Distant Laughter

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This is a story I wrote in 1996 while enrolled in the Professional Writing and Editing course at RMIT. It was one of the winners of the Outrage Magazine Short Story Competition in 1996 in the category "Best Short Story by a writer under 25." It deals with themes of loss and grief, and the effect they have on our perception of time, which appear frequently in my work.
 
Distant Laughter
By Adam Richard
 
Tomorrow at eleven past eleven, I drop the cup of coffee on the floor. I watch as the almost-full mug splinters apart. I see the coffee explode out of its ruptured container. Spewing across the floor, the hot brown liquid saturates my socks. In eleven minutes I forget I have dropped the cup. I cut my foot on a shard. I watch blood mix with water and milk and sugar and instant coffee. Salt water, disgorged from my left eye, borne down my nose, drops into the puddle. This happens in eleven seconds, after I cut my foot, Ruby is calling my name.
 
Eleven months before Brie calls me a fucken wanka, I am standing in Carnaby Street. The shop smells of leather. I am holding a Blundstone boot and the sales assistant says they are eighty pounds. With my still broad accent I tell him they are forty dollars. He looks as if he is standing outside, where there is a chill wind blowing.
 
Brie is wearing shoes like this. Brie is laughing. I smell the bay and water falls on the boot. The tan leather now has a dark spot. In eleven minutes Spider will ask why I am crying and I won't be able to remember.
 
In Eleven years I drop the cup of coffee. Brie and I are fourteen. We are carrying Lori. She has sick on her. Someone says she will choke. Someone else says she should. Brie is laughing. She is driving her car eleven days before my mother scrunches the bullfrog. Brie is drunk. We are both drunk on KAHLUA and milk. She laughs when we crash into the fence, the one outside the Mornington police station. When she is breathalysed, she laughs even more. Her BAC says she should be dead, not driving a laser through a fence. I don't laugh much.
 
In eleven weeks her boyfriend will steal her car and write it off. She will stab him in the foot with a steak knife. He will rape her. She will throw his clothes into the gutter. They will make up, eleven days later, and he will stab her with a second-hand syringe.
 
I am kneeling inside Mornington police station. I am vomiting KAHLUA and MCDONALDS into a rubbish bin. A male officer calls me a faggot. Other male officers laugh. I see my reflection in the spilled coffee. I can smell the beach. Brie is laughing.
 
Eleven months ago Lori is passing out. I am stoned. It is my first time. It tastes like burned crumpet. The smoke makes my eyes water. Everybody laughs. It is Matthew's fault. I do anything he tells me to. I am infatuated with him. In eleven weeks, Brie is losing her virginity to him. He is drinking coffee. The smell goes through me. I am standing in it, bleeding. In Ruby's lounge room, Judson's band are playing JUMPIN' JACK FLASH. Again. I hope it is not the only song they know.
 
In eleven minutes, Brie collapses, laughing. My eyes water. I hold my stomach. I watch gravity pull the coffee to the kitchen floor. Fat Rayleen is singing HOTEL CALIFORNIA. The band refuses to play ENDLESS LOVE. Fat Rayleen refuses to sing JUMPIN' JACK FLASH. The cup tumbles slowly. Fat Rayleen finishes the song. Ruby and Kerryn are clapping. I squeal. Rheeeeeayleen. Just like a pig. Brie snorts. Brie is laughing. My eyes water and the coffee soaks my socks.
 
In eleven months, Fat Rayleen will become bulimic. She won't lose any weight. Eleven weeks later she will be admitted to the Melbourne Clinic. In eleven days she will go to Byron Bay. She will still be there when I drop the cup of coffee. She will still be fat.
 
The female officer hands me coffee in a styrofoam cup. I am crying. I am replacing the boot on its shelf. I am watching waves roll on the bay there is blood and coffee on my foot a tear has fallen on the boot in London. Brie is laughing. I squeal like a pig and Brie is laughing. There is a crease on her forehead.
 
