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She Loves Me. She Loves Me Not.

Andy Rigley

    “She loves me,” I say.
    I pause.
    “She loves me not.”
    I pause.
    I cut another fat pink petal from one of the two outstretched hands that are flower heads. There’s a muffled yelp and some thrashing. I didn’t think the plastic garden chair would hold out as long as it has with a fully grown man tied to it. I considered filming the whole thing in case I got a You’ve Been Framed Bloke Breaks Chair moment. But I wavered the two hundred an fifty quid in favour of anonymity.
    “She loves me,” I say again, and the man’s face, I swear, it looks like he’s trying to take a  dump out of his eye sockets. I laugh at the thought that he might force his own eyeballs right out onto his cheeks before we’re done. Wouldn’t that be a bonus.
    I place the B&Q branch loppers over his ring finger, and wiggle them ’til they’re good and tight against the knuckle. I never used these things before, but this is the third fat pink petal, and I’m getting the hang of them now.
    “You know?” I say. “Hayley bought me these.” I stare down the pristine green handles. “For Christmas. Said I should cut down those damned leylandii before the neighbours complained.” I sigh. “I bought her a year’s membership to a gym. Spa. Steam room. Circuits. God did she ever shut up about the circuits and how her thighs were real tight? I mean tight can you believe it?” I smile. “I guess of the two of us. Yes. You can believe it.”
    The guy in the chair whimpers like I’m putting too much pressure on his fat pink petal. Behind him is a trestle table covered in flake-skin paste from another job I didn’t finish. Wallpaper hangs sad, crying down the walls. The man, wow, I don’t even know his name, he’s whimpering and phooming and flumfing because his mouth is stuffed right to his throat with a pair of boxer shorts. And believe me when I say, that because I woke up in an empty bed again, they are not the cleanest shorts.
    As I crunch through another fat pink petal, it thumps into the floor and I think how, maybe, it’ll be my fucking job to clean the carpet. The man, he’s becoming weaker and it’s the first time since we started that I realise that he’s not crying. There are no tears. There’s snot and brown spittle hanging from his chin, but no real tears. Maybe his body is preserving fluids in case, well, in case the worse happens even more than the worse is already happening.
    The CD I’m listening to is skipping and I curse. It’s Duran Duran, Hungry like a like a like a lik lik lik a. I reach over and poke the off button with the loppers, smiling at how useful they’ve become.
    “Shit. Where were we?” I say. I have genuinely forgotten whether Hayley loved me or not.

By the time there’s only one fat pink petal left this man is grey. I mean proper blue-grey. But his eyes are still red and his snot is still very much green.
    “Look, mate,” I say wiping at the chrome ends of the loppers with a black, rose petal emblazoned bra that I bought for Hayley but that she never wore for me, “it might not be that bad. We could get to the end here and, well, maybe she loves me after all. Then we can forget this ever happened.”
    I snip off the man’s last pink petal and it flutters, I swear it actually flutters, down.
    “Fuck,” I say dropping the loppers. “Guess I wasted our time after all. Turns out the bitch doesn’t love me.”
    Do I see relief on his face? Do I feel it in mine? No more adjusting washing machine feet, or lopping hedges or wallpapering or painting.
    “You are now welcome to the bitch,” I say, and start to untie him.
    But something is bugging me and I reach for the loppers again.
    This man. This man who has been fucking my wife because I’m too lazy to do the fucking gardening or fucking cleaning or fucking, his eyes go even wider as he reads my grin.
    I yank down his trousers.

Song

I pried the wooden boards away from the door, fumbling with my old set of keys to the pub. Wiping liquor sweat from my brow, I checked the dark streets. Empty. I picked up the two cans of gasoline and marched in.
As soon as I was through the door I could hear them, their many voices whispering in the shadows. I had almost missed them. My hands shook as I took a swig from the whiskey bottle in my pocket.
I slid past the stacked tables and chairs and stopped at the dust coated bar. I traced my hand in the surface dirt and remembered the many times I’d be pulling a pint at the bar and frozen, trying to hear the words, straining to decipher their song.
Once I was captured by their song, only my wife and daughter could break me out of my trance, with their screaming and fists. I would come to, and see the beer pouring over my hand onto the floor and a room full of eyes staring at me.
I unscrewed the stoppers from the gasoline cans. Their voices were rising, trying to snare me. I could feel their panic distorting their singing and I smiled. They knew I had come to silence them, for taking everything I loved away from me. To make them pay.
I poured the petrol around my feet. Their voices harmonised, growing louder. Their song was attacking me now, creating waves of hurt and nausea to stop me. The gasoline cans clattered to the floor.
My body began to shake with pain as I struck a match. Their shrieks cut through me with a terrible beauty. My hands automatically moved up to my ears to block out the song, which was useless, as the glorious noise was inside my head. Even now, as the taste of blood stung my mouth, I still wanted to know what they were singing.
I cried out as their din overpowered me, forcing me to my knees. I prayed that it would end, that their sublime screams would finally tear me apart.
Then, it became clear.
As the match fell from my hand, my mind was filled not with words, but images. Birth, love, pain, family, war, sex, grief, murder, end, joy.
I felt nothing as the flames engulfed my body. I was lost in their song.

 

About the Author

Michael Hann recently published a zine called I’m Afraid of Everyone, an edgy and dark collection of short stories. He regularly writes gig and album reviews and interviews for NARC, and one of his short stories will be featured in the literary magazine Kerouac’s Dog in January 2011. He is currently working on my first novel, whilst gathering and producing the content for vol. 2 of I’m Afraid…

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