Tomek Dzido’s New Short Story – Send Her Away

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SEND HER AWAY

Hellingly_Day_Room

‘Send her away.’

‘Sorry?’

‘Send her away.’

I look around. ‘Who?’

‘Her.’

We’re alone. ‘There’s no one here.’

‘Of course there is.’

I check. ‘No…there’s no one here.’

‘You’re here.’

‘Yes.’

‘Send you away.’

‘Me?’

‘Yes.’

‘Why?’

‘Why not?’

‘Because I like it here.’

‘I don’t.’

‘So why don’t you go away?’

‘I can’t.’

‘Why?’

‘Because you’re here.’

He fidgets.

I look at the clock. ‘What time is it?’

‘It’s time to go.’

‘Where?’

‘I don’t know.’

The minute hand stutters back and forth.

I watch it twitch.

‘Can you hear that?’

‘What?’

‘That.’

I listen.

‘Well?’

‘I can’t hear anything.’

‘I can.’

‘What is it?’

‘It’s an elephant.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes.’

‘Where?’

‘Here.’

‘In this room?’

‘Yes.’

‘There’s an elephant in this room?’

‘Yes.’

I scan the room.

‘I can’t see it.’

‘See what?’

‘The elephant.’

He looks around the room.

I look around the room.

‘Send him away.’

‘He’s already gone.’

‘Good.’

He coughs.

I yawn.

‘What time is it?’

I check the clock.

‘It’s broken.’

‘I knew it.’

My eyes hurt.

‘What number are you?’

‘Twenty three. You?’

He rummages in his pockets.

‘Fuck.’

‘What?’

‘I’ve lost my ticket.’

I found a ticket.

‘Did you hear me?’

‘Yes.’

I think about it.

‘Maybe the elephant took it.’

‘Maybe you took it.’

‘Why would I take your ticket?’

‘Why would the elephant take my ticket?’

‘I didn’t take it.’

‘Neither did he.’

He tries to get up but can’t.

‘My legs don’t work.’

‘What’s wrong with them?’

‘I’m not sure.’

‘Try again.’

He tries again.

‘They still don’t work.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘I’m not.’

The telephone rings.

We wait.

Nothing happens.

‘Are you going to answer it?’

‘I wasn’t planning to.’

‘Maybe you should.’

‘Maybe you should.’

‘I can’t move.’

He’s right.

I walk towards the phone.

I pick it up.

‘Hello?’

Hello?’

‘Whose this?’

‘Whose this?’

I pause to consider the question.

Hello?’

I hang up.

‘Who was that?’

‘Wrong number.’

‘What number did they want?’

‘A different one.’

‘Is that what they said?’

‘They didn’t have to.’

‘So how do you know?’

‘I know.’

‘How?’

The phone rings again.

‘Maybe it’s them?’

‘Who?’

Them.’

Maybe it is.

I pick up the phone.

‘Hello.’

Hello.’

‘Is it you?’

‘It is me.’

I nod at him. ‘It’s them.’

‘We have your elephant.’

‘They have your elephant.’

Silence.

He thinks about it.

I think about it.

‘Send them away.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes.’

‘Go away.’

I hang up.

The numbers change.

I check my ticket.

‘Number twenty three.’

‘That’s me.’

‘Do you have a ticket?’

‘No.’

I sit back down.

The walls are cracked.

The paint is peeling.

I remember when I was twelve years old. It was during the summer when school was out and days were long and life was optimistic. Mum and dad were at work and I was supposed to go to go to Nan’s for lunch, but I had other plans. I left the house and decided to take a detour, so I walked down Sunnyside Lane and along the gravel path towards the canal. It was a warm day so I took my jumper off and tied it around my waist. I picked up a stick and continued walking, the ducks swimming in the dark and dirty water beside me. Not far down the path there was a clearing where I knew rabbits roamed, so I stepped over the crumbling wooden gate and carefully moved through the long grass. I waited and waited but nothing happened. The rabbits were hiding so I began walking along the edge of the clearing beside the bushes, picking blackberries as I moved along. There was a noise from within the bramble and I tried to look through the branches to see if it was a rabbit, but my view was limited so I pushed my way into the foliage. Dusting off my dress and picking leaves from my long hair, I heard the noise again, this time closer. I stood there listening, still, waiting. Twigs snapped behind me. I turned around. There he was, a metre away. I could smell the alcohol and sweat seeping out from his skin beneath his torn and tarnished clothes. I tightened my grip on the stick as my tiny knuckles whitened and waited for my command. Neither of us moved. We just stood there, staring at each other. His lips parted to reveal his uneven teeth. I think it was a smile but I wasn’t sure. The cars continued to pass on the motorway, the relentless whine of exhausts the only sound between us. My eyes began to hurt. He moved closer. Slowly his hands began to rise towards his torso. I inched backwards. He started laughing. I didn’t. Suddenly he stopped and stared at me, his eyes dark and cast in shadow from the trees above. I waited, unsure of what to do, what he might do. Then it happened.

The light above flickers.

The numbers change.

‘Number twenty three.’

I check my ticket.

He looks at me.

I look at him.

We sit in silence.

I remember things.

Dead Rabbits.

Broken dolls.

Melting plastic.

Blunt knives.

Fresh blood.

White jackets.

Grey clipboards.

Padded rooms.

Plastic cups.

Tiny tablets.

Questions.

Answers.

Questions.

Answers.

Cold nights.

Darkness.

Loneliness.

Tears.

Fear.

Questions.

Questions.

No answers.

Nothing.

No answers.

No one.

The phone rings.

We stare at it.

I answer it.

Hello.’

Hello.’

‘The elephant’s gone.’

‘Thank you.’

I hang up.

‘The elephant’s gone.’

‘I know.’

‘How?’

‘He’s here.’

‘Now?’

‘Always.’

‘Why didn’t you tell me?’

‘Why didn’t you ask me?’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘I’m sorry.’

The clock twitches.

The numbers change.

We look at the elephant.

It’s too late.

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The soundtrack for Send Her Away is Ben Sollee’s – ‘Dear Companion’

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