English Optics, 1.

Simple short story with which to end the month. Written for a magazine based in Copenhagen.

She was talking to Mrs. Grice, down outside the pebble-dashed slope which separated the community library from where the newsagents used to be, and which now held a brightly lit, achingly glossy hair salon. There were three false palm trees by the door, and they moved sluggishly in the wind, the downward breeze which scuttled a few half-smashed aluminium cans around the base of the swollen recycling depots. It smelled lightly of cat-piss ammonium hair dye, and of engine oil, and of everywhere else. She was talking. „I had my eyes done, recently”, she said, pulling the loose skin beneath the socket down slightly, to display a miniscule scar. „It’s miraculous what they can do, these days. Just last week, I could barely see the television, and now…oh…” She looked around her, „Now, I can see everything so clearly…”

Mrs. Grice stood to her side, and surveyed the precinct. Some kids had found something underneath a car, and were lying on their stomachs and shuffling along the asphalt. She couldn’t see what they were trying to retrieve. Something unpleasant, no doubt. Mrs. Grice looked back to her friend, who was following the seeds of the municipal park trees, spinning as quickly as her sight could allow – buffetted and teased by sharp-smelling zephyrs, settling between vividly coloured plastics, heavy, sticky tarmacs holding a hundred thousand million multi-faceted crystals, each reflecting the dull criss-crossed perspex of the street-lamp shelters above, which in turn threw out subtley muted images of magazine-wetting fingertips of waiting young women behind the frosted glass of the salon. The pale flesh first dented the brightly coloured paper, moulding it into a gentle curve, before leaving behind a dampened, shiney impression of the grooves and whorls of prints, each one unique. She saw this, and she saw the shadows of this thrown onto slanted surfaces, again and again. She was staring now, staring intently at the sparkling formica in the cafe, the last pulsing, quaking breath of a dying leaf, its final moments of photosynthesis bleeding green light into her optic nerve. She saw something of time, some sense of the bud, the blossom, and the fruit, with that one leaf. Something of the past, and a potential future. She followed the ghost of its fitful, airy passage, back up through empty air, past the guttering of the library, stacked heavy with cigarette ends and the detritus of neglect, into the sparse boughs from where it came, and above this, into the sky. The sky…
„Miraculous, what they can do”, she repeated.

About Benjamin Norris

Published writer of short stories, long stories, poems. Well received art critic and cultural commentator for Berlin magazines. Collaborator with operatic societies. Co-writer of fictional historic psycholinguistic journals. Lecturer of architecture and art history at a Budapest University. View all posts by Benjamin Norris

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