Eleven weeks before I cry over the boot. I am showing photographs of Australia. Brie is frozen on paper. She is standing on sand. Middle Park. Brie is laughing. Spider is making tea for my friend. He is being surly. I have chocolate in my mouth. Julie waves no when I offer some. Spider brings the tea. He denies having put sugar in it. I taste it. I can't taste tea. Only sugar. A tablespoon maybe half a cup Brie is laughing. Julie is passing the photo to Spider. He says fuckin mole he closes his fist I snatch the image away. There is a crease on Brie's forehead.
 
There is milk and coffee and sugar on the floor the sea is blowing in the window I am crying. We don't live near London. Spider never has. He says fuckin mole without a jee. Eleven months after I see the boot Brie will call me a fucken wanka. I will have and accent. I will say ing without a jee. She will laugh. I will laugh. It will be the first time since November.
 
my mother's hair is wet and she screams while the coffee slips from my fingers and the blood slips from my vein brie is laughing at the policeman who calls me a faggot fat rayleen is singing hotel california when my mother scrunches the origami bullfrog there is a crease on bries forhead the cup cracks into eleven pieces the liquid seeps into my sock the chip goes into my foot the blood mixes in with the sugar the milk the water the speed the smack the
 
saltwatermilkcoffesugarbloodsugarcoffeemilkwatersalt
 
the slap in the back of my head the blood flowing onto the floor the salt air blowing into the room the day the phone rings and gravity pulls the cup from my hand it is lost like the money from the till she can't repay and her virginity brie is not laughing I am not laughing as the wind blows in from the bay I leave footprints of blood and coffee on linoleum it stings I sniff water from my fingers my eyes weep from the burned crumpet brie can do it herself ruby is calling my name
 
Eleven months after Fat Rayleen sings. I copy Brie and put the straw up my nose speed looks like caster sugar it stings. She inhales water through her nostrils. Drops on the tips of her fingers. Lori is smiling. Brie is laughing. Hours pass like minutes. I am a superior being. I cut my foot. Before dawn Lori is missing for hours she is smiling when she returns the pubes of a stranger are caught in her braces. Brie is laughing. The bay blows salt into my face.
 
In eleven months Lori will be pregnant. She will be coming down. She will abuse me she will abuse Brie. Brie will have occasional contact with her. I will see her on the street she will call my name I will walk the other way.
 
The pubes of a stranger. I am coming down. My mother is harassing me. I throw hot dishwater at her. She throws me out. Spider says he loves me. Spider has only got enough speed for himself. I do this because I love him. He loses his virginity to me. I lose my soul to him. He puts half a cup of sugar in Julie's tea. She is diabetic. It is raining on the bay. Light rain. I am getting wet.
 
Eleven months before I leave. I am sitting down in K-MART on the floor in the toy department my mother is pulling my hair. She tells me to get up you idiot. I am nearly twenty. At home I am trying to fold a piece of toilet paper into an origami bullfrog. My mother throws a dishcloth at my head. She slams her coffee mug on the table. She snatches the paper from my fingers she says loudly I don't know what you're sticking up your nose or in your arm but stop it just stop it. In eleven hours I am telling Brie. Brie is laughing.
 
In eleven weeks I will be tripping again. I will meet Spider. We will fall in love. Eleven days later Spider will meet Brie. They will hate each other. Eleven days before gravity snatches the coffee from my hand I will hate both of them.
 
Eleven days before I meet Spider I am lying in grass. In Mornington. The stars are moving. My pupils are dilated. Brie is laughing. I am trying to explain what little I know of relativity. We have been watching videos of DOCTOR WHO. The hairs on my arms are crawling. The cup hits the floor. It cracks. I tell Brie how gravity affects time. Ruby is calling my name. A clock on a tower a clock in a well they keep different time the clock in the well is slower. Brie is laughing. She says I'm hilarious, like rhubarb. The grass won't keep still. The coffee spews out of the cup as it splinters. I am crying.
 
