At the bottom of a starless alley, in the mellow light of a bar lounge perched atop a mahogany stool, there is a songstress sporting a room-temperature smile. Outwardly, there is little evidence of the dark clouds that have been preening themselves for weeks in the unsettled weathers of her conscience. Inwardly, she’s starved of affection and the contentment that comes from having a guilt-free, scoured-clean mind.
There is a clock above her head with tension in its hands and a fervent desire in its mechanism to move anti-clockwise. There are no customers, no need for her to sing and yet it is all she can think about doing. She’s a soprano but her inner child is a treble and a teller of truths. He had warned her never to talk and she’s accustomed to the rhythm and blues of having friends you can’t keep. His hand had caressed her chin as he’d held her gaze and her fright was fresh and bold when it had slipped to her neck. He had smiled like a harmless buffoon when he had accompanied the gesture with the tagline ‘butterfingers’.
He recites rather than sings. She had thought it quaint to begin with. He’d had the personality of a mood ring in those early, heady days of falling, falling and landing with a thud without thought. His voice was the fullness and domineering weight of a double bass. He had been a Sundew and she was the unwitting gnat that landed in his oblong web of lies and found herself glued irrevocably to his leaf. He is or rather he was her lover but she’s not sure he knows what it means to love or be loved. He’s also a murderer and now that she’s aware of that everything else seems bizarrely insignificant and out of tune.
‘It’s all about the paper, it’s nothing personal’, he’d said.
That evening, she was distracted by the fish he’d ordered for her that seemed sinewy but surely that’s only something meat can be. She hadn’t answered or lodged an objection. How silly can one person be?
‘We’ll be in and out and the job will be done. No one needs to get hurt if everything goes to plan.’
His conversations were vicarious excursions until that prewashed night drained of all colour when she’d acted as the bait and the reel. She’d rationed her sense of self for him; she’d been tapered to a stalk. She had tried to author a change in him. Having failed, she’d been the unhappiest canary to ever sing, head bent like a water-dappled daffodil then slumped in self-purchased sorrow on that police suite table.
Catherine O’Brien is an Irish writer of poems, flash fiction and short stories. She writes bi-lingually in English and Irish. She holds a Ph.D. in English Literature. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Fractured Literary, Orbis Quarterly International Literary Journal, Reflex Press, Ink Sweat &Tears, Comhar, Ellipsis Zine, Tiny Molecules, Gone Lawn, Bending Genres, Books Ireland, Splonk, Flash Boulevard, Janus Literary & more. Her poem ‘Embezzled Emotion’ published in Janus Literary received a Best of the Net nomination 2023 and her flash 'Stone Fruit' received a Best Small Fictions nomination 2023 from Bending Genres. You can find her Twitter @abairrud2021.