Flash fiction, short stories, poetry …
Random header image... Refresh for more!

The Star

T

auri had a real scare of bright red hair. Her momma was sticking it down with a comb and a cup of water. It was about as futile as licking a flame to put it out; it just kept springing back up there.

The sky was dark; black almost.

“You got to look your best, Tauri. Don’t you let your momma down.”

“Sure, momma. I don’t mind doing this. Just give me the stupid thing.”

“’Kay, but he’ll be here soon.”

Tauri held a fistful of red and started dragging the comb through.

Momma got back to looking out the window at the gathering crowds. “I’m gonna get that rat for what he did to us.”

“But he’s a star, momma.”

“Star or no, he’s gonna pay for what he did. Look at you, so young, just out of school. Startin’ some dead-end job – hairdressin’ or somethin’.”

“Hey, momma, I like hairdressing.”

Momma sniffed. “That’s not the point, now, is it?”

“You shouldn’t want to be no hairdresser. You should be wantin’ college or some such. If he’d been around – been around with some money, even – then we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“It’s not a mess, momma. We got a home, don’t we?”

“But it would’ve helped to have a man around. I’m just sayin’.”

But he’s not a man, now is he, momma?

Momma had cashed in whatever amounts of jewellery, sold the antique dog over the fireplace, and gotten them a hotel in the city. It was a rush and riot and Tauri had never seen so many people busy-bein’-busy; going up and down on the moving stairs or swinging through the revolving doors with those funny, little plastic cups of coffee they have. But momma wasn’t interested in coffee. She wanted restitution. That’s what she said, and she’d looked that word up special in the dictionary.

If you listened to momma’s side of it – and how could you not – Tauri was an immaculate conception. Just like that lady Mary, but on some beach up at Lake Havasu, on the ‘Arizona Riviera’. It was a hundred and ten, a real hot summer, and momma had been sunbathing. Then she’d come over kind of funny, felt too warm, had a cold drink and that was it. Nine months later she had a child with red hair.

“And nobody in the family had all that red, now did they?”

When she was eighteen – old enough to know what leads to what – Tauri had asked: “You wasn’t drinking were you, momma?”

“Now how can you ask your momma a thing like that? Course not! And there was nothing in that water, neither. It just happened, and it was him – I knows it – and that’s the end of it. Too damn warm. I shoulda known.”

So here they were.

With about ten minutes to go, they took the lift down to the foyer, and momma barged them past the merchandise. “Fifty bucks a T? They must be crazy! Stay away from them.”

Outside the hotel, all those press-men were getting ready. According to momma, it was a goddamn free-for-all. “We better get past this. Now you smile, Tauri. And I’ll point you out, and then we’ll say what we’ve come to say.”

It was midday but the sky was growing dark and the heavens were beginning to show – a billion pinpricks of light. It had been happening for around two days now.

A murmur went round the crowd. The TV vans began pushing up their satellite dishes on hydraulics, cameras swung to the skies, presenters threw pieces to the camera and were pointing back and up and over their shoulders, as they talked excitedly to the viewers at home.

And then he was there: a blazing light, with four white horses, trailing fire and flame, impossibly bright to look at. The smell of seared tarmac filled the air, and then the arc-light flared and vanished. A white limousine remained, with a few wisps of blue smoke trailing off the paintwork. A tall man, tall as a barn door, stepped out in a dazzlingly white suit.

This was the most famous face on earth.

Of course the crowd surged forward, and momma got her elbows out and sharpened, and started elbowing whoever got close; she could be real fierce. Problem was she wouldn’t let go of Tauri’s hand, and Tauri was getting squeezed between a policeman who smelt of pastrami and a woman reporter who was slippery with sweat, and worst of all she could feel that shock of hair springing back up.

But momma was determined – another force of nature – and before Tauri could draw a breath, they were squeezed up against the still-scalding metal barriers, and there was flashguns going off, and automatic cameras winding on, and reporters screaming, and momma screaming along with them and pointing down at Tauri. But it was so loud, Tauri couldn’t hear a thing momma was saying. In fact, it was a little scary.

Tauri woke up with a slurp. With a jolt of embarrassment, she found the back of her hand was already sliding across the dribble on her chin.

“Uch.”

There was a smell of leather and the fleshy, plastic feel of it beneath her cheek. Where the hell are we?

“Momma? Momma? What …? What happened?”

Muzzily, she pushed herself upright. It was way too bright.

“You got squeezed a little, girl. But we got you out.”

Unaccountably, she sounded pleased.

“Where?”

“You’re in the car, Tauri. In his car. The celestial car, is it? Where do the horses go? Is that one of those mini bars?”

Momma was sitting propped up on the back seat, as prim and proper as a queen.

“It’s all sorted, Tauri.”

“It is?”

“Sure it is. Your pappa’s a gentleman. I always said as such.”

I keep telling you momma, not a gentle man, a gentle sun. The Sun.

Helios sat in the back of the car, reclining on the leather, just looking at her; an irresistible presence, tied to every living thing on the planet. He could be of any nationality, or all of them. He was incredibly handsome. His olive skin gleamed with a faint iridescence and his frame was lean and muscled. Above all, though, he was crowned with the shining aureole of the sun.

I read this in the Sunday paper: he drives those horses all day to the West, circling Oceanus, and at night it’s through the world-ocean to the East.

