Love. That’s what Mish called this thing she had with Clay.

They spent their days riding the trains, drinking canned spirits. When they were out of it they were invincible. They sprawled and brawled and cursed. People moved away as if they had a force field. Nothing could touch them.

On a day in winter like every other they spread their bags across the back seats of a crowded city-bound tram. Business people in suits and pressed skirts glanced sideways.

‘’ere Lady,’ Clay sharpened his eyes on a middle-aged woman. ‘’ave a seat. ’ave a drink.’

‘No thank you.’

‘Too good f’rus, eh?’ He and Mish shared a laugh like a sneer.

The woman flushed.

‘I said, too good f’rus?’ Clay let fly with spray of vile abuse that counted, in his mind, for humour.

Things happened in a rush after that. A tall man hauled Clay up by his collar. Screaming, Mish took a fingernail gouge from the stranger’s arm. Clay found the knife he used sometimes at convenience stores. One thrust. Two. Not deep. More men came forward, overpowering him. Screaming. Blood on seats. Sirens.

Her boyfriend on the floor, a foot planted hard on his neck. Mish spitting threats as they dragged her away.

She called it love. The only word she had for it.

 

2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (smallstoriesaboutlove.wordpress.com)

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