November 2019 Competition WinnerPosted 12 months ago under Uncategorised,
Ned Carter Miles
I know the story only from the telling, but I imagine that I first heard it floating in my mother’s waters, dampened through amniotic fluid, and from there the pictures come…
Their small convoy is riding up the road on the last hill of many. She is at the front—my mother—and her belly with me inside nearly touches the high handlebars. She’s sweating and her cheeks and mouth become red and round each time she exhales. She struggles us forward, upward.
Pete the Living Saint—small, quiet and sinewy from his years in the California desert and many long rides to New York—carries my 5-year-old sister on the bar between his leathered hands. She leans back so that her neck and his fit like a carpenter’s joint, and watches her mother jealously.
Pete’s daughter Chiara—19 and prepubescent from seven years cycling 60 miles a day—is effortless. She glides up the hill just as 15 years from now she’ll glide between me and innocence; innocently, somehow.
Behind them—us—the Dorset hills rise like the expressive brows of mute giants. The August setting sun shines on my mother’s stomach, my virgin eyelids, and the future flickers red through her veins and mine.
The incline grows steeper, and she lifts from her saddle and presses both our weights down onto the pedals. This is my first contribution, and as she and I break away I hear a muffled whining through the fluids of her womb.
In 26 years, when errant cells are filling our mother’s esophagus and she’s growing thin and papery, three times my sister will send me away from her house. When the phone call comes, I’ll take a taxi 300 miles to watch our mother die. On the radio, the triple drone that announces the Home Service giving way to the World will call in the last morning like a brazen bird, and I’ll spend the coming day wailing and wetting the translucent crease beneath her cooling elbow.
Pete pulls forward, singing softly to my sister, and his calf muscles become two firm squares. Chiara simply lets go and, when she does, cuts up the hill as though she answers only to the pull of the sun and moon, and not the earth at all.
At the top, the sea stretches out before us. All at once Chiara flowers and bleeds, my sister’s hatred crystallises, some vital part of Pete’s soul carries on upward and never comes down, and my mother’s water breaks. The past gushes out of her, and as they gather round with the solid hills behind them, all I hear is rolling waves, impatient to take us forward.