Kim Farleigh

Kim has worked for NGO’s in Greece, Kosovo, Iraq, Palestine and Macedonia. He likes painting, art, bullfighting, photography and architecture, which might explain why this Australian lives in Madrid. 178 of his stories have been accepted by 103 different magazines.

Breaking Away

Screaming woke a dozing Mick, the car shaking in a road-train’s wind, big, black tyres approaching, Cathy and Margaret in the front shrieking, two-metre-high rubber circles nearing, Cathy battling a delirious steering wheel, thirty-metre-long, four-metre high metal looming up, steering-wheel hands swaying, Mick’s window rubber black then THERRRUMPPPP! 

The car zigzagged into the road’s centre after clipping gravel, road-train looming behind, a man-high grill, between yard-wide, man-high tyres, rising, primeval anguish blending the women’s cries into one.  

Leaning forward, Mick grabbed the steering-wheel and said: “Brake, slowly.” The firm hand bracing the wheel halted the screaming, tyres locking, steering-wheel stable, the car ending perpendicular to the road–in silence.

Cathy’s forehead met the steering-wheel, her throat expanding and contracting, bottom lip quivering. Margaret embraced her. Mick patted her on the back.

“Well done,” he said.  

Cathy touched Mick’s arm gratefully.

Mick assessed the damage. He felt renewed. Spring’s confetti speckled the orange ground.

The mangled left-side panelling wasn’t impeding the tyres. Cathy stared through the windscreen, her throat contractions and expansions subsiding, distances long ahead.  

“Only the panelling is damaged,” Mick said.

Cathy smiled, touching Mick’s hand.  

Tim said: “She’s going to be understanding.”

Cathy wiped tears from her eyes. Tim stared, expecting acknowledgement.

He doesn’t know Cathy’s mother, Margaret thought.  

“Quite frankly,” Tim continued, “I’m glad we’re alive. And your mother will be as well.”                         

Margaret’s irises were tender with sympathy. Friends since childhood she knew all about Cathy’s mother. She stroked Cathy’s neck. Cathy recalled her mother yelping: “It’s one thing; then another. What it’s going to be next? Can you make your mind up about anything?!”

“I’ll ring her from Monkey Mia,” she said. “We’re alive and that’s what counts.”

“Exactly,” Tim said.

***

Cathy’s mother asked: “You what?”

“I tried—,”

“You tried overtaking a road-train?”

“It was windy.”

“Obviously.”

Cathy, breathing in, said: “Why do you always have to take your frustrations out on me!?”

“What do you mean–always?”

“You know what I mean!”

Seagull squawking came from the nearby shore. The others were on the beach facing azure, so happy to be alive.

“You’re obsessed with the differences between our lives,” Cathy said. “And it’s driving me nuts!”

“We’ll talk when you get back.”

Afterwards, Tim said: “The road-train driver wasn’t happy about us smashing his dust caps. He was going to have to wait there for hours for replacements.”

Tim knew what a problem really was, Margaret holding Cathy’s right hand.

“Tim!” Margaret yelled.

“It’s just a car!” Tim said. “And do you have to shout my name every time I speak?”

The gulls wanted to cough fire. Mick, thinking about surviving death, re-invented Frost: Gratitude is gold, our hardest emotion to hold. 

“Anyway,” Tim said, “sitting here isn’t going to solve anything.”

Cathy wiped her eyes.

Seagull-clouds within liquid sky bobbed before bone-white where the squawking of other seagulls resembled pleas for relief, the damaged panel like a laceration.

“She said she was glad we’re alive,” Cathy said.

Her hands were clutched like appendages to bitterness. 

“And?” Tim asked.

Margaret stroked Cathy’s back. Mick wondered what was agitating Tim, ignorant that Tim had told Cathy weeks before: “Who cares what your mother thinks?!”

“Cheer up,” Tim said. “We’re alive!”

“She’s got no faith in me,” Cathy said, staring down at those clutched appendages.     

“She said she was glad we’re alive,” she continued, “but that isn’t what she really wanted to say.”

Cathy’s iris distance magnified her corneas’ stillness, mental activity halted by iron-clad thoughts.  

