Short Story: The (Great) Master
Emptying her lungs, her courageous chin led her feet towards the painted stool on the platform in the little room above the hat shop. The microphone was slightly too low, or perhaps she was slightly too tall, so she reconfigured her form to comply with the space she needed to fill, and moved her lips to speak. She had tagged her sylvan face with Ruby Woo and squared off her eyebrows to distract from the russet roundness of her cheeks in an act of inauthentic authenticity. The irreverent urbanisation of the pastoral.
She watches the heads of the people and the beer before her, little foamy bubbles disappearing individually with each syllable, twenty-two hourglasses anticipating times-up. Feeling inside the waistband of her jeans, just above where her hip was soft, she traced around the little patch she had sewn that said ‘Main Protagonist’, and sipped her own in defiance.
She read in that new cult novel that all of those girls wrote about that when the form is in place, everything in it can be pure feeling. The expanse of the corpse-fields where she came from spawned only muddy, useless life that wasn’t her own and she was bitter and bored and anarchic.
Nature’s beauty is superficial
Willow-trees weep with our blotted interpretation
And the souls of fantastic garlands blossom frailties and refections
They said that the city laid the path to artistic validation, that Great Master’s were only heard inside four walls somewhere in the urban filth. So here she was, every muscle in her core holding her still on the stall that threatened to topple as the pregnant ears of the watchers turned her floral soul into art.
Ten, nine, eight bubbles, and her face relaxes with her last word. The bar fills with an aggravated thirst and the beer taps release the cold sound of the Thames around her.
He rotated the taps and white noise and white foam drowned the malleable silence that had filled his head for the last six minutes. She was neither form nor feeling, only potential. The pigment behind the masterpiece.
Her blankness was spoiled only by stagnant smears of Plath and Jong and Lena Dunham printed under the lipstick of those lips that resisted parting. With each of her words he unwrote her and spoke back at her, silently, with his own, until she was unfixed upon the stool that she was not quite sitting on.
The final drop fell out of the tap for her as she sipped her final sip. His chin led his feet towards the platform and, taking the cold maid by the fingers, he led her down, step by step, until her toe broke the surface of the glassy water in the bathtub.