Billy’s alarm went off. He fried an egg, picked the old sticky pineapple chunks from the pizza box, and took out the bins. It was an early summer morning, and in Billy’s garden a strange navy bird was locked in a fight with two seagulls for a scattering of old, grey chips.
Billy wore an all-denim jumpsuit because he worked on a building site. He had lost his helmet down a hole yesterday. Do birds understand what birds of a different species are saying? said the wildcat, lying at the bottom of the stairs. Billy shrugged and tied his laces. He kissed the creature between the ears and left humming a wordless tune, which was odd, because one’s home usually became hostile and uninhabitable once a wildcat moved in.
On the way to work, Billy passed the corner where he learned to ride a bike and his brother was shot. He kicked at a limping stray and climbed the hill to see the cranes unfurling like dinosaur necks and all the lights come on. At this moment, in another universe, Billy is a dolphin watching her calf drown in a fishing net. He doesn’t have hands. He can’t do a thing. In the universe where Billy is a builder with no hat, Billy looked over his town in the grey-pink dawn and scratched the nook of his elbow. The name of his brother left his mouth as a yawn.
Billy played hide and seek with the long shadows and sun on his way to the building site. The gate was open and in streamed the other workers, flashing their time-cards one after another at the window. Nixon was smoking a loose one on the grass and he and Billy touched each other’s shoulders and shook hands, a reassurance that neither of them had died in the night, that they were both still alive, and it was only a dream.
Nixon, being three years older, was Billy’s oldest friend. Billy’s other (and therefore youngest) friend was Sheila Fitzgerald, the fry-cook at the burger stand under crane C. Sheila wore her hair in cornrows and had a cherry delicious laugh. Billy had wanted to be Sheila’s since she broke her toe first week in and they sat on the balcony with an icepack and just laughed about stuff for a while.
Sheila was on holiday right now in Bora Bora with Sir Barnabus, her silver fox groom. Sir Barnabus was the owner of the building they were building, and the site they were building it on. Sheila had seen the blueprints. Over sandwiches in the breakroom she told them the architecture was inconceivably breathtaking. Nixon had snorted. It looked like a whole load of shit and bricks to him.
Billy took in a deep sigh of dust and warm tarmac. Nixon patted the back of his head. Another day another dollar, he joked. Billy smiled and walked on with him. What is a dollar? Billy asked. Nixon scratched his nose. It’s just one of those sayings I guess.
All around the building site, white pillared town houses had their curtains swiftly parted. Eggshell sun slipped through the chain link fence and Billy bought them both a coffee from Stiffy’s. When’s Sheila back? Stiffy asked, making two of the slickest quickest cups of coffee in spite of his full prosthetic arm.
Nixon took the steaming Styrofoam in each hand and looked at Billy. The first car horn of the new day blared.
Tomorrow, said Billy, as best he could.
About the Contributor
Vivienne is based in London/North East, holding a First Class honours degree in English with Creative Writing from Brunel University London. A member of the Writing Squad since 2012, she favours creative projects that combine writing with the visual, like photography, fine art, and film-making.
The Guest Cat - Takashi Hiraide
It's a wonderful little story about a neighbour's cat that brings unexpected joy to a couple, who are having to move out of their beloved Tokyo home after the death of their landlord. Though Chibi doesn't technically belong to the couple, they build this tremendous bond with her and, when they discover Chibi has been struck down by a car, feel this enormous grief like they've suddenly lost a child. As a lover of animals (especially cats) this story really touched me, and writing about it now I'm taken back to the loss of my own cat a few years ago and the sweet tender feelings that remain.
More from Issue Nine:
- The Place That He Can Never Return To
- The Cyclops
- The Girl with Many Names by Kristin LaFollette
- Three by Deb Scudder
- The Mourner by Louise Burgess
- Margot by Marni Appleton
- Pebbles on a Shore by Lynne E Blackwood
- blindfolded minds by Rachel Hawkins
- Phantom habits by Blakeley Bartee
- Dementia’s Mantra by Mike Ferguson
- Pack Animals