A Cat

Shortlisted for Southern Cross Television Flash Fiction Award 2015

When Leslie gets to the ledge and turns around to face me with her composed, middle class ‘photo’ smile, I realise how easy it would be to step forward and give her a push. There are no witnesses around.  It’s at least a 50 metre drop, and we have not seen a soul for almost a whole day.

Since we have been in the Tablelands I have felt a third presence between us.

Not that we have been completely isolated as we walk. Two other couples and a group have passed us – we are not fast walkers – and exchanged pleasantries and anecdotes. This has given me a break from Leslie’s incessant talk talk talk which I experience as a sort of violation. We have the calls of birds and the snaps of twigs and the crunches of leaves to attune our ears to but all I can hear is the same whining voice I have been hearing every day in the kitchen, on the phone, the moment I get home from work. The smack of her lips when she closes her mouth can be enough to make me want to silence her forever.

And there it is again – that other presence. A force that has come from within me. A potential.

The other couples that have passed us have both been straight couples, and have taken us for friends or sisters, and we have not bothered to correct them. For all the physicality between us we may as well be sisters. The group was a younger set, and they caught on straight away, but we did not keep pace with them for very long. They were enthused, and full of advice about where to get the best hiking boots and how to prepare and carry the lightest food. One young woman even had an open tray of seedlings fastened to the top of her backpack.

‘They get the direct sun while I walk,’ she explained. ‘And then we have fresh herbs for dinner.’

Leslie had made her usual comments about hippies and young people. I know her so well she does not even need to be here. I could hold up both sides of the conversation.

She is standing there with that fixed smile on her face, waiting for me to take the shot. For some reason, I am reminded of an afternoon, decades ago, when a group of neighbourhood kids and I – just because we were bored – decided to catch a neighbour’s cat and set it on fire. My brother was there, egging me on. The boy next door got the petrol.

I was the one who lit the match.

I still remember its yowl of pain as it went up in flames.

I step towards my girlfriend, with my hands raised.

%d bloggers like this: