Swell

By Rod McRiven

General fiction, Literary fiction, New adult fiction

Paperback, eBook

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763
2 mins

 

EXCERPT: From Part Two

He came of age at a time of war.

She wore a blazing smile; a blood-red gash stretched across chiselled white teeth. Mother and son had not touched or kissed when they bade farewell but waved politely. Neither did he search for tears in her marble eyes or look back as he marched away awkwardly wooden in the stiff khaki uniform gripping his suitcase, stuffed to bursting, tightly at his side.

He thought of her repeatedly during endless nights swaying sleepless in the belly of a steaming ship, his skin slippery with sweat. At times he imagined her close by and watchful, stroking his hair and cheek, whispering into his ear while he pretended to sleep. In his dreams, she would be cleaning and shifting in the parlour. The sway of her body bewitching him as she spread herself across a table or knelt on the floor rhythmically scrubbing at a speck. When she caught his gaze upon her, her eyes would haze over with expectation and her mouth crack into a faint smile. Other times, it was her legs that fascinated him; plump and firm, they swished busily beneath her floral cotton dress the hem of which wafted a faint scent of rose water and burnt toast.

Then, as dawn broke, she would caution him to remember that she would always be with him, to deny the Devil and defy temptations of the flesh,

and be a good little soldier for your mummy

At last, one morning, the ship stopped heaving and shoulder to shoulder the soldiers marched their upholstered chests and jutting chins into a forest green furnace, shouting defiance to throttle their terror.

"Golly Gee it’s really swell to send those yella men to hell!"


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EXCERPT: From Part Four

“And that, as they say, is that,” announced the stupid one, staring wide-eyed at his notebook, his face a study of distaste.

Taking her downcast silence as a cue, one by one, they each stuck a pencil stub behind an ear and wandered off. One or two stole a glance at the girl, though none of them noted her exquisite face was tormented by confusions, even if they had none of them would have cared anyway.

She, now standing apart and alone, her arms spread and palms upwards, gazed wistfully at the fast disappearing crowd.

If any of them had possessed one iota of the required grace to regard Poppy as a human being, someone whose thoughts and feelings mattered. If any of those brave young men had taken the trouble to look beyond her moist breasts, her sensuous curves and into the heart of a young woman struggling every day to make sense of the dispassionate world in which she had been abandoned, as her Danny had done. Perhaps she would not have been too afraid to ask the question which had been begging for release ever since it popped into her head - Are you still dead, if no-one can see you?

Later, in her cell, she realised even if she had asked the question, no-one there would have answered her.




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