Dawn Garisch
A Flash-Fiction Work


He digs a hole: I am of the earth, I understand its substance. In dreams I have a pebble in my mouth; a stone lies under my head. I know the way in: my muscles drive into the substratum; sunlight spills in to fill the gap. Again and again, stave and spill, widening the breach. The rhythm of labourers, the heart, of sex and drums. I could fit in there now, I could curl up in the dusty cup and let them bury me, the sods jarring my jelly flesh, soil sifting into cavities. That is how the wives of great men used to die, sealed into tombs with the sacred corpse, their breath stopped by the rising earth.

Not my wife, she lives in modern times, and I fall far from great.

She does the washing up:

My hands swim like fish among the dishes. I wash these plates daily, erasing the stains of ten thousand dinners, restoring whiteness and order. I rub and rub, the glaze wears thin and cracks appear, the clay crumbles and disintegrates between my fingers until the sink is full of a brown sediment.

Through the kitchen window I see him bent over his excavations, busy with mud pies in the back garden. He has forgotten us; only when the children come home and run shouting and happy to see him does he raise his eyes and remember who he is.

The hole gets bigger:

The heat rolls off the great mountain of my body, washed away by stinging streams that flood the plains of my chest, the small of my back. I have found an old bone and pieces of china, objects that survive our broken lives. They are precious to me, reminding me of my finiteness, my fragility, the permanence of the earth. I shall keep them in a jar in the garage in a corner as I did when I was a child. I would mine for hours in the field next to our house looking for treasure. I found a brass catch, a marble, a broken chain and pieces of painted porcelain. My mother found them and threw them away. Few see the value of broken and discarded things.

My children are home, they tumble out of the back door and clamour around me. Their eyes are bright, like prospectors tracking their dreams. With their spades they pry open the soil. They are like two flints I keep discovering anew.

She waits:

Dinner gets cold on the table; I carry a stone in my chest. Every morning I make a promise: I will not argue with him today, I will not expose my need. Every day gravel collects in my mouth; the stone expands to fill my chest. If he looked he would notice how silt is filtering into the house. He would see how my legs are tired of carrying stones, of wading against the flow. He would notice that I am in danger of sinking.

At night I dream my bed is made of a thousand hands; a multitude of people carry me high and safe. Like the wind they carry me softly over rocky terrain; so high no dust storm can touch me, no mountain can bring me down.

He goes to bed:

She has turned off the light and lies in a dark room. I cannot tell whether she sleeps or waits. Even in sleep she wears a mantle I cannot penetrate, even as we make love I cannot touch her. Tomorrow I will put the last rocks in place, the earth will settle, the cement will dry. We will plant ferns and lilies while water fills the pond, then my children will release the fish: golden ones and black. I will ask her to come outside and look. When she sees she may smile; if I put my arm around her, perhaps she will laugh. Together we will stand and laugh while our children feed the fish.

Dawn Garisch is a medical doctor of South African origin, who writes flash-fiction, scripts, novels, poetry and articles. In her writing, she finds herself "worrying the bones of relationships, the use and abuse of power, and problems of the body, love and the erotic."

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