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A short story by Blake Guttridge

Tui took their thoughts out onto the veranda wearing nothing more than a singlet and their undies. The heaviness they were carrying inside felt enough to warrant lighter clothing, even if it had been on since the night before. It was a liberty only to be enjoyed in full after finding themselves home alone for the first time all week. Tui often sought the company of others, it offered energy, but solace was suddenly found in the budding romance between silence and the house.

The afternoon sun broke through the quiet, bringing chirping birds back into the yard. Folding themselves into the wicker egg chair that sat by the railing, the space they had outside seemed even larger than it had from the kitchen window. It was baron in some places and overgrown in others, naked spidery branches competed for a feel of the sky the same way the jungly foliage beside it did. The dead trees stood strong, serving as sort of sentinels for the flowers that had grown around them but had since wasted away too. Some of the stuff that had been planted when everyone had first moved in was still around, but it became increasingly more difficult to tell it apart from the weeds.

Tui grabbed their tin and lighter. They did nothing more than sit and smoke cigarettes, syncopating it with sips of red.

‘Mmm, not sure about this batch, Dad,’ said Tui aloud to themselves.

It had a tang to it, the homemade shiraz they drank.

‘A subtle metallic taste with notes of nail polish remover in its fine fragrance,’ they joked.

Tui took the sound of the birds as Mother Nature’s confirmation that their joke would have landed well with their father.

Tui made their way over to where they had seen birds flitting about, it was what had been dubbed by their housemates as the Sesh Circle. Completed with an array of objects intended for sitting, found exclusively in hard rubbish, the ring enclosed something of a fire pit. The area had become littered with various mementos from various nights. The longest-standing item, a Virgin Mary prayer candle, was perched upon the only chair that looked to be in good nick. The candle came onto the scene when a boozy wake was held for the house cat who had been hit by a car and had to be buried in the corner of the yard. The long glass tube had become rather dirty, still, the big words sprawled across the bottom remained always legible.

‘Virgen De Guadalupe,’ read Tui.

With her emerald green shawl and golden embellished red gown, Mary was at once quite Christmassy, but altogether chic.

‘Did your poor soul die a virgin, Miss Thing?’

Some of the remaining beeswax-yellow candle carcass stuck to the inside of the glass, but Mary’s insides had been largely been replaced with cigarette ash. Tui pondered the potential implications of that, but decided it made quite a bit of sense given she had once held a flame inside her.

‘Mary Magdalen, babe, did your cheeks ever get sunburnt? Were the olives perhaps too damn salty for you in Jerusalem?’ Tui questioned the candle, waiting each time for a response, but even the birds had quietened.

‘Was it shit to be the mother of the son of a god?’ Tui smirked. ‘Were you still ripped from hole to hole? You poor holy lady!’

Not getting much back from Mary, Tui walked further toward the feline grave that the candle was intended for, laying themselves down on the bit of lawn that looked the greenest. Stroking the leaves of grass around them, they let the breeze become their breath. Tui had never liked the space much, but that only lasted until they were actually in it.

‘Mr Whiskers, is this grass so good because of you? Am I gonna ruin all your afterlife’s work by laying in it?’

Tui had largely forgotten about the cat and the firewater funeral they had thrown; the lawn acknowledged those memories far better than they did. In all the branches and bramble there were more stories too. Everything that was lush, thriving beyond upkeep existed that way only because of the memories that had been buried beneath the soil. Just as it was for the plants, the garden was undoubtedly at once a place of both life and death.


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