Like the Clappers

He lived by the sea in the middle of a thunder cloud. On a shelf there sat a skull, some old fish and chips and a copy of an old, mysterious novel. On the front of the novel a gold sketch of a butterfly was embossed. The book was hard for him to read. Every day he picked it up, with open mind and heart, and tried to see if it would reveal something to him. And every day he closed it with a heavy feeling inside. When he went to bed he was visited by ghosts who appeared at the sound of a clapping hand. A dog was heard whimpering, though he never saw the dog. Perhaps it was something else. He would lie in his hard bed at an awkward angle. He appeared to be frowning. In the dim light, occasionally brightened by passing cars, there were what appeared to be tears rolling down his cheeks. In the man’s mind, phantoms walked the streets; they appeared through blinding bright keyholes from houses in his childhood street. A vicars face would approach him, bodiless, and sneer evil incantations into his head. The whimpering would turn to a bark. The bark would become louder and louder until, finally, the man woke up, sweating and shaking through to his bones. And for a split second, he thought he saw an animal at the foot of his bed, teeth bared, grinning back at him. The thunder never stopped. And the book became harder and harder to decipher. So he left. He ran away from the sea. To the man, it was as if the waves were fanning the badness into his life. And, who knew, if he’d never found the book, things might have been simpler.
He moved to the city in the middle of winter. On the bar there sat a pint of beer and a whiskey chaser. He sipped the beer, dumped the whiskey in and waited for it to mix. A packet of pork scratchings sat, half empty like a destroyed animal next to the drinks on top of a book called ‘how to write’. On the front of the book there was a picture of an old mans face. The book was hard to read. Every day he opened it at a random page and yet the same information presented itself to him. “In the old days, those of storms and no heating; when my wife was pregnant with the kid, I’d sit down and think of those first, immortal lines. Of course, they never came. All I could hear was that fevered applause that was so dear to me. The congratulations from peers, the proposals from beautiful women who’d read my work and want me for my words. The waterfall of success. I was damned from the beginning…” And he would go to bed except there was no bed. And he would phone his loved ones but there were no loved ones. They’d all died in his own, personal tragedy. A nail comes loose on his finger. He peels it off and hopes no one can see. Then he dabs another finger in the whiskey dregs and smears it on the weeping finger. It stings and aches at the same time. The lights of a police car flash through the window of the bar. The siren comes and goes, trailing off as though losing its intonation.
A butterfly lands on his pork scratchings. He hammers it hard with a closed fist, mingling soft, radiant colours with dead, grey fat. The wings of the butterfly move slowly and then stop forever.


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