cockroach antenna, and saw Suzanne Hope, the knife wielding, frenzied stabbing killer, wearing one just like it.

Suzanne Hope – the actress, rather than the character – was the name on the scrap of paper pinned to the dress, when Feyada had come home to find it. She had waited a week to find out what ‘Suzanne Hope’ meant. Mother Lenska had said that she must watch the show in a year’s time, when they’ll repeat it, so she can see the dress again – just like hers, down to the flowers.

“It makes you look like a film-star,” Mother Lenska had approved, tugging it this way and that around Feyada’s expanding bulge, and then stood back to admire the effect, arms cross-folded in satisfaction under a bosom of boulders. It was good.

Mother Lenska, I am thankful, but the nylon itches so. Feyada hates the thought of finger-nails on nylon – catching, rasping in a sickly, electrified way beneath finger tips.

It is a long way to climb the hill back to the bus stop.

The grass verge is buried under weeds with rubble raked through. Beyond is bare ground, seeded with fragments of glass and brick and wood and material. Beyond that, slabs of concrete with weeds growing between, like disused runway. Among this, tall multistory blocks: huge empty buildings, of square, black, faceless windows, and no character, no shops, no people, no children. The Sikarflitzen Estate, where once buildings had been thrown up in a matter of weeks, popping into place like mushrooms after rain, but now where there were many half-finished shells on the periphery, like the husks of ant-chewed driftwood. It was as if things had been forgotten – ways of building things – that meant encasing the metal poles in concrete took years now. In fact, maybe no one knew how long, because none of the post-war buildings had been finished at all, so who knew how long? Maybe forever? Sometimes the Russian workmen turned up, trimming the weeds, but that was it.

Feyada has good eyes – sharp eyes – and she sees many of these things. Her husband says she has bright eyes, like a bird has. She liked that, when he pointed to the Thrush on the grass and then at her, whispering “bright eyes”, and kissed her eyelids. She and the thrush had watched each other through bright, bird eyes for a little longer, before it fluttered off in search of the worms sliding through the earth dikes.

She hears the cries now, feeble, but insistent and she is glad that she has bird-eyes and that she wasn’t wrong.

She curses the driver on the bus to Desterna, even though his bus is relatively frequent and is the only one. Mother Lenska knows his wife well. Perhaps she’ll mention him – his bad behavior.

The other people on the bus; they were just on their way to somewhere else. Feyada could understand their quiet looks; startled silences. They just wanted to get there.

“Oh, oh, oh…Shebeya! Shebeya!” she hushed, “Why are you here? Shhh…”

The bus-stop is a rackety affair of rusted green pipe and corrugated plates shot through with corrosion, neglect, graffiti and sharp-edged bullet holes. The glass is gone, leaving only semi-transparent brown-stained teeth, the colour of sun-faded Coca Cola bottles, rimed with blotchy, green-plaque algae. Raw gums, putty gums, have cracked and fallen away, leaving a mossy crevice of a rusty jaw. It is the only structure still standing between here and the concrete houses – a peak on a desolate hill of bulldozed ground, churned with caterpillar tracks; flowering here and there with primrose and lupins that had once been shared gardens. Now they were free for all.

The bus-pole has no sign, but the basket is next to it, bolted onto the side of the shelter, bearing the device of the Lindona Bus Company in its regional yellow. Inside it, on a bed of old papers and rusty cans, is a lattice-work throw of soft, pink, fuzzy material. On top of that, the baby.

Feyada has good eyes. She had been the only one to see it, perhaps – see him – from the bus.

I thought…maybe Sheya… maybe she had… But she looked the other way. The baby is beautiful and strong and has blue eyes like Iban, her husband, and bright eyes like her – like the thrush. Iban wouldn’t… Iban wouldn’t shout or demand, ‘How? How can we do this?’ Instead, he would say “Feyeda we will make do.”

Feyada carefully picks up little ‘bird-eyes’ as she has practiced, carefully cradling his head on her arm. Iban would like a son, and with the other child, resting in the round bulge of nylon flowers, they would have a family.

 

8 comments

1 Steve Green { 05.20.11 at 9:54 pm }

Wow, the eloquence quill once again strutting its stuff Stephen, I liked the way the story flowed through the different tangents, and rounded off with the reason she stopped the bus in the first place.

The description of the bus shelter is brilliant, very visual.

2 Stephen Hewitt { 05.27.11 at 9:29 pm }

@Steve, I had fun with Feyada’s wandering journey along that road and that bus stop with its rusty coat of paint. 😉

@Icy, thanks for the compliment on the description. There were a few diversions in there, so great folks remembered how things started and got the full cycle of the story.

@Z. J., the words just seem to pop out, so it’d be a shame to waste them. Thanks for popping on a comment 🙂

@Harry, thanks Harry. 🙂

@Joan, glad I managed to catch you by surprise with the baby. Admittedly, it probably wasn’t where you’d expect to find one, but there you go. It’s in good hands, though.

3 Icy Sedgwick { 05.21.11 at 12:52 pm }

The descriptions in this are truly astounding. I wondered why she was in such a hurry to get off the bus but you gave her an excellent reason. Very lyrical.

4 Z. J. Woods { 05.24.11 at 12:45 pm }

You clearly have quite an impressive vocabulary, but, more impressive still, you seem to know when and how to employ it. Very nice.

5 Harry B. Sanderford { 05.25.11 at 5:47 pm }

I agree with Icy, such great descriptions. As always with you, really well done!

6 Joan { 05.27.11 at 11:43 am }

Yes – that repeated pressing of the bell, the bad temper of the bus driver, the indifference of the other passengers – the build-up through the drawing of the character of Feyada (through Mother Lenska, and her husband) – to Feyada reaching the spot where she’s seen the baby (with her sharp bird-eyes) – it’s very well done. As I read the story, I thought it might turn out this way, or that – and then – the presence of the baby was a complete surprise.

7 Jenny Dreadful { 06.06.11 at 1:36 am }

Well. It was crap.

I am so dreadfully sorry; you know it was not. I just wanted something different to say, other than ‘I simply fell for this character.’ And to maybe give you a little start.

” . . . when he pointed to the Thrush on the grass and then at her, whispering “bright eyes”, and kissed her eyelids. She and the thrush had watched each other through bright, bird eyes for a little longer, before it fluttered off in search of the worms sliding through the earth dikes.”

It was in between the lines of that I fell. Very sharp work indeed. You have right to be proud. Do you write full time? You are rather prolific, of which I am entirely envious.

8 Stephen Hewitt { 06.07.11 at 5:42 pm }

@Jenny — Hey there Jenny. You know the value of a dramatic entrance. Glad you’re around again. 🙂

I have done professional writing for games, though have yet to escape into the larger written world. Hence this site and pitching some stories around.

I usually try and stick something up every week and, happily, it slowly seems to be adding up. Ironically you caught me in a two week lull — work and life occasionally gets in the way.

St.

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