by Christopher M Drew
The first time Schumann appeared was the day Mistress gave me a brace. Every night, all night, she said. My feet looked like mangled rabbits in a Conibear trap, the pain so intense I couldn’t sleep. Schumann sat beside me on the bed, hand cradled to his chest like a pinned butterfly. We didn’t talk, just sobbed into the shadows until morning.
We go to my sister’s house for Christmas. Colour and noise and kids. Last year my cracker snapped apart and a fish flopped into my hand. It was red like a spawning salmon, like a nosebleed pooled in my palm. Instead of performing miracles it just laid there, limp and lifeless. My father picked up the small square card. Dead one, he read, and popped another beer.
My nephew Tommy lowered a spiked crown onto my head; he giggled as it slipped like a noose around my neck. I held the fish out to my father like a sliver of sacramental bread, like a sip of wine. He cracked a bone between his teeth and sucked out the marrow.
When I was a kid, I had hip dysplasia. My father bought me a bike the day they dismantled the frame around my legs. He held the seat while I pedalled. Faster, he said, faster, and let go. I lost my balance, hit the kerb, and flipped over. He lifted the buckled wheel and walked away, leaving me sprawled on the ground, cut and bruised and broken.
That’s my boy, he said.
He didn’t realise he wasn’t supposed to hold the bike. He was supposed to hold me.
All that was left of my mum after the funeral was a box at the end of my bed. The box held her turntable, a few vinyl records, and her pointe shoes. They fitted perfectly. She never liked tapes or discs, only the crackle of the stylus through its groove, the orbit of the needle falling into the gravity of the music.
I would listen to Prokofiev and pretend I was Don Quixote performing the fourth act grand pas de deux with a silver silhouette painted onto the paper walls. We would pirouette en dedans and en dehors, throw a sequence of fouettés en tournant, and rise and fall with the swell and ebb of the symphony until my muscles seized and I crumpled into a cramped, breathless ball.
Even now, my toes refuse to curl over the edge. They jut out into the cold air, straight and stern and stubborn. Schumann stands beside me, conducting the sea in a furioso rhythm against the cliff side.
Spinning along the ridge in a series of pique turns, my ankle pops and the femoral head of my hip grinds through its shallow socket. Stumbling, I tip backwards and reach for Schumann’s hand; he recoils and steps away as my fingers close into an empty fist.
I turn and leap into a flawless cabriole, and cry out as the waves crash together in applause.
Christopher M Drew is a flash fiction writer from the UK. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in MoonPark Review, Third Point Press, (b)OINK zine, Firefly Magazine, Flash Frontier, Ellipsis Zine, formercactus, and others. He won Second Prize in the Bath Flash Fiction Award (October 2017) for his piece The Perfect Fall, which was also nominated for Best Small Fictions 2017. You can connect with Chris on Twitter @cmdrew81, or check out his website cmdrew81.wordpress.com.