The Last Matinee – By James Gering

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Davey lay on the road under the lights, green, orange, red, green, orange, his cheek on the grittyasphalt, his limbs hinged at weird angles. Pain coursed through him and he sensed a shifting.

Pedestrians leaned above him, their voices near but far. ‘My God, he’s alive, how terrible.’‘Has someone called emergency?’

He coughed up blood and thought of the rag doll he gave his niece for her birthday. A face entered his frame of vision, a woman crouching, dismay moving in her eyes.  

‘What happened?’ he asked, faint-voiced.

‘A bag snatcher ran into you,’ the woman said, ‘knocked you right off the curb.’

A sobbing sound reached Davey, words too,‘No way could I stop my van,’a man was saying, ‘just no way.’

The woman clasped Davey’s hand. Her fingers were warm. He couldn’t hold on properly – something waswrong with his grip. He shut his eyes.

The woman squeezed his cheek.

Why, he wondered, couldn’t she just let him rest, get his strength back?

‘What’s your name?’she gentlyasked.

‘Davey.’

‘I’m Nina. Squeeze my hand, Davey.’

‘I can’t – there’s something wrong.’

A siren echoed through the skyscrapers, louder than the sobbing van driver.

‘My watch was in for repairs,’ Davey said. ‘I came to the city today to collect it.’

‘Davey, where’s the pain?’

‘Inside,’ he said, ‘but I have to get moving – I have to pick up Jerome from school.’

‘You can’t leave just yet,’ Nina said, wiping her eyes with her free hand.

‘Tell Jerome this wasn’t my idea,’ Davey said. ‘Please ruffle his hair for me.’

‘I will.’

Clouds drifted overhead. Davey’s eyes closed and opened again. ‘Do you know,’he said with difficulty, ‘Jerome and I were lucky – we got tickets to the circus, the last matinee.’

‘Tell me about it,’ Nina said.

‘The contortionist wrapped her feet around her head, like she had no skeleton, pure rubber. At the end of the act she dropped through a hole in the stage. The spotlight stayed on the hole, the audience transfixed by the beam cutting a swathe in the dark, dust motes dancing.’

‘Well,’ Nina said, ‘did she pop up again?’

‘No.’

‘What act followed her?’

‘Interval. I banged my watch on the drinks counter, the time stopped.’ He winced.

‘Tell me another circus story,’ Nina said. She was kneeling now, her tear-slicked face inches from the fading voice. 

‘The trapeze act was great, performers flying through the air, spotlights on them and no safety nets.’

Nina took his other hand. Jerometreasured the warmth of her skin.

The lights changed to red.


 

About the author:

James Gering has been a diarist, poet and short story writer for many years. His poetry and fiction have won awards and have appeared in many journals including Meanjin and CorditeRattle and Every Writer. A sample of his work can be experienced at www.jamesgering.com.

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