This story first appeared in Visual Verse in response to their monthly visual prompt. You can read it there alongside the accompanying photo prompt or listen to me read it here for you.
Podcast music via FreeSFX
“A hundred degrees!”
Janey squints at the thermometer and taps it, just to be sure, then shuffles back to the sun lounger and flops down on it.
“Geez!” she whines “What a dump.”
She grabs the bottle of suntan lotion and squeezes a blob of white onto the palm of her hand, starts rubbing it on her arms, keeps on complaining.
“Why have a pool if you’re not going to fill it?”
“They’re scared the donkey will fall in and drown” he tells her.
“The donkey. It can’t swim.”
He rolls over on to his stomach and closes his eyes, wishes Janey were someplace else.
But she slaps him on the back of his thighs.
He lifts his arm and points vaguely in the direction of the pool where the donkey is standing, but stays face down, burying his face in the towel.
“That one” he says.
He hears Janey get up and walk towards the pool.
“Shit” she says “How the hell could I have missed that?”
He doesn’t bother answering.
But he thinks – “Because you never notice anything, Janey.”
There’s a “woohoo!” and lifts his head to see her astride the donkey, flicking one arm above her head like some rodeo rider.
The back of her neck is red where she forgot the lotion and he smiles.
“Hey!” Janey cries “You wanna’ try?”
“Nah. Rodeo’s not my thing.”
He thinks he hears her mumble something.
Nothing ever satisfies her. There’s a quip for everything. Sneer is the default.
He reaches into his bag and pulls out his i-pod. Scrunches the buds into his ears and presses play, Led Zeppelin rising, Robert Plant wailing “Babe, I’m gonna’ leave you.”
She’d whooped and hollered last night too. Clinked mini bottles of whiskey and stubbed out cigarettes in the bathroom sink.
“Maybe if we make like it’s a road movie this can be fun” she suggested.
Not so long ago he would have gone along with it. Allowed the night to disappear in a haze of clinks and whoops and smoke, the bed thumping against the walls and annoying the neighbours.
But somewhere on the road he’d started thinking about the journey ahead. That long haul from A to B. From nowhere to somewhere, if they were lucky.
She pulls one of the buds from his ear and his heart skips a beat.
“Hey, I’m gonna’ see if I can get some ice, okay?”
He hears her click-clack away, the sound almost drawing him back from an idea that was forming, because she’s cute still. Sexy.
In the shimmering heat he thinks he hears the donkey braying.
In the other ear Robert Plant keeps singing.
He shifts the car into drive and pulls away.
In the rear view mirror he sees Janey with a bucket of ice. She pats the donkey. Looks around for him.
“Don’t forget the back of your neck” he says.
But she doesn’t hear it.