Flash Fiction: Result, by William Letford
The newest instalment in our series of ultra-short stories
The voice of a thousand cigarettes crackles over the intercom. ‘Speak,’ it says, and something can be inferred from that one word. Normal people say, ‘Hello’, but in my Aunty Mary’s psyche, that relinquishes control. ‘Speak’ is a command. If I don’t defer to the command I have to stay silent. If I stay silent I can’t get in.
I say, ‘It’s Franky’. There’s a gentle snapping sound. It’s the sound of saliva. She’s chewing. And the chewing makes her deliberation audible. There’s a buzz and the lock clicks and the door’s so heavy it falls inward on its own.
The close reeks of disinfectant. The stairs have been scrubbed so hard the concrete’s like raw skin. At the top of each landing is a window, and each window offers a view of the valley. The journey upward is a series of steps, followed by a sweeping landscape, a series of steps, then a sweeping landscape. My thighs are sore from the walk up the hill and every extra lift brings more hurt. The same as yesterday and the same as the day before, I repeat my mantra: ‘join a gym’.
When I get to the door, she’s waiting. All knowing. Twenty-deck of Richmond menthol in one hand, rolled up nappy in the other.
She says, ‘You’re after a tap.’
That heavy, absolutely knackered sensation washes over me. I wonder why I didn’t get the bus to my Uncle Jimmy’s. I take a couple of well-needed breaths. ‘I’m just up for a patter Aunty Mary.’
She says, ‘Son, ‘I’ll give you a tenner just to get rid of you.’
Framed Against the Sky, William Letford's collaboration with composer Brian Irvine and the Red Note Ensemble, premieres at the Wooden Barn in Banchory, Wed 23 Oct.