The view from the window is concrete and railings. Perhaps it was always buildings and metal, an impression of light simply my memory’s distorted photography.
Inside my mentor’s study, the once sky-blue paint has cracked, the shiny parquet floor turned to dull fish skin; dead scales flake. Clive’s battered office chair is emptier than the hollowed room, gutted of desk, books, pictures. Along the walls, damp has drawn its own ghosts in place of his animated outline.
Cold steel shocks me as my hand brushes against the radiator. It’s hard to believe now how much of my world started here: turning the globe on Clive’s table; spinning questions through the air for him to catch, twist and glide back at me. His stare was unflinching when he was impatient for the right answer. But he’d tilt his head slightly to one side when considering a complex argument, or when his expression softened, momentarily, in response to a kitten’s miaow. His smile was hard-won validation.
Hearing, speech, sense, even his cats gone before the end! his neighbour tells me. We shouldn’t really be in here. It has to be cleaned, but seeing as you knew him...
Wafts of feline piss lurch at me from dark corners, as I find myself drawn away from the room’s shadows towards the closed window.
Dead man’s shoes was what Clive called his job the last time I saw him. A mug’s game, Kerry! Forget study. Travel, see the world, work for a company that pays!
And here I am, back where the spinning started, jolting in his footsteps. I start teaching on Monday, though I’ve no idea what knowledge he’s left in my hands. Most likely, all or nothing.
I open the window a crack, feel rain and sky spill in.
S. A. Leavesley was shortlisted in the Gatehouse Press New Fictions Prize 15/16, is an award-winning poet, fiction writer and journalist, who also runs V. Press poetry and flash fiction imprint. Publications include a winning fiction in the Oxford Today thriller flash competition 2014, flashes in The Ofi Press Literary Magazine, Rockland, Jellyfish Review, and Elbowroom (forthcoming), with longer short fiction published by Legend Press. Websites: www.sarah-james.co.uk and http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.co.uk