He leant forward and held out a tiny clump of red berries. The green of their stems was emerald and translucent, like crystal, and the berries scintillated beneath the surface like hot coals; flaring red and yellow; revolving within their own skins.

“If you like, Tauri. Only if you want to, I can take you with me.”

“Where?” she whispered.

And his smile was rich and golden, and could put a better complexion on anything, and he said, “Up there, Tauri. Where you belong.”

12 comments

1 Harry B. Sanderford { 02.21.11 at 2:57 pm }

Wow, I’m star struck! Fantastic Stephen!

2 Stephen Hewitt { 02.21.11 at 7:11 pm }

Hi there Harry – glad you liked it :) St.

3 John Xero { 02.21.11 at 7:22 pm }

That’s amazing! *^_^*

My one quibble would be the line:
“Startin’ some dead-end job – hairdressin’ or somethin’.”

It just rings oddly in my head. I don’t think you need the last three words. It’s a tiny quibble, and I only mention it because I loved the rest so much.

One of the best pieces I’ve read this year. Awesome. =)

4 Rebecca Emin { 02.22.11 at 10:56 pm }

This is superb, I read it twice. I love the characters, they are larger than life already. Wonderful!

Editorial note – you have a few places were ‘momma’ is spelt ‘moma’.

5 Stephen Hewitt { 02.23.11 at 8:52 am }

Hi there John – thank you very much. I’m really glad you liked it. Those last three words could go, even without changing the surrounding sentences. I probably will change it (I tend to go with feedback where I can – usually because folks are dead right ;)). And thanks for putting down a quibble. Getting the pros and cons really helps. St.

6 Stephen Hewitt { 02.23.11 at 8:57 am }

Thanks Rebecca – really glad you liked the story and the characters in there.

Some of those ‘momas’ escaped – occasionally I get snow blindness. Got them all now, though, I think. Thanks for pointing that out. :)

There were three in the end,

St.

7 Steve Green { 02.24.11 at 10:59 pm }

An unusual and quirky story Stephen, and an enjoyable read, am I right in thinking Tauri is to become Alpha CenTauri? or have I read too much into her name?

8 Stephen Hewitt { 02.25.11 at 10:43 am }

Hi there Steve – a ‘T Tauri’ is the prototype for a class of very young stars. So Tauri was useful because it sounded like a name a real person would have, and it’s also the name of a juvenile solar body — both kind of appropriate. You were right to suspect her name as that of a star ;) St.

9 Joan { 03.03.11 at 11:24 am }

Yes, very imaginative, Stephen. Sorry if I sound a bit like a school teacher, but I do mean it – you’ve used threads of stories from two different – modes or discourses – the realist one and a – could call it ‘mythological’ one. And it works. The name for Tauri, given that you’ve done that, is inspired. Not that I knew those facts (about stars). I was amazed also at how well you have used the American kind of discourse – American readers might not get this – might take it for granted – but, being English, and a fan of much that is American, not least American fiction, I notice. Oh, and it’s very good the way you use two definitions of ‘star’ – the ‘film star’ one and the ‘star in the sky’ one. Very clever. Really, very well done, Stephen. Oh – there is a place where he has four ‘horse’.

10 Joan { 03.03.11 at 11:54 am }

I just thought – the minute I’d switched the computer off – I thought it doesn’t really matter, and maybe it doesn’t – but anyway, I couldn’t get on for thinking about it.
It might be an idea to keep the hairdressing reference – it’s not essential to the story – if you were looking for words to cut, these could be those. But – she has this shock of red hair, and the idea of hairdressing fits in with this – her mother might think hairdressing is a dead-end job (especially since she wants her to go to college) but it isn’t – it’s skilled work. And Tauri is happy with the idea of it. I suppose, since it turns out she is a star, really, being a hairdresser would be sort of dead-end – ie – doing that instead of being a star – I don’t know.

11 Stephen Hewitt { 03.08.11 at 12:56 pm }

Hi there Joan — glad you liked this one. It was one of those stories where I was trying to attempt a lot and the different threads seemed to come together quite well. Also second attempt on writing it — the first was working out what to say, while this version was about trying to say it nicely and with more subtlety.

The American feel is something I’d generally want to run past a native of those shores — not this time — though I’ve written on occasion for the American market as part of my games work. It’s still remarkably easy to use a subtly wrong word. This may be where John’s comment on hairdressing comes in, though I’m not sure he is American. That said, I think what’s here should feel about right [if you are American do let me know otherwise -- I'm braced for your regional differences, lol].

I did enjoy playing around with the double meaning of Star, hopefully suggesting things going in one direction before going in the other.

I’ll find those three missing horses. Thanks for pointing that out.

St.

12 Stephen Hewitt { 03.08.11 at 1:09 pm }

Hi Joan — ah, yes, the hairdressing. I’d definitely keep the idea — i.e. this is definitely something Tauri’s mother has umbridge about and something Tauri wants to do at the start of the story. I was more thinking about editing the way I expressed it. I suspect that was more where John’s suggestion came from, though he can tell me otherwise. ;) As it is, it’s the type of change I’d trial prior to using the story elsewhere, in a sort of ‘better with or without’, rather than changing things in this version.

St.

Leave a Comment