By Joshua Goudie
2nd-place winner of the Cuffer Prize 2012
I picked the little bits of dirt and rock out from under the torn skin before raising my knuckles to my mouth. My tongue flicked over the fresh wound, chasing that hard iron flavour. I had grown accustomed to it, but it was usually from sniffing nosebleeds into the back of my throat. Hot showers in the morning mixed with damaged sinuses have a way of bringing those on.
They didn’t seem all that interested in me; I guess because I was already on the ground and they could see I wasn’t going anywhere. I sat up and looked at the darkening sky as ribbons of red and blue light swirled above me. There was a second where everything went quiet and I closed my eyes and it was like I could feel the lights washing my skin. It was actually quite calming.
Then it all broke. “Don’t you dare move,” someone said. Maybe the officer who pulled me out of the car? I don’t know. They all sound the same, don’t they? “Where is it?”
It was tucked up into a hollowed out space in the headrest. A little better than right there in the ashtray but not much. I knew they’d be finding it soon enough.
“I said don’t move!”
That’s when the hard knee jutted into my spine, collapsing my body forward, face first onto the flaking blacktop. I suppose I shouldn’t have done it but I took another chance and shifted to get a look at my watch.
She would be arriving at the house right about now. I told her I might not be home when she got there, but she knew where I kept the extra key. It’s hard trying to find a spot to hide a spare key on Long’s Hill but I’ve become pretty resourceful over the years. Not that the present moment showed any of that.
“Come on. Where is it?”
This was to be her first night staying over in months. The last time there’d been a racket over what I thought was an appropriate meal. It can be the littlest things sometimes.
But after much discussion and too many phone calls she was coming back. But tonight she would be coming back to an empty home with no explanations. At least not yet. Explanations would be coming soon though, I knew that.
She would need to get a shower first thing when she arrived, she’d told me when she phoned last night. I always love the way the house smells when she stays over. Especially after a shower. Satsuma and cigarettes. That’s me and her in a nutshell. Her goodness always trying to beat back my bad.
She’d be coming over straight after her dance class. She’d been taking classes down on Queen’s Road and said that tonight she was going to teach me. “Just for fun,” she said. I had cleared the coffee table out of the living room and pushed the TV up against the wall earlier that day so she’d have the room. I wasn’t all that keen on learning but this would be the first time I’d have seen her in over a month so I would have let her teach me to be a snake charmer if she wanted to.
“Can you explain this?” came another voice. With my face in the pavement, inches from the gasoline rainbow puddles, I couldn’t see what they were talking about but I had a feeling. A car door, which I guessed was mine, slammed and I knew their hunt was over.
I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to cook for us again so I’d gone to the grocery store just to be safe. I bought a package of pre-made cheese tortellini and a Greek salad. I knew she hated olives so I’d already gone through and picked them off the top. Pasta and salad. There would be no complaints from anyone this time.
How long would she just wait around, I wondered. I was having nightmarish visions of her searching through the kitchen cupboards, looking for the phone book so she could call the office.
“I’m sorry but he no longer holds a position here.”
“All right,” I heard someone say, then my arms were wrenched behind my back and I felt the unkind bite of the cold, metal bracelets. “Time to go.”
They hoisted me up, grabbing me by arms, and began leading me towards their SUV. On the way I took a look up into the sky, realizing this might be one of my last chances to breathe fresh summer air for awhile. Above me I could only make out a single star shining through the fog.
This was supposed to be my second chance. Now my last second chance, more than likely. How could she be a part of my life after all this gets out?
I’ll be spending my night in the lock-up now and she’ll be alone in the house. And it will soon be past her bedtime.
I’d always tried to be perfect for her. I always wanted to be the kind of dad any little girl would want. And deserve. But I’m like a stuffed animal, filled with broken glass. I guess this is the day she finds out.
Joshua Alexander Goudie was born in Grand Falls-Windsor.
In 2007 he graduated from Sir Wilfred Grenfell College with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts.
He is working on his first novel.