By Matthew Roy Davey
a glass of Chardonnay
We sat outside the restaurant with two beers between us. The moon glowed orange and over the sound of midnight traffic was the incessant pulse of chirping insects. Every so often the crossing gates by the JR station clanged and a train would rattle and hum across the broad expanse of roadway. The air was still hot from the roasting of the day, heavy with the odour of baked concrete, sweet with the grilled fish and flesh drifting from bars and restaurants
We were in clean clothes having showered and changed before coming out, washing off the day and the exertions of love. I was in shirt and shorts, she was wearing a white cotton dress with tiny blue flowers that were just a shade deeper than her eyes. There was a damp patch between her breasts below where the sun had blossomed freckles on her cleavage.
We’d been out for hours, talked literature, theatre, film, and music. Now we were onto politics, or rather political theory. I was trying to convince her I was a man worth having.
“Of course,” I said, “the trouble with socialism is that it requires a fundamentally ergonomic assumption of humanity’s benevolence.”
As soon as it was out of my mouth I cursed myself and hurried on hoping she hadn’t noticed, at the same time congratulating myself for not using the term ‘mankind’. It occurred to me that it was a wonder my brain could keep up with so many thoughts as my mouth raced ahead while the brain struggled to feed it vaguely cohesive words and sentences. The beer wasn’t helping.
I thought I’d got away with it but then noticed her frown. I blazed on, hoping to distract her with some other brilliant bon mot that would expunge my earlier sciolism.
I’d been rambling for a good thirty seconds when she met my eye and held up a hand.
“Hold on,” she said, looking at the table. There was a pause. “What does ‘ergonomic’ mean?”
I coughed, scrutinised her. It seemed she actually wanted to know, she wasn’t trying to catch me out. Should I bullshit her?
She looked up and our eyes met across the table. I laughed. I only had one option.
“I don’t know.” I hung my head, trying to look abashed. “I was trying to sound clever, trying to impress you. Instead I’ve made myself look a nob…”
She stared and I tried to smile, wondering if I’d blown it.
She leaned forward, moving the ashtray out of the way, and put her hand on mine. She smiled and then laughed.
“I thought it wasn’t right!”
It was now.
About the author
Matthew was The Observer short story competition 2003 and winner of the Dark Tales competition (August 2013) and has been long-listed for the Bath Flash Fiction award (Spring and Autumn 2017) and Reflex Flash Fiction competition (Spring 2017). His story ‘Waving at Trains’ has been translated into Mandarin and Slovenian and been published in anthologies by Vintage and Cambridge University Press. Recently he has been published by Everyday Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, Odd Magazine and Flash: The International Short-Story Magazine. He was recently been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.