Broadside #47 (Winter 2017 / 17.2)
He parks the rental car at the train station, which is a post-Fascist box with marble planes, diminished by concrete extensions on either side. After the unchecked sensuality of the Baroque city he kisses Rachel on the cheek, and she gracefully walks off. He thinks of the sculpted effigies on top of buildings (mostly naked males) and how these posed bodies seemed to be pondering, absorbed in all but the urban fray below. It was unearthly what they could do with stone here. It seemed that for centuries men had stared at blocks of stone and seen glorious bodies to be retrieved.
Rachel, whose Italian is admirable (she studied opera singing, but never performed), needs to change their tickets. These are things she likes to do on her own, so he remains in the car park, a recently tarred scallop along the main road, knowing that it may take some time. He knows that Rachel will probably engage the flirtatious ticket officer with his oily hair, or she might stray into the café for a secret espresso, or get into a conversation with a young mother holding a heavy child.
From where he is parked he sees the tattered wings of the station, where the post-Fascist intent dissolves into a series of grubby cement alcoves forming the flank of the station building. Between this and a railway shed there is a path leading to the platforms, which must have inveigled its way through. A woman in black tights and a bomber jacket walks through now. It seems as though she has no skirt, or the briefest of shorts perhaps at the top of her thighs, or perhaps not.
The woman reverses into one of the alcoves, pulls down her tights as she squats low, and begins to piss. He watches the ripples of her vulva as the spray gushes onto the ground. Her inner thighs are yellow and her parts are violet, her eyes shoot past him carelessly as she finishes, pulls up her tights and walks away from him.
He looks around and there is no one but him in the car park. A bus has just passed so the shelter is empty. He switches on the central locking of the car. Right now, he cannot remember the face of the young woman, just the rich floral colour between her legs, how he had sat there watching the dab of hair, the gushing water.
Somehow the warm piss has reached him and his hands feel wet. And he’s sure that when Rachel comes back she will smell something. Culpability, or a new strand of information she will beg him to surrender, while she leans over inhaling his face.
He will tell her, feeling horrific candour.
But he will never tell Rachel that now this other, vivid aperture will be what he sees always, it will make him faint and bring him to a shocked brink; he will see it every day of his life.
I stumbled into flash fiction. I’d finished a short story collection and was anxiously waiting for signs of interest, and decisions had to be made. The first story came quickly and firmly – little was changed before the story was published last year. Then I started hiding away, starting my day with a tiny story, enjoying the adrenalin. Some stories poured out, others were stilted and snuffed. Lengths varied. I played with voice. I’ve always been interested in the ‘behind’ story, the one alluded to and not told, in the wings, pervasive; and I love swift cadences and changes of key, ordinary words given weight. I think flash stories give out an echo, a depth charge. Or other times they just sit there, an intimate flowering. This story comes from observations of the underbelly of Italy.
Catherine McNamara grew up in Sydney, ran away to Paris at twenty-one to write, and ended up in West Africa running a bar. She is the author of Pelt and Other Stories. Her work has been Pushcart-nominated and her flash fiction has appeared in The Collagist, Lunch Ticket, Literary Orphans, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Vestal Review. Catherine lives in Italy.
For around ten years, Nelly Sanchez has been making cut-outs. She has been published in journals such as Mung Being, Sonic Boom, Le Pan des Muses, and Temporel. She has also participed in exhibitions: in 2012, at Paris “Femmes/Hommes. Stéréotypes à l’oeuvre”, galerie ABB (Belleville, Paris); in 2013, at Pézenas (Hérault, France) and in 2014 at Mestre (Italia) – “Quand saro più grande”, La Casa della Renna- and Dieppe (Seine-Maritime, France). She has also illustrated writings like La Falaise était nue (Bernard Baritaud), the American translation of Venus in fur (2014). Her artwork can be seen at Albums.
Comment on Broadside #47, Winter 2017.