Rainbows, fiction by Mark Staniforth

Becky watched Ged hook a rain­bow right out the lake and push it clean down his throat, still wrig­gling. Dusk smeared the sky up like fish grease. Ged wiped his mouth with his sleeve and slapped his lips. He laughed: 'it's just the way I like 'em.'

Folk might have fig­ured Ged had anoth­er thing com­ing if he reck­oned tip­ping live fish down his neck that way was a sure-fire way of impress­ing the girls, but that would fig­ur­ing with­out Becky Bright.

Becky took one look at Ged's par­ty piece and the bunch of teen drunks toast­ing his trick by whoop­ing cans of Tar­tan Spe­cial in the lake­side half-light, and saw a one-way tick­et out of Fryup shin­ing deep back out of those wide trout eyes.

Becky would count down the days till the cir­cus rolled back in town each sum­mer and she'd hang out round the back of the big top till the ring­mas­ter came by and she could try to impress him with her lat­est rou­tine.

She'd tried fire clubs and broke-glass walk­ing and the ring­mas­ter had fixed his eyes on her sprout-out chest and told her, 'broke glass walk­ers is ten to the dozen, lady, and most of 'em, well, they'd walk over broke glass just to get a shot.'

The ring­mas­ter would tug his eyes off her front and stomp off to his car­a­van, care­ful to leave the door ajar. Becky just came to reck­on­ing she'd have to work twice as hard to get that shot. So the sec­ond time she saw Ged make a trout dis­ap­pear down his throat she clapped up a fuss with the rest of them and asked him, 'tastes good, huh?'

Ged, seem­ing sur­prised by her inter­est, coiled off, smelling anoth­er of the stitch-up jobs that came with being the kid who always turned up at school smeared up in trout inners.

After all, that Becky Bright, she was no way one of those dim sorts set on father­ing kids to some soon-gone dad­dy, the sorts Ged was maybe hop­ing on reel­ing in him­self with his trout-tip trick.

Ged reck­oned when a girl like Becky with that chest of hers and those tight-back pig-tails start­ed chat­ting you up on its account, well, there was some­thing else fishy going on. But it turned out that Becky Bright's mind was turn­ing over sharp­er than shark's teeth.

'Got­ta go,' said Ged, flick­ing his head back, not meet­ing her smile. He head­ed off deep­er, leav­ing Becky watch­ing him go, her friends to jibe her: 'what'd you want with freak-boy, huh? Imag­ine his fish breath.'

Ged's folks had run the trout farm through three gen­er­a­tions. Ged would be the fourth, pro­vid­ed they could hold off the poach­ers long enough to still make prof­it. Old Artie Blowes had about exhaust­ed him­self on ways to stop them, only end­ed up dig­ging him­self in deep­er each time. Had already been up in court for plant­i­ng air­gun pel­lets in the back­sides of a cou­ple of kids with car­ri­er bags. Ged had took his fair share of revenge beat­ings and what with the fish grease prob­lem he was count­ing down the days till the dai­ly has­sle of legal school­ing was over and he could dip his feet in what was left of the trout farm world for real.

First time he'd tore open a trout's inners and fed it in his gob was when Kristy Mor­gan promised him a blow-job for it. Ged had slapped the thing stone dead and fair tossed it down his throat, guts and all. He found out lat­er Kristy Mor­gan nev­er even hung round for his lip-smack bit, let alone the one of her own. She just smacked them togeth­er in cack­les as she head­ed off home. But word got round and Ged reck­oned the best way to get what he was owed was to keep on try­ing with the one thing in his life he knew he could beat all else at.

Becky had wrote off her good grades and took a job on the hook-a-duck stall on the in-town seafront fun­fair. She hoped it could help book her tick­et out of there. Since she'd been small it was about all she'd want­ed. She'd been graz­ing her calves on wash­ing-line trapeze acts since she was five years old. Jug­gled fresh-picked apples till they bruised up so bad her father vowed to beat the cir­cus shit out of her. It was all going about as well as an evening on a hook-a-duck stall ever could till the day those damn Thack­er­ay boys rolled up and set their hearts on hook­ing a whole lot more.

Bil­ly and Caleb, they were bad as hell, and that night they'd got it in their fucked-up heads it was time for their younger kid Jake to become a man. They but­tered up Becky well enough to tempt her into tak­ing a ride home with them at the end of the night, and all that got known about what ensued was that the youngest Thack­er­ay start­ed strut­ting round like he owned the place and Becky set her mind on ship­ping her­self and her bruised-up thighs the hell out of Fryup any way she could.

***

Ged soon came to accept­ing Becky wasn't the type to play some mighty kind of trick on him, but came to think­ing even a trick would be an okay price for his spend­ing some time with her. His reluc­tance came from his fears for the fish grease smell and the way he was always liable to boil his words in a pret­ty girl's com­pa­ny. The first cou­ple of times Becky traipsed up the gorse-pricked lane and charmed off the yap­ping yard dogs, he'd done his best to keep her at bay. Old Artie Blowes was up to his neck in poach­ing prob­lems but even he found time to have fears for his only son, squir­rel­ing away round the back while such a fine spec­i­men was per­sist­ing for his atten­tion on the doorstep.

Ged even­tu­al­ly resist­ed, slid into unstained shirts and made sheep­ish grunts about hik­ing it to the lake-edge where they watched the sur­face foam with fish.

Becky smiled, 'you gonna show me how, huh?'

Ged turned at her sun-tipped pig-tails, said, 'why'd you care?'

She said, 'just do.' She turned, clasped her knees, squint­ed into the shine. She said 'teach me.'

Ged shrugged, turned, flicked his line in the lake. In sec­onds his rod was buck­ing, a sil­ver rain­bow reel­ing in, shiny as dia­monds. Ged leaned out and plucked it off its hook. He held it tight in his fist till it tired. He looked over. She was about drown­ing him in her moss-pool eyes. She said, 'do it.' Ged tipped his head back and held the flap­ping fish over his gob and low­ered it right in, till there was only its tail to see. A cou­ple of burp-gulps and it was gone right down with no trou­ble, bones and guts and all. Becky wore a paste-on smile. She said, 'that rocks!' Ged spilled in the grass and pat­ted his stom­ach. He said, 'I'd be lying if I said it don't gripe.' Becky sat and watched the sun grease down and dreamed of that tick­et.

***

Becky came to turn­ing up at the Blowes' front door beg­ging for more fish-tip lessons. She didn't fig­ure on Ged being over much con­cerned with the way she looked but she'd tramp up in loose skirts and tight spill-out crop-tops all the same. Her first tries were fin­ger­lings she had Ged bite the life from first. Often she'd retch the things right back up. Ged said, 'it's in the gag­ging.' He said, 'you got­ta ride it out.' It took a bare hand­ful of tries till she could hold one down. In a cou­ple of months she was tak­ing down live ones, even built up a knack for giv­ing it a good wait then haul­ing the thing back up, whole and wrig­gling. They'd spark a fire and some­times cook up what they caught. They'd sit round till the smoke wisped into black and she'd tell her cir­cus dreams, tell Ged she was fix­ing a cos­tume to win over the ring­mas­ter, would make her the kind of act to head­line that thing sin­gle-hand­ed.

Ged did his teach­ing and nev­er asked for noth­ing else, was just hap­py with the com­pa­ny and the stolen looks when she closed her eyes and threw back her head. Some­times she'd catch him skeg­ging, would smile and play-slap him and some­times press a fish-grease fin­ger to his lips, tell him his own spe­cial show was almost com­ing. When old Artie stum­bled on the cause of Becky's inter­est he wasn't best pleased. The way he saw it, he was los­ing enough rain­bows to the night-time poach­ers with­out his son and some cir­cus freak girl­friend of his gulp­ing down his prof­its. He said, 'them fish­es is mon­ey, and I 'spect you to cough up.'

Ged and Becky came to spend­ing longer time at the lake-side till Becky could swal­low a six-pounder smooth enough, and give it a right good pat on that flat bel­ly of hers before burp­ing the thing right back out. She worked on her cos­tume till the fair rolled back in and the next night she turned up at the lake­side with a plag­gy bag full of glit­ter and said she was ready.

Ged gazed up at the fresh pink sky and had a hope his whole trout-tip trick­ing might be proved worth­while. Thought how he wouldn't swap this chance for noth­ing even if Kristy Mor­gan was to show up with her mouth slopped open offer­ing some­thing she owed. Was stuff­ing his head full of fan­ci­ful dreams when he heard a low groan come from the bush­es.

Ged said, 'hear that?'

The groan came again. Becky froze up. Ged coiled ready. Becky said, 'what the hell?'

Ged took a branch and crept for­ward. He hissed, 'some mutt, prob'ly.' He pushed back some boughs and said, 'shit!' Becky peered in over her shoul­der. He felt her warm breath on his neck. She said, 'if it ain't Jake Thack­er­ay.'

The boy flailed on the bank, his face drained, a rust­ed-up trap clasp­ing his soaked red foot. He tried to swing upright, swipe at Ged.  He croaked, 'get this thing off me!'

Then, 'I been here night and day.' He shiv­ered in dew, his blond hair mat­ted out and dark­ed by wet. A plag­gy bag rus­tled just out of reach, filled with dried out rain­bows. He pan­ic-eyed up, raged, 'you're dead for this, Blowes. So dead.' Then he flailed again at his leg. He said, 'my leg. I can't feel it.' White bone glint­ed up. Ged reached in at the trap, made to wrench it. It bit fast. Becky sucked in breath. Jake swung his eyes, set them on Becky, saw how hers tipped with mem­o­ries. Becky peeled her crop-top, ripped a seam, leaned in to tug it tight round Jake's calf. She tugged Ged's shoul­der to have him stop the wrench­ing. She said: 'it's show time.'

Ged watched Becky head in the dark with her plag­gy bag. He wasn't let­ting no-one take away what he reck­oned he'd earned, least of all a Thack­er­ay with a bag-full of his prof­it. He reached for his rod, cast a line. Jake's blond hair flopped with the sweat. He raged at Ged, 'you think you'll get away with this, huh? You think they won't find out?' He said, 'I swear, you help me go and there'll be no-one hears a thing of this. Far as I'll say it, I got tore up on open moor, pulled free. Won't no-one hear. Jesus, I swear it.' He said, 'my broth­ers be her soon. They'll know exact­ly where. Usu­al spot. They'll be won­der­ing.'

Jake's voice croaked out. Ged fixed his eyes on the lake, reeled in a fat eight pounder. Becky swirled out the black in a tight-fit mer­maid suit, grinned, 'ta-dah!' Ged feast­ed how her hand-stitched sequins glint­ed dif­fer­ent blues in the dusk light, how it V-ed to her bel­ly but­ton, scaled up on her thighs. She struck a joke pose, flicked back her pig-tails. She stood straight and paused, said, 'I ain't got a name yet.' She lim­bo-d back and pushed the fish up sky­wards. She grasped its tail and hung it flap­ping over her gob for ten­sion, then dropped the thing in whole. She retched her chest a cou­ple of times, turned to Jake. She said, 'them broth­ers of yours, they done enough to not scare me.' She turned to Ged, said, 'you think maybe top­less?' She heaved the trout back out, held it slime-cov­ered, still wrig­gling. Said, 'tah-dah!' She struck curt­sy pos­es. Jake lay paled up, still. The dusk fad­ed out like stage lights.

Mark Stan­i­forth lives in a small vil­lage in North York­shire, Eng­land. His fic­tion has appeared in Night Train, Aethlon, Eclec­ti­ca and oth­ers. His e-books of short sto­ries, Fryup­dale and XXXmas Box, are avail­able for free down­load via Smash­words. He is cur­rent­ly at work on his first nov­el.

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2 Responses to Rainbows, fiction by Mark Staniforth

  1. Mark this is one of the coolest and most unusu­al things I have read in some time. Well done man!

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Fried Chicken and Coffee - Rainbows, fiction by Mark Staniforth -- Topsy.com

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