Eleven weeks before I leave, I hold my arm out and my breath in. Spider knows exactly what he is doing. He has the pick between his lips and his belt wrapped about my arm. My veins are going blue and lumpy, like they do on my dick. He is concentrating. He is completely absorbed. I want to fuck him right now. He has never been more sexy. Eleven weeks after Brie calls me a fucken wanka, we are discussing her boyfriend. She says watching him have a whack gets me wet. I laugh. She can do it to herself now. Brie is laughing.
 
Spider is pulling blood from me. It is swirling into the milky liquid. He is pushing it back in. Slowly. He pulls blood out and pushes it back in several times. It takes forever. I takes a whole eleven seconds. Something slaps me in the back of the head and I fall off the toilet seat. I'm doing it because I'm in love with him.
 
We will be clean the whole time we are in his country. He will not be as attractive as before. It will have been smack that made him beautiful. I will have anal sex without a condom. It will be in a lane behind a nightclub. He will be a stranger from Liverpool. His accent will be a narcotic. He will buy me a beer and a hamburger. I will owe Brie twenty dollars.
 
I fall off the toilet seat. The cup falls out of my hands. My blood flows into the syringe. The coffee flows into my sock. Brie is wet. My mother's hair is wet. I am wet. It is raining on the bay. The window is open and I am bleeding into coffee.
 
Eleven weeks before gravity claims the coffee, I am laughing. Brie is laughing. She needs money for the bond on her new house. It seems an innocuous request. She has a cash job and the dole. Eleven days before I lose control of the coffee, I am still waiting for the money. I am in the shower, trying to calm down. Water runs down my body, but it does not wash away feeling. Brie looks hollow. Her eyes are dark cavities and her bones jut out of her flesh. She is pale and wears too much makeup. Her head bobs forward when I speak to her. She has no money to give me. It is all tied up, invested in the black marks on her arms.
 
Eleven hours before I get in the shower, Brie rings my flat. She is at work. She has taken two hundred dollars from the till. The guy she sent to get the shit has fucked off. She needs the money or she will get the sack. I lie and say I haven't got it. She becomes abusive and I put the phone back on the wall. Ruby is calling my name.
 
Eleven years ago I will meet Brianna for the first time. We will be fourteen. We will be pissed and stupid. Rhubarb will be the funniest word we have ever heard. We will spend the next eleven years growing closer, until it seems there is no more important person in the world. I will lose boyfriends over her and she will do the same for me. We will hold each other when we need to cry, but we will always be laughing. Brie is laughing. We will wake up in strange suburbs with hangovers that could kill sheep. We will tell each other things that nobody else knows. Ruby will call my name and I will drop the coffee on the floor.
 
Tomorrow I am standing in the kitchen. The tupperware colander clatters to the floor, rubbery pasta trailing it from the sink. The window is open, I can see dark clouds tumbling over the bay. It looks like it will rain. I stand in the salt wind and blow into my coffee. It is still too hot and bitter. I overdose on sugar and milk. Now the beverage is anaemic and diabetic.
 
The phone is ringing and I am picking it up. Ruby is talking. About Brie. She is saying found and this morning. She is saying kitty litter and battery acid. She is saying nothing she understands. She is saying ambulance and too late. She is calling my name. The receiver is dropping to the floor, resting beside the yellow tupperware. Ruby is calling my name. I am watching the cup tumble toward the floor at eleven past eleven Tomorrow.
 
©1996 Adam Richard 
 

 

Comments

11 minutes it took me to read that...

...is that too eerie?

That was really good Mamma. I was good and read the whole thing! Its like something I would write but with actual meaning and less focus on my hair.

And Rhubarb IS the funniest word ever, I decided that in grade 4.

I don't have the

I don't have the words...........

Wow. I see so much of my past

Wow.

I see so much of my past in your words.
I will never understand how any of us made it out of our teens.
For me it was more the norm that people didn't.
I lost count of the numbers and just recall the blur of fake names and tough masks we all donned.

Thank you Adam, for sharing something so personal.
~Lyn