by Rosie Garland
Just my luck. One seat left on the bus, next to a star. I jab it with my elbow, in case it gets any clever ideas and tries to spill over onto my half. It shrinks against the window, which buckles, glassy tears trickling down and pooling along the black rubber seal.
The star blushes; an embarrassed flare of combustion that tickles the baby on the row behind. The child gurgles, grabbing for plumes of feathered fire. If I were its mother, I’d be on my feet and banging on the driver’s window. Some people don’t know the meaning of stranger danger or threat levels.
I smell singed wool.
The star peers at me, anxious, shaking its head when I accuse it of scorching my coat. It’ll deny everything. I’ve read the stories, how stars live off lies. So what about their surface temperature, cores of liquid helium spinning at a thousand miles per second, how they live for billions of years. Haven’t they got enough space in the sky to show off how glorious they are?
Of course, people love them: generous light, kind heat, sheer bloody niceness. And the eyes. One look and bang, you’re gone. Not me. You won’t catch me taken in with promises of fly me to the moon. I know how to deal with heavenly bodies.
Stars aren’t the only ones who can burn things to a crisp. I could parch the sea to sand if I put my mind to it, then we’d see what’s what. I’ve binned fairy lights the day after Christmas, set out full buckets on Bonfire Night. Diaries, letters, cards, endless boring children’s drawings, all tossed out with the ash.
At my stop, I give my sleeve a good shake, trail diamond confetti onto the pavement. There it is, face pressed to the window, hoping I’ll look back.
Novelist, poet and singer with post-punk band The March Violets, Rosie Garland’s work appears in Under the Radar, TSS, Longleaf Review, The Rialto, Ellipsis and elsewhere. She’s authored three novels: The Palace of Curiosities, Vixen and The Night Brother, which The Times described as “a delight … with shades of Angela Carter.” www.rosiegarland.com/