Grassy mulch gives under her boot. Last night’s rain hasn’t dried out yet, making the ground not quite swamp but not drought-taut either. It’s been a soggy summer. An expansive wingspan catches her eye against the grey wall, the only movement, and the recognition hits her mind as she loses footing and her backside sits in the earth. A soft landing. Apart from the bedrock. Its lumps are large and uneven, spreading like toadstools, mirroring the smirr of the sky.
She doesn’t want to think about the bruises, spreading purple, fading yellow. The perfect mood killer. Or, alternatively, a sight to make her seem tough and cool. She raises an eyebrow and her mouth forms a conciliatory downturn at the idea.
She reaches both hands out to a slab of bedrock, mud still soaking denim, gluing her groundward, and misguidedly tries to lift it. Looking around, she double checks no-one has noticed her ignorance. But there’s no one here. It’s dark green grass and firs and steep mountain sides. Some cars are passing on a far away B-road, engines treading faint. This rock is rooted. Older than lava. She lets it pass under hand, ancient structure, old and smoothed from years of silt and souls and layers pressing down upon it. The heel of her hand pulls back, the arrow in the bow, and strikes it, retracting instantly to cradle hand in hand. Taking deep conscious breaths, squeezing eyes shut, breathing through the pain. Holding. Breathing. This is where she could have yelled.
The throb subsides, and she forms a slim fist. Before any warning can speak to her loudly enough she punches the solid rock full force. Anguish escapes this time, with tears and blood and bruising. Knuckles feel like dust. They are probably broken in places. She will say she fell and even if they doubt her they won’t say anything for fear – of being rude, of asking too much, of helplessness in the face of another person’s underbelly.
Eyes are squeezed still, veins beat, the view is white with fuzzy black dots. But the liquid pours out of the rock and over her hand, cooling.
Eleanor Capaldi has been published in Gutter Magazine, the Skinned Knee Collective, Bare Fiction, and Mechanics’ Institute Review. Anthologies include Reel to Rattling Reel (Cranachan Press), Queering the Map (Knight Errant Press), and Beyond Boundaries (European Championships Cultural Programme). Theatre includes Disposable, and Distilled Freedom (Not Too Tame Theatre). Her short film Pull screened at SQIFF 2018. A writer of words in whichever form fits.