“Anyway,” she continued, “we’re alive and I’m going to enjoy being here even if my mother thinks……”

Mick touched her hands.

“My old man thinks the same about me,” he said, “because I want to paint. And I think the same about him. What are families for?”

Cathy’s smiling, wet-eyed glitter exuded appreciation.

***

Shadows from Cathy and Tim’s dangling feet protruded from a jetty’s shadow line, seagulls plunging where white rays splintered into bone-white when hitting the sea, white ironically blackening a trawler, fish attacked by flame-coloured beaks.   

“The camp-ground manager said there’s been four fatal accidents this month on that highway involving road-trains,” Tim said.

“Four!” Cathy gasped.

Fish nibbled their baits, meat confetti dropping towards white.  

Dolphins emerged from a turquoise wall, a fish too slow–caught: the dolphin, flicking its body to accelerate, disappeared under the jetty, a kill of skilled salvation. 

“Wow,” Tim said, impressed by the dolphin’s efficiency.

A hooked, twisting fish’s underside glinted in the sun, its will to live reaching Cathy’s hands, giving her that will, underside glints reflecting the emotional flashes erupting in her mind, the taut line concentrating life into an exhilarating focus on life’s essentials.

***

Nature separates us from trivia. I’ve been trying to get what I need, Cathy thought, from others. Ridiculous!     

She entered water whose far edge had been soldered by sunlight to the sky, her bucket containing live fish. A dolphin took a fish from her hand, its white-zip grin exuding emancipation.

Things must be destroyed to achieve balance.

Her mother had once gasped: “Are you mad?!”

Cathy had said: “It’d be a great place to buy a house. It’s going to be popular one day.”

“Oh, perleeeeseee,” her mother had replied. “Where are you going to get the money from for that? And what makes you think it’s going to become popular?”

“My daughter isn’t famous for brilliance,” Cathy’s mother told Margaret.    

Cathy, plunging under, entered calmness, seagulls on tranquillising liquid; dolphins, swirling like lovers’ tongues, eliminated pettiness, injecting Cathy with life.    

If Mum persists, she thought, with my “opportunity failures,” I’ll ask her why she’s so obsessed with this. Wasting opportunities represents progress. Failures are achievements, signs of action.

She floated beside silenced gulls, closer to annihilating the being she didn’t need to be.

***

Cathy’s solidify resolution gave her driving authority.  

“I’m going to go for her when we get back,” she said.

Margaret’s lips moved–slightly–with great expression.

“Good,” Tim said. “She’s jealous of her beautiful daughter. Simple as that.”

Margaret and Cathy smiled.

“Let Tim do the talking,” Mick said.

“I’d love to,” Tim replied.

A kangaroo stared from spring’s kaleidoscope, hopping away as the car neared, curiosity consumed by prudence.

“I’m going to do a painting,” Mick said, “called Wounded Panel. In the wound I’m going to put images of restriction that cause rust to spread from the wound, eating the panel.”

“I want to show it to my mother,” Cathy said. “Please do it.”

“I will,” Mick said.

***

“Here are your keys,” Cathy said. “I won’t use them again. Or anything else.”

Her mother’s pretentious surprise made Cathy add: “I’m now glad I had that accident.” 

Her mother’s lips peeled apart, unstuck by shock.

“Sorry I survived,” Cathy sneered.

“Oh, Cathy!”

“So the first thing you thought of wasn’t the car!” Cathy snapped.

Light left sombre sears upon the room’s mahogany antiquity.

“Is it my fault your bible-bashing mother ruined you?” Cathy asked. “Is it my fault you couldn’t deal with her?”

Cathy had to kill two selves to create two new beings of mother and daughter and the authenticity born from this induced empowerment, swaying trees outside wailing mournfully in summer’s hot wind.

***

Entering Mick’s car, Cathy felt calmed by her recent assertion. She bent towards Mick, kissing him for the first time.

Mick felt her sentience represented life. 

His firm hand on the steering-wheel, with his gentle voice, had fired her imagination, that hand and that voice exposing her mother’s “jealous hysteria.”      

“You get more beautiful every second,” she said.

Staring from a window, Cathy’s mother thought: And they can kiss anywhere they like.           

THE END

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