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by Alan Beard


The plump moon above her. A tree. The whole thing moving steadily. The air is so empty but difficult to inhale. Pin her here, stop her mouth. Feel the bite, the struggle, like landing a carp. Take her to me, take her out of herself. To me. The eyes in the moonlight saying no.


Her feet in trainers now strangely fast on the pavement. The air hitting her awake. Closed shops flicking by. Still no boy/man, no gang. Keeping up, keeping count. I know, she doesn’t. I can, I will, I do cross to her, talk low, lead, push down the alley to the back by the river. Her sides heaving.


Coming through the door, notice the slope of her, in among the crowds, the beer swilling, the waves of greeting and back slapping. The shape she makes in the air. Singling her out, moving a column of people away from her, glimpsing parts of her between people, a shoulder, an elbow, the slur of her walk, her eyes leaving trails of sluggish light for me to follow. The important thing is to keep a clear mind, keep it simple.

Alan Beard has two collections out, Taking Doreen Out of the Sky (Picador, 1999) and You Don’t Have to Say (Tindal Street Press, 2010). He has had numerous stories and flashes in magazines and anthologies, including Best British Short Stories 2011 (Salt).