by Matthew Roy Davey
a can of Quatro
It was a typical Saturday lunch, sausage, beans and mash, Dad telling us if Concorde had sold internationally we’d have been living somewhere glamorous, eating by a pool in California perhaps. In the seventies he’d worked for BAC but the high hopes they’d had never materialised. I paid little attention, shovelling beans down and glancing at my watch. In half an hour Kate was picking me up for our first date. I couldn’t drive.
Kate worked in the local record shop and after weeks of building up courage I’d asked her out. Astonished that she said yes, I floated out of the shop with a new seven inch. Later, as we arranged where to go, I could see her wondering if she’d made the right decision, her expression faltering. I told her it was a feminist date, the woman in the driving seat. She pulled a face.
When her beige Peugeot pulled up I hurried out, hoping my parents wouldn’t look out of the window. Kate smiled from behind the wheel.
“Hi! What’s that on your back seat?”
She looked over her shoulder. I’d thought it was from a joke shop. A cigarette with a tail of grey ash.
She’d flicked it out of the window as she was driving but it had blown back in. I opened the back door.
“No, let me do it.”
She picked up the filter and brushed hopelessly at the scorch mark. It was burnt to the foam.
“Dad’s gonna kill me.”
There wasn’t much to say. I couldn’t tell how close her laughter was to tears. A grimace and a smile are the same but for the eyes.
As we drove away I stared at the dashboard. If we were in America, I thought, there’d be a steering wheel in front of me. I imagined reaching until my fingertips touched the black vinyl surface. I didn’t do it, just sat motionless, staring. A Pearl Jam tape hissed on the stereo. She stared straight ahead, knuckles white on the wheel.
I hated Pearl Jam.
About the author
Matthew was winner of The Observer short story competition and winner of the Dark Tales competition. He has been long-listed for the Bath Flash Fiction award, Reflex Flash Fiction competition and Retreat West Competition. His story Waving at Trains was translated into Mandarin and Slovenian and was 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 has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.