Short Fiction: 'John'

by Chloe Britain



Listen to Chloe's brilliant reading of 'John' in the latest MUSE podcast here.



Toast buttered, he edged over to the old-fashioned coffee grinder and began to mill. Ironically, its warming aromas were over-powered by the memories it always brought flooding back.

Martha.

It was a hot day, for England. He used to rejoice in the pockets of heat of an English summer, their randomised appearances being the only reason he hadn’t moved to somewhere more exotic. He took solace in the fact that it was never very predictable; “variety is the spice of life”.


His heart was aching. He knew that he had to unhook himself from his past emotions but every time he felt that he was making an inch of progress, her presence would come back with a vengeance. Forbidden nostalgia.

Today had to be the day, he decided. It had been far too long, and he had fallen far too low to not do anything about it. He had shed his weight in tears and regrettably restocked this lost liquid with whiskey.


He knew that he needed to get out of the house, that this was the second step in the process of moving on. He had been waiting for a pleasant day (an attempt to forget about one’s grievances accompanied by rainfall, seemed fairly counter-productive).

Shutting his door, he felt the streams of sunlight slide over his leathered skin. A few cycles of breath and he immediately felt more at peace with himself and the world.

He walked along the country path, pensive. Unlike before, he found the odd fly which rested on his arm comforting. Like micro-messages from an unexplainable source reassuring him of his existence. He noticed the intermittent mechanical buzz of the cacophonic workshop of the woods. Flies freckling the blades; the fizz of the dragonfly. A polyrhythmic masterpiece silenced by the ignorance of the human voice. Nearby, a small congregation. Mindless chatter punctuated by bursts of laughter.

A broken tree sliced the path two meters above the ground. He ducked under with a tilt of the head and looked back. He noticed its secret strength. It had not fallen the whole way; its trunk was still supported by its roots. One day it might restart, grow more roots, have another shot at survival. He found it was these little things that quenched his thirst for hope.


A girl approached, still young but old enough to appreciate the beauty of the path. She looked up and smiled. A sigh and a “Good morning” were all he could manage, but it was more than nothing. That’s all he had to do. Baby steps.

A flash of consumerist red disturbed the natural order. His rusty frame folded over to pick it up: he could never abide the entitled litterer, roaming the precious countryside with a selfish smirk.

The path led him into a small wood. The shade incited an expellation of welcome relief; he began to feel unstoppable under the embrace of the trees. Specks of sunlight glittering his path. He felt invigorated.


She still swam into his consciousness, as anyone would have expected after such heartache, but he was different. He felt like he’d been revived with a medication of optimism. He knew the journey that he was on would be a long one: emotionally and physically taxing. But as long as he could proscribe and self-administer a daily dose of a walk through the woods, he knew that he would be on the right track to promised healing.