Fiction from Sage Tyrtle

Swirling lines in front of a blurred window

Photo: Jr Korpa

Stella Is Smashed

Stella is tipsy. At dusk she and Harry are listing down the sidewalk to a smaller, darker bar. She trips and Harry catches her arm. They both pitch forward, laughing. She twines her arms around Harry’s neck and brushes her lipsticked lips over his five o’clock shadow. Tickles his nose with the end of her long braid.

Stella is blotto. The questions she was afraid to ask before are buzzing around the bar room, under the puffy stools and over the glossy wooden trim, rolling across the long wooden bar. Harry says he is sorry. He is very very sorry. Stella watches Harry perform an Oscar-worthy monologue called I Am Sorry as he sips his sherry and watches her with his not-sorry eyes.

Stella is snookered. She holds her margarita, edges chalked with salt, and considers Harry’s perfect triangle. His half-grin. The way he looks at her. At her. Only at her. His low and sweet voice, whispering I miss you into the phone in the kitchen. Stella contemplates and then takes aim. She throws her drink into Harry’s face and watches it with regret, wishing it were spilling into her mouth instead. When it meets his astonished moustache it drips down, streams over the long bar and fills the floor until waves run from the door to the back wall, bottles toppling. She breaks the perfect triangle of him. She scatters his charm into twenty-one perfect pieces.

Stella is three sheets to the wind. She stands on the deck and watches Harry twirling down under the wine, the last of the air bubbles popping. She throws his hat in after him and it floats for a moment then lists, filling with pale elixir. Sinks. In the sky clouds are building, ruby wisps scudding to meet deep garnet.

Stella is flying. The wind of her rage carrying her, the burgundy clouds so dark she can only see her own fingers when she wiggles them in front of her eyes. The gusts whisk Harry’s grey suits and toothbrush and favourite armchair up and up, spiralling around her in the furious air. The clamour of the storm sprinkled at first with tinkling shards of window glass and then just a roar. A never-ending howl.

Stella is wrecked. She has washed up against a beech tree and she’s squinting against the morning light. She hears footsteps falter, a stranger’s voice. When the footsteps have faded again she curls up on her side and coughs until the cocktails reappear and water the grass. She runs her fingers over the fluff of a dying dandelion. Her head thumps in 4/4 time. She drifts. Rocked to sleep.

Stella is dry. Her too-big tongue is trying to escape through her cracked lips. She drags her feet through deep dunes. Her bare skin blisters and bursts, and as she walks she tries to turn the sand into glass with her glare. She imagines tipping the glass into her mouth, one drop travelling across her swollen throat. She stumbles. Wheezes. Keeps walking.

Stella is on the wagon. Sitting cross-legged in the red Radio Flyer as it bumbles down the sidewalk. She slurps a fast-melting Popsicle that’s dripping blue. The sunlight draws spangles on her sundress, on her knees and Stella calls to the woman with the long braid pulling the wagon, asks where they’re going. The woman turns and smiles. She says, You tell me.

Sage Tyrtle‘s work is available or upcoming in X-R-A-Y, The Offing, and Cheap Pop among others. She’s told stories on stages all over the world and her words have been featured on NPR, CBC, and PBS. She runs a free online writing group open to everyone. Twitter: @sagetyrtle

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