F3: Releasing Moments

Here’s my flash fiction for the last Friday of June – I hope you enjoy it. I think it may be the first thing I’ve ever written in second person so I’ll be interested to hear if you think it works.

I’ve just noticed that in exactly one month I’ll have been writing F3 for a full year. So far I’ve posted stories on 32 of those 48 weeks, which I think is pretty good going.

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RELEASING MOMENTS

Your day begins like any other. Morning motions make of you a disinterested participant, robotically following the instructions habit and necessity have imprinted on you. Teeth are brushed, your body is showered, your hair washed. Once you are dry you put on the clothes that you ironed last night: smart trousers, soft with sharp lines, and a cheap blue nylon shirt that itches even after all these years. The name tag you leave in the shirt pocket, a mark of shame that you’re not yet ready to wear. You comb your hair and wrinkle your nose at the smell of cheap conditioner.

You leave the house and, as every morning, board the bus at the bottom of the hill. The driver nods to you non-committally. You offer a half-smile in return. Routine keeps you both going, suppressing the desire to be somewhere else. Anywhere but here is a cliche, but yearning can make even the white-hot heart of a star seem desirable.

There is chewing gum on the seat you normally take, so you take the one behind it.

After twenty minutes of watching traffic and shopfronts pass by, of ignoring the bearable smell of public transport and thinking of nothing, you are deposited near your place of work. Disembarking you blink in the warm morning sun, still undercut by chill breezes, but your gaze is fixed on what you can see through the dappled light of sunlight through high street tree leaves. There it is: the photography shop.

It will have been four years next month. You struggle to remember the name of the place as you pass through the front door. Camera World? Jessops? Film Studios? Denton’s? Does it really matter?

The manager is already here, but as you enter he nods to you and walks through to the back. You know from experience that he will claim to be taking stock or ordering inventory, but in fact he will be drinking tea and reading film magazines. You have never asked him about his broken dreams and he in turn has left you alone. It is a comfortable unspoken agreement. Gears in neutral. Motor idling. An unfinished metaphor.

You take your place behind the till, and wait. Mornings are slow.

The bell above the door rings and you start, almost sliding from the stool. You were nodding off. But now you see there is a customer, a conspicuous woman wearing a trilby over dyed-black undercuts. She is not looking at you, so you examine her. She is of a medium build, not slim but elegant, and her clothing is mostly black but for her purple jeans. You are unsure if you find these tasteless or not.

As you watch she reaches out to one of the sample photographs attached to the wall and touches it. You open your mouth to reprimand her, but then the shop comes alive with the laughter of children. Your jaw remains hanging half-open as you see spectral shapes appear, quickly coalescing into the solid forms of small boys. They chase each other and laugh again, running out of the shop. The door swings open as they touch it, but as they rush outside they dissipate into nothingness.

The woman smiles to herself, still not looking at you, and touches another photograph. This time you hear the quiet yelp of a dog and look down at the ground. By the woman’s feet there is an elderly spaniel, its fur moulting in patches. It raises its head and looks at you through mournful eyes. A cataract has obliterated one of its lenses.

Finally the woman looks at you, and you break the gaze you have locked with the dog. ‘Hello,’ she says, her voice soft and warm.

You stare at her for a moment and then shut your mouth. You pull out your wallet and offer it to her. ‘Please,’ you say.

She takes the wallet from your hand and opens it. On seeing the photograph you have kept inside there since what must be forever, she smiles and reaches out to it with a forefinger.

Comments
6 Responses to “F3: Releasing Moments”
  1. Justin says:

    Oooh, goosebump-inducing. I like.

  2. Sarah says:

    Seconding the goosebumps! That last line sent a chill, not poetically down my spine, but down my arms and made me go all goosebumpy. Nicely done.

  3. GLP says:

    You invoke the pathos of the meaningless job very well… you reminded me of part time shop jobs I had in the past, many years ago.

  4. Kerry says:

    I like the story – a perfect ending – but, personally, I’m not enamoured with the use of second-person. I find it odd, as a reader, to take on the role of a male (if not explicitly stated, then heavily implied) – it distances me from the text and makes me aware of the device, which I guess is the opposite of what’s intended by using it.

    Of course, reading is all about imagination, so maybe I’m rather missing the point by saying this, but it’s something that I’ve found with a lot of second-person fiction – while I’m quite happy to get inside the head of a character who’s different from me when that character is presented in first- or third-person, for some reason it just feels like a step too far to step into his or her shoes in this fashion.

    Or maybe I shouldn’t attempt to talk books when slightly tipsy. You decide.

  5. Shaun CG says:

    Thanks for your comments, everyone!

    Kerry: that’s a very good point. In retrospect, I think I should have gone back through the story and ensured that the gender of the narrator was sufficiently ambiguous that it could be naturally read either way. Live and learn! :)

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