KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 5: Spring 2016
Flash Fiction: 657 words [R]

The Breton Coast

by Jonathan Cardew

Today, Everett is hell-bent on destruction.

“I’m going to leave you,” he says, with a half-smirk. “You can have the flat and I’ll...I’ll just bugger off to France.”

I pour out tea into our cups.

“No, wait, wait.” He holds his hand in the air, as if the idea were floating above us. “We’ll sell the flat, then I’ll go to France. You’ll be free to do whatever. Like fuck Tim.

I push the cup over to him and he stares at it. The steam rises in a curl. I picture Tim naked—not a good thought.

“You don’t know any French,” I say.

He snorts. “Ben, oui!”

Later, we have sex in the bedroom. He calls me a slut repeatedly, and at the end of it, he begins to cry. I cradle his head in my arm and shoulder.

“I mean it,” he says—meaning the French escape, I presume.

“I know you do.”

“I’ve always imagined it. A cottage on a crag. The Breton coast. Just me. No you.”

“I know.”

Everett is like a machine when he cries, a motor. Each sob is like a putter. I wipe the tears away with the nub of my thumb, and I rock him just so, just the right amount of rocking.

“I’ll live and breathe and walk along the cliffs and there’ll be nobody, not a soul for miles around to step on my toes, get in my face.” His eyes brighten. “And the sea air! I need that, I really do. To feel it and breathe it in.”

“It sounds—”

“Shut the fuck up!”

I leave him and walk to the bathroom. I have learned to count my steps. Every one. Simple. This time, though, I count in French.

I take out the pill bottle from the medicine cabinet.

When I return to the bedroom, he is prostrate. Face down. The window is open and the fly curtain is fluttering with the breeze, and there is the sudden screech of birdcall, as if we are on the edge of his Breton cliff. I lie down next to him and place one pill in the space between us.

His eyes are open but squinting, his jowls squashed flat against the pillow. He stares at the pill.

“I am serious,” he says, but he doesn’t sound it now; there is a change in his voice. “I’ll live in a small cottage, whitewashed and sandwiched between a boulangerie and pâtisserie.”

“You will?”

“And I’ll fall in love with a waitress at a local crêperie.”

“Who wouldn’t?”

With his eyes locked on me, he lets his tongue loose from his mouth and, with it, scoops up the pill; it sticks to the tip of his tongue, and then disappears quickly.

There is always this shift in the air, a slight alteration in cabin pressure when Everett takes his pill.

“I’m tired,” he says.

When sleep softens his face, I push a few strands of hair off his forehead and I kiss him, almost without my lips touching the skin. I look at him for what feels like hours. The light is fading from the window and there is a murmur of traffic, and I think about the Breton coast. I try to imagine it: the grey waves sloshing against the rocky cliffs, the dinghies bobbing up and down at their moorings. I see him in the window of the cottage. He is there, but not there. It is him, but somehow it is not him. A lookalike, a close facsimile.

“I’m so tired,” he says, stirring. He reaches out to me, his one hand blindly searching across the duvet. We have such a thick and soft one that when he pushes down, he cannot tell if it is my body under the fabric and feather. He cannot tell if he is touching me or not.

“I know,” I say in the dark. “I know you are.”

—Previously appears in Sonder Magazine (13 October 2015); republished here by author’s permission.

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