By: Anthony Ward
It was not a sun day like its namesake. Instead the sky was overburdened with cloud. The rain that was forthcoming remained so. Though today that suited Dan down to the ground. He had hoped for rain as any gardener would, and Dan was a gardener. He liked to control his environment. To weed out the undesirable. But often the weather would undermine him.
‘Strange weather we’ve been having,’ people would say, waving aside the roses behind the picket fence. The weather’s the weather, whether or not. He would say to himself disagreeably after consenting to their sentiments. Strange weather! We make the weather strange. The weather’s whatever it wants to be. Knowing what it ought to be.’
He had the wisdom of someone who had lived their life but couldn’t live by it. He was still striving to live. The garden was his Eden, but he couldn’t escape the temptations, the niggling of insects that gnawed at the flora he admired from his window.
When he looked in the mirror, he thought the resemblance appeared more robust. He touched his finger to the mirror and the finger pointed him out to be skinnier. I don’t know, he said shrugging his shoulders. I just don’t know.
At one time the booze helped with the bloating. Now it just bloated him up like a balloon. The cigarettes that once helped him relax now made him anxious. Though his body was more comfortable with alcohol than anything else, if he gave it water it filled him up like a bottle. Filled him right up to the neck.
He had begun this morning tending his garden, deadheading flowers, picking fresh vegetables. Trying his best to take his mind off going. He did not want to go.
‘Why don’t you want to go to?’ Leslie had asked the night before.
‘I just don’t feel up to it,’ replied Dan. ‘Besides there’s too much to do in the garden.’
‘You have to go. You’ve known Benjamin for years,’ his wife reciprocated anxiously.
‘That’s the problem,’ thought Dan staring into the book, before laying it down on the bedside table as Leslie turned out the bathroom light.
‘We’re going and that’s final.’
That night he felt like a bottle lying on a rack. All fluid slumped inside him. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt comfortable. What comfortable was. His leaden legs prevented him from sleeping, like tuning forks tuning into the tinnitus as he felt himself falling and rising into his body. A cymbal shimmering to silence. His conscience in stereo running through his head.
Dan stood there in the church, watching Laura and Benjamin christen the baby, wishing they’d get it over with and wet the baby’s head. He had stood through the ceremony. Had stood Benjamin’s jokes. Though whenever Dan found anything funny, he wouldn’t laugh as a reflex, he’d respond. He’d tell you that it was funny, or he would present a Pan-American smile. A controlled smile that lacked the orbicular muscles. A smile he would not let off the lead. Let run wild.
He had stood listening to Benjamin’s anecdotes, hearing his memories strutting through his mind. He couldn’t see what Laura saw in him. Laura looked at Dan and smiled. Though it was a passive smile that slid off with her eyes as they descended towards the table.
Dan looked at the empty bottle in front of him.
‘Do you want another?’ he asked gesturing his glass at Leslie.
‘No, I’m alright,’ she replied basking in the ambience.
Dan tried not to catch Laura’s eye as he carried his weight to the bar. He tried looking as inconspicuous as he could, but he was soon accosted by Benjamin.
‘Hey Dan, how you doing? I’m so glad you came. I don’t think you’ve had a good look at the baby yet.’
‘No, I guess I haven’t yet,’ replied Dan, allowing himself to be swayed.
Dan looked into the pram.
‘Isn’t he beautiful?’ boasted Benjamin proudly. ‘You know, I think he looks at lot like you,’ he laughed. ‘Don’t you think he looks a lot like Dan Laura?’
Laura smiled bashfully.
‘Why don’t you pick him up?’
‘I dunno Ben, I think I’ve had one too many.’
‘Oh, come on. You’ll be alright. Just have a hold. What are you afraid of?’ Benjamin slapped him playfully on the back, ‘that you might want one of your own?
Anthony chooses to write because he has no choice. He writes to get rid of himself and lay his thoughts to rest. He derives most of his inspiration from listening to Classical Music and Jazz since it is often the mood which invokes him. He has recently been published in Streetcake, Literary Yard, Mad Swirl, Flash Fiction North and Sledgehammer Lit.