22 June 2009

Watching The Bottle

The air seemed thick, for air. Thin, if it had been syrup. Heart considered that for a long moment. Viscosity, he was certain, was key when trying to breathe. Although he allowed as he was no fluid dynamics engineer, he could not describe exactly what he meant when he thought about trying to breathe what seemed to be a liquid.

His mind was moving slow. It felt to him like a superconducting magnet that was losing coolant. The processes slowed down, data transfer began to lag, and information was being lost to inefficiency. Not that it truly mattered to him at the moment. Another long moment, Heart whispered to himself. He drew another lungful of the syrup washing over his head and flicked his eyes to the top of the bottle that was about a foot and a half from his face. It looked taller than it really was, skinny and brown like a tree. It was resting on a coaster, which in turn was resting on a table, its dinged surface the color of tupelo honey. Heart sighed. The side of face was going numb from lying on the table, but he felt too tired to move.

The cap was off the bottle, and while it was almost two-thirds empty the chill from the fridge was still on it. There were silvery beads of sweat forming on the surface and Heart had been watching them gather for how long he could not say. There was a fat drop quivering up by the rim of the opening, and Heart tried not to move. He didn’t want to shake the table and send the drop down the side prematurely. For no reason other than he could not think of a better thing to do, he wanted the drops to fall on their own.

Not unlike the tears that kept brimming up in his eyes, the hot result of his mind wildcatting in the well field of his soul. He blinked slowly, and felt the tears drip to the table.

At the top of the bottle, the fat drop shook slightly, its face bulging as it threatened to drop to its dissolution at the bottom of the bottle-cliff. Heart sensed it about to fall, he could tell, it had that look. The plastic, stretchy, look water gets when it is moving slow and under no compulsions except the tyranny of gravity drawing it ever downward. Heart held his breath, mentally ticking off the seconds until it fell. His vision narrowed and the clock on the wall seemed to blur, and he became acutely aware of the blood pulsing through his veins: slow, slower, molasses in a cooling pipe. His heartbeat seemed to stretch out, as if he were feeling every single muscle fiber contracting one by one, parsed out in a time-lapse movie of a laboratory dissection. He swallowed around the lump in his throat. So thirsty, he thought, so thirsty and I can’t move to pick up the bottle…

The ceiling fan was ticking over in a feeble attempt to push the thick air around. Heart had a vision, a brief flashback, to his grandmother’s kitchen. It was hot, hot as hell, it must have been summer, but G-maw was determined to make some candy. She was standing at the old gas range of hers, a monument to industrial archaeology, but an old friend of hers. They had been together for decades, Heart knew, long before he had become her grandchild. G-maw stood there in her housedress, seemingly oblivious to the heat as she stirred something on the stove. “C’mon over here, I want you to see” she said. Heart was curious. G-maw always had something interesting on the stove. He padded over to where she stood, tilting the pan towards him so he could peek over the rim. In it was a deep pool of clear, thick liquid. She swirled the spoon in the pan and lifted it out. A thick rope of it joined the spoon and the pool. Heart blinked. For a moment, it looked like the rope was holding up the spoon, an optical illusion that had him shaking his head. G-maw laughed and said “That’s sugar syrup, and it’s gonna be good …”

Heart’s eyes snapped open. Must have drifted off, he thought, how long was I out? He looked at the bottle again. The drop was still there, clinging tenaciously to the rim. Hmmph, not long then. Christ, when is that thing going to fall?

His throat was really dry. His fingers were just inches from the bottle. Heart told himself to just pick it up and drink. What the hell was so hard about just picking it up and drinking it? Why the drawn out, will-I-won’t-I saga for the simplest things? He had no answer.
There was a noise in the hall. Footsteps getting closer to his front door. Heart threw up a silent prayer that they would pass him by, and for a moment it sounded like they had, getting quieter as they moved down the hall. Just a Heart was about to reach for the bottle, though, he heard them double back, coming to rest in front of his door.

Dammit. Go away.

Too late. There was a knock at the door, and a voice.

“Heart, open up.”

Heart didn’t move. Please go away, he thought, his eyes focused on the trembling drop.

“Heart, I know you’re in there. Please…”

Another tick of the clock. Heart thought of all the reasons he didn’t want to open the door, all the hurts, the anxieties, the emotional poisons on the other side.

“Heart, please don’t shut me out. Don’t throw this away.”

Heart winced as he thought of the one good reason, maybe the only reason, to open the door. He knew it was true, because it hurt like a branding iron to the backside. The truth, or at least part of it, was on the other side of that painted metal. He choked back a sob.

“Okay, just a minute…” Heart lifted his head off the table.

The drop fell, detaching itself from the bottle. It arced down to smash into the wooden tabletop to burst into a spray of tiny rainbows in the light from the table lamp. Heart watched in silence, tracing his fingertip through the puddle on the table, wondering how it was possible to go to pieces without falling apart.

Like a tumbling drop of water on a warm summer evening.


  1. This is waaaaay cool. Great imagery, stunning sensory detail that makes us sweat in sympathy with your protagonist, and a good, solid character arc.

    Well done!

  2. Really good stuff, Irish. I felt the air and could see the drop on the bottle. Nice.

  3. This is my first time at your blog. Some good writing. I will be back!

  4. When are you going to publish a book of short stories?

  5. Hey IG, I have an award for you over at my site:


  6. you're good at this writing thing, you know?

  7. Thank you all for your very kind praise. I may just have to sit down and write tha book of short stories.

    Made my day, you did...


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Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

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