Josephine cooked the fish I did not want as I stood on the back porch smoking. The garden was alive and moved with unusual sounds. The wine tasted like metal on my tongue, cold red, that’s how she drinks it and that’s how it is. Ice ice baby. The forty degree heat sizzled my cool Welsh head so that all day I had sought darkness and shade wherever possible. Inside sprawling shopping malls where over-friendly sales clerks flocked around me cooing over my accent, and on the pavement under the shadows of San Fran’s tall imposing buildings, crouched in the welcome gloom with a bare-chested homeless man and his pet snake; the serpent coiled dangerously round his neck.
A man in a suit appeared next to us, at first I thought he was going to offer Snake Man some money but it was he who asked very politely if I had any spare change. He’d recently lost his job, house and eventually his family, in the financial crash and only had the clothes he was stood up in. It was then I noticed the shabbiness of the suit, his disheveled, slightly matted hair and tired, sad eyes; evidence of a life lived for weeks with nowhere to go but the hot, grey intestines of the city. I pulled out all the change I had and Snake Man gave him a cigarette. Suit Man wouldn’t take his jacket off for fear of losing it or thieves making off with it, so he crouched next to us suited and booted. We three perused a woman who paced up and down, a ‘Jesus Saves All’ banner clasped in her wiry hands. She glanced at us but made no move, we were lost to her and Jesus I suspect.
I left in an icy-cool, air conditioned cab driven by an angelic-looking driver who whisked me over the Golden Gate Bridge and laughed at my pronunciation of where I wanted to go next. He spoke scholarly about Ibsen and Chekhov and lamented the academic life he once had.
And then on the porch of Josephine’s rackety old wooden house in Berkeley, once again I sought the shade.
Later that evening we were going to stroll down to the Rainbow Gallery to watch her impossibly beautiful girlfriend with the Renaissance hair, play a gig. But first we were going to eat salad and fish and drink wine in tumblers. I inhaled the smoke, relieved to be on my own for a few moments with the strange sadness of life and thoughts of the crazy dazzling city I had just left, and its people, and all the dreams it had swallowed. I breathed in the smoky fresh air, still hot, and only too aware that the beating of life drums on
Lotty Talbutt started out as an actor performing in theatre, television and radio. Lotty then went on to study English Lit. and Creative Writing at the University of Wales, Newport, after which she then completed an MPhil in Playwriting at The University of Birmingham. Over the course of a few years Lotty had short plays produced before being drawn back to writing short stories. Lotty had her first piece of flash fiction published in Issue 83 of Mslexia Magazine in September 2019. Lotty lives in Wales with her husband and daughter and is currently writing her first novella-in-flash.
Photo credit: Capri23auto
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