Emerald Bolts Pearse Murray A Magazine for Flash Fiction

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He lost his father when he was eight years of age. Rainstorms joined an early spring thaw that rapidly melted so much ice the river's swollen rush swept even the most stable of structures that lay in its path. His father's body was found entangled in the broken branches of a weeping willow – reputedly the largest tree in the county. As he was trying to rescue a stranded dog in the river he was struck by falling branches, knocked unconscious and the rising waters did the rest. His dad was as generous as the tree that killed him. Ben then became puzzled by death and what was meant by a conversation he overheard at his dad's wake: 'he always went to the limit didn't he, Pat?' 'He did indeed, always, John, always.'
   Ben's solace was to spend hours climbing the trees at the back of his home in the upstate New York hamlet and to watch the migrating song birds come in spring. His words for birds were not those of the ornithologist, a red cardinal was a fire engine plane, a woodpecker a flying drummer, a blackbird was a priest. He would wonder where they had come from, some exotic place in Central America or maybe from Brazil where Pele, his favourite soccer player, came from. He liked the idea of having two places to live in. He thought the trees shook their leaves to applaud the birds' songs. Ben tried to copy their singing and tried to fly like them by swinging from branch to branch. This mimesis continued into the autumn when he noticed the birds departing south so he decided to follow them. He climbed to the highest branch of the tallest tree and jumped to fly. He was flying to meet his dad in secret, the other place.


Heretical Heron

Restless, perhaps provoked by the shafts of light from the full moon through the sky-lights bothering me, I get out of bed and head for the lake, take the kayak out with some words on my mind for company. We glide down to the reed marsh at the outlet. The silence of the night heightens recognition of mystery. Tree roots and tree leaves are asleep. The music of the day seeps into the earth. A stilled clear night and the stars are already starting to stutter with the competing moon for attention.
   Someone else is bothered by the moon. A black cloaked heron with a white collar glides past me and lands at the edge of the reeds. A flash of splash from the harpoon beak breaks the calm – a gluttonous gulp betrays real hunger. It is obviously not the moon. The words on my mind leave me and the heron speaks in a mildly fricative voice that asks a question of our joint incomprehensible existence. I dissolve into something else and our discussion dwells on the thingness that is here, the moving thoughts of the soul within the body and the elusive attempts to connect the tissue of all that is outside it. 'This happens when you die', said the heron 'so tell me something new.' I tell him that an ancient question by definition cannot be new and that I suppose it a permanent question of existence for all living things from our primeval soup to this now-nearness. I drift further down the outlet as waters always seek the sea even as we sleep. He flies low past me again and softly squawks 'Yes, separation of our thingness and our desire for fusion is our lot and you are not what I am for I can fly away from the question and seek the solace of the sea-gods. What's your solace?'
   My solace remains in the alone, in the silent remains of the night, silently silent and in the joy of this incomprehensible night and in being now more bothered than when I set out earlier.


The Glistening Gleam of Things

Treading softly up the stairs of the Mauritshuis Museum, I arrive at the top landing somewhat fatigued, turn left and enter the end gallery room. There it is, not a reflection of light but a source of light, View of Delft. Marcel Proust claimed this to be the most beautiful painting in the world. Staring at this composition of calm light I begin to dissolve into the pastose and the wet-on-wet painting. I then land on the foreground and am greeted by two figures standing on the shore's edge. They speak to me in Dutch which by some magic I perfectly understand and I naturally am puzzled by the mysterious time and light of this scene.
   Nervously I enter into a palaver with Maria and Magdalena.
   'What is your name?'
   'I do not know as I am dissolved.'
   'Oh, you must be a ghost come in from the future then?' Maria smiles calmly.
   'Yes, I suppose you can say that. What are you holding in your right arm?'
   'Just some flour and vegetables for my mistress, Catharina.'
   'Why did you choose this time in the past to come?' Magdalena asks.
   'Mr. Vermeer invited me with his painting we are in. Beauty then, I suppose?'
   'That Mr. Vermeer invites a lot of people in from the future and then wipes them out.' Maria adds and both laugh.
   I go over to two gentlemen and a woman in conversation on the left and they calmly acknowledge my presence in a vague nodding gesture. I bend down and pick up a grain of sand. Then Pieter addresses me with 'oh you must be here from the future?'
   'How do you know that?'
   'You look nervous, and you have no hat. Also, all those who come in from the future always pick up a grain of sand in the hope of taking back to the future something from our here-now of 1661 and help to stitch together the cloth of human time. They also always, without fail, appear lost to us.'
   As I leave their company I overhear Abraham saying 'we have had no one come in from the past for a long time now. The past must be all stitched up!' They all laugh.
   The dark thunderous cloud threatens us with water-stars but I see a distant sun-shaft move towards us with its promise.
   I re-assemble and stare directly at the scene for the last time, then turn 180 degrees and there the Girl with a pearl earring stuns me into tear drops and I melt away again, and this time I enter a state of deep delirium. She brushes me in two strokes, as Vermeer did to depict the pearl, and I now remain here in my permanent home, listening to the singularity of this thisness and glint at the glistening gleam of all things.
   I see a museum attendant calling for a doctor as there is some man slumped on the floor in front of the painting I am in.


– Pearse Murray (Ireland – USA)

Pearse Murray is a native of Dublin, Ireland, and
currently lives in Albany, New York. He has had poems and some short stories in on-line, print magazines and anthologies, and recently was placed second in the SALT Short Story Competition.

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 Copyright © Emerald Bolts Magazine, 2013
The front page image is copyright © by Anthony Kitterick, 2012