North by Frank Owen

North by Frank Owen

Author:Frank Owen
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Atlantic Books


‘Vida. Vida, baby, come and sit out here with us.’

Vida knew it was a dream right away, but knowing what it was and doing something about it were not the same thing. She watched it play out, helpless.

Ruth was in sunglasses, holding a glass of white wine like liquid sunshine. Vida watched the light catch and strobe, and she couldn’t look away. She rubbed her eyes, but the entoptics refused to fade. They overlaid Renard where he sat and beamed at her from his fold-up chair, as if they’d been together all her life.

And oh, she knew him for her father, though she’d never seen his face. His name, that she’d seen and heard – written on walls in black paint, and yelled out: Fuck Renard! She stared, wanting to eat him with her eyes, notice everything about him, consume the hidden histories.

For someone who ran the world as she knew it, he was fuzzy and shrunken, not much taller than she was, dark in the same way. In her dream Vida touched her own face, searching for clues, and knew it for his mirror image.


He was smiling intently at her, as if he was trying to convince her of his kind intentions, but those eyes! Vida shivered in the even sunshine of the dreamland beach. Flat and greedy, the way monsters looked in the old movies, assessing you for lushness and riches.

Someone tugged at her other hand, breaking the spell, and Vida looked down. The girl standing barefoot in the sand beside her was her daughter, wasn’t she? She had Dyce’s soft eyes and eyelashes, that smoky sweep that hid what he was thinking. But the Afro-puffs – those are mine, thought Vida, and her heart squeezed with love. I gave them to her, the same way my mama gave them to me. My little girl.

‘Come on, Mama. I want to swim.’

Vida turned and saw the sea, the smooth green welcome of it, the new start, and knew she couldn’t let the waters close over her head. Not after the river; not after the flood.

‘Later, baby, okay? Let’s just sit here a while. You want to make a mermaid? That’s what your daddy liked to do.’

The two of them sat down on the damp ground and swept the gritty sand over their legs until they were buried in its coolness to their waists. Vida felt Renard’s eyes always on their backs, avid, calculating.

‘Finish the story,’ the girl told Ruth.

‘Hmm. Where were we?’

‘ “Why have not we an immortal soul?” asked the little mermaid. Like that. And don’t leave anything out.’

‘Yes, boss lady. “Why have not we an immortal soul?” asked the little mermaid. “I would give gladly all the hundreds of years that I have to live, to be a human being only for one day, and to have the hope of knowing the happiness of that glorious world above the stars.”’

Vida scooped and patted the sand, but there was something of the graveyard about it, and the sun was getting weaker.


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