The V8 Morning

 

Synopsis

People say that in the instant before a colossal explosion there is an absence of sound. It may only last for a split second but it is said that the birds stop singing, that the very breath is caught in your throat and your skin feels curiously aware...

 

What would you do with the last Atomic Bomb in existence?

How would you guarantee that no more could ever be built?

What if... you were one of the builders...

Where would you hide?

 

Catch your breath... a wind is coming...

 

Excerpt

Arthur smiled as he rocked gently on the sunshine shelf. Watching from the corner of his eye he marvelled at her rigidity. He watched the purse of her lips, her mouth set in grim determination of purl one, plain two. The way the crows feet around her eyes fell as stress lines through the age-metalled skin. And those rigid corrugations holding everything in place. The slender mouth here. The blue eyes above, just so. The nose burned and dark. The skin flaking, showing pink beneath. And the way her motor was always running.
“You're looking at me again.” she said.


Arthur would have sworn her eyes never so much as flickered,
“So?”
“So? So like I was an old truck.”
“Haven't thought about one of those for a long time.” said Arthur.
“You're a liar.” said Marie.

Arthur locked his fingers together, cracked them quietly in the dark air and looked away. Marie pulled another yard off the ball into the silence. The bright clatter of the needles began again,
“So why do you think I came here today?”
“To listen,” said Arthur, “to an old man's lies. By the sound of it.”
   

By the time she had reached the sunshine shelf, Arthur was already there. He had reached down through the frost haze to help her over the last few crumbling blocks,
“Thought you weren't going to make it.”


Marie took a deep breath and hitched herself up onto the tumbled stone,
“You know I wouldn't miss today.”


He’d let go of her hand as soon as she was settled,
“Well, I know how it is.”
“No you don't.” snapped Marie.
She pulled up the dark leather bag beside her and popped the stud,
“I don't tittle-tattle about my family.”
“Yes, you do.” said Arthur. 


Reaching inside the bag, Marie pulled out a ball of pale, crinkly wool and two slender needles. Arthur narrowed his eyes at her.
“Only... what's not important.” she added.


In the twilight she tied on the wool and spun it deftly around two fingers. The needles began to flash in her hands, a solitary insect chitter in the tree-less dawn.
“Then how was it?” asked Arthur.


Marie pulled a yard free from the ball in her lap,
“You know how it is.” she said.
 

In the space of a drawn breath, the horizon lit quietly with a thin strand of yellowish green. Arthur leaned forward to peer as if the act of leaning would bring it within reach of his failing sight. Marie changed direction and the loops slid swiftly from the left needle onto the right,
“You're a wonderful old bugger.” she said, “You know that?”
 Tipping back his head to the stone behind him, Arthur opened his eyes to the last star,
“I wish you wouldn't do that.” he said.


The tiredness in his voice told Marie that he'd been awake most of the night, letting the darkness carry him into morning on it's silent, remorseless carriage,
“Do what?”


Arthur waited until the black around the star had faded to palest blue. For a moment it seemed to brighten then, as if a mist took it, it was gone.
“You know.” he said.
“I do know,” said Marie, “But it's one of those things I do because. Because sometimes you seem to shut yourself away in that old head. And because using plain words with you is like taking a stick to a tortoise.”


And it was something to do with the way she felt about him, although she would never tell him that. And it gave him such a jolt every time. And mostly it was just... fun. She allowed herself a glimpse of the dawn, then cast on again,
“You're a wonderful old bugger.” she said.
“And you're the most provocational, irrationable excuse for a woman I ever met.” said Arthur. He shrugged his coat around his shoulders, fastening the top button,
“And for once can you stop that interminable knitting?”


Marie smiled to herself.
“No.” she said.


Arthur took the ball of wool from her lap and threw it down the stone pile. Marie watched as the wool bounced cleanly from each one, unravelling and billowing pale in the thin morning air,
“I take back the 'wonderful'.” she said, “What did you do that for?”
“I don't need it today.” said Arthur, “The needles I mean. Clicking and clacking away like there were still insects in the world. Making me remember things, like...”
“Like old trucks?” said Marie.
“Yes...” snapped Arthur, “like old trucks.”

 

 

-