She stood in front of a house that looked bombed, at a quiet junction. She led him through a garden of nettles, then through a wavering ‘V’ of knocked out bricks, to fuck amongst the rubble on a coat laid down.
After she got her clothes together, accepted a lit fag from him. She talked about going home, a flat nearby, a whisky before turning in, pulling back her hair as she gave him details. Through the murk he saw her ears, tiny and concise, her fingers bringing the cigarette up and down to her mouth, the purse of her lips as she exhaled. A turning car lit her up briefly like a white flame and he asked could he come back with her, all the money he had, and she agreed to one last fuck there, in the warm, seeing as he had eighty quid in his hand, but that was it.
She took him down afterwards, in the silver lift, saw him out.
He didn’t know where he was in the city, tufts of grass outside the closed up building, pavement and tarmac scuffed with broken areas. He thought to lay down on it, like it was the frayed carpet of her flat, as if the warm cat might come and curl up by him, near enough to hear it purr.
He lay on the damp concrete, faint light breaking, birds singing, and imagined the earth, the world beneath the concrete, the huge weight of it suspended in space and slowly, slowly revolving. The trees in the street were feathery, the buildings soft like rubber in the dawn, he stumbled on with thoughts and thought about getting up but didn’t want to before she’d opened the curtains and seen him there.
Alan Beard has had two collections of short stories published – Taking Doreen out of the Sky (Picador, 1999) and You Don’t Have to Say (Tindal Street Press, 2010). He also edited a collection of stories celebrating Tindal Street Fiction Group – Going the Distance (TSP 2003). His work hasappeared in many literary magazines and anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic.