Short, no-dialogue piece for the April 2016 TCWG competition




They wander into a café, sit down. An hour and a half of inhaling the Magritte exhibition has given them a thirst. There are two others there finishing their meal, lolling in the high backed chairs. Nobody comes. After ten minutes, gasping for booze, John goes to find someone. An old man wanders out with him to take the order and says it will be fifteen minutes.

Margot makes her way to the toilet through the small back door. As she steps in, the gas heater kicks into action, firing up. It is the exact smell of her grandmother’s house in Wellington. She is shocked, disoriented – how could it be? How many different gas smells are there? Why has this never happened before in all the years and countries she’s travelled through? As she sits, the floodgates open. Nana in the kitchen making drambuie flummery which Margot (nine and a girl) is not allowed to eat but Peter, her brother (Nana’s favourite) can eat his heart out on, booze and all, even though he’s just eleven.

Gaga, messing about with his Geiger counter in a corner, saying nothing but sending kind comfort in his glance, feels this is not fair. He looks like the big, forbidding portrait of his father hanging directly behind him – stern, but he isn’t. He’s wicked with women, loves children, cats and parties. She didn’t know about the women until she was 36, but she was glad.

These thoughts roll through her head like a film. She is watching herself as a child, while sitting on a loo in a Belgian café, sniffing gas.

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