‘Roadkill’, short fiction by Louise Worthington

Louise Worthington is a writer in the West Midlands, UK. Her work has appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Storgy (forthcoming), Scribble, Ariel Chart and elsewhere. Find out more here https://louiseworthington.co.uk/ and Twitter @worthing9

My husband likes blind bends, high hedges. A middle-aged crisis, last year he bought a silver sports car.  Take a drive, he said, into the country-side. Sure, I said, and pulled on a gilet while wanting to wear a head-scarf but his cap made me think twice.

The campion disappears from view, smeared by speed like a finger through white and green oil paint. Studying his profile, I see his attention is focused on the road, so say nothing, though I’d like to say slow down, and ask where the hell we are heading.

The winding miles and the weight of the silence grows until the car eventually pulls over to a passing place and he unbuckles his seat-belt in a flourish that is melodramatic for a middle-aged man like him. When I look back to this moment, I think I will remember the click and the zip of the seat belt as it retreated into its hiding place and the heavy exhalation of Richard’s torso in the bucket sports seat.

Of course, I listen to him. After twenty six years of marriage, I know when to listen and when to fall deaf, when to feign interest, when to enliven discussion.

Through the window a still life of a rabbit is chasing its fluffy white tail. I feel a kinship in that dead dark gaze, in the crimson blood eeking from its innards, leaving the memory of its happy life in exposed entrails. Its end here, a passing place and no more. No ceremony. I wonder who first heard its small bones crunch, who dealt that fatal thud and whether they feel any remorse. If they did, they are long gone.

Beaks will come. Peck over the entrails. Foxes too. Until the rabbits’ carcass is spread further afield like headlines and gossip. I see blood spats on the tarmac like chinese-whispers.

Something sensational would be better than simply falling out of love. How terribly tragic and sad and small.

Richard negotiates a U-turn in the lane while I pray for a dimming of the sunlight. In the wing mirror I catch a glimpse of my hair, faded from blond to moonshine. His wedding ring winks back at the sun as he flaws the accelerator with his deck shoe.

The lanes take me back to the young woman I was when I met Richard, a tennis player with a killer serve, to our daughters with bee-stings for breasts and now, the space that opens up on this nameless road in this ridiculous car. All those years together fade into the view of his rear view mirror and are convoluted in the verges of long grass amidst dandelions and daisies. It’s spring, I think. That’s why. Fool.

I wonder if the rabbit’s blood wrapped itself around Richard’s sports tyres, and is travelling with us back the way we came, all the way to the place we have called home for twenty years or so.

When the gravel in our drive sighs with relief because the wheels stop turning, I take a look at our house and its large windows. I know which rooms are aired, which need dusting. Which rooms I love and have furnished with great care. Which rooms I avoid because I miss our children too much to enter. I look at Richard’s salt and pepper hair and push strands of my fine hair behind my ears pierced with pearls, a wedding present from him.

‘All those nights you assumed I was at home when you were out till late, I was playing tennis with Shelia. The one with those gorgeous muscular legs. We had pink gin afterwards then we washed each other in the jacuzzi – her legs wrapped around my middle. I came more than once.’

Richard runs his hands around the leather steering wheel. 

‘I could have come all night long but I came home to our bed instead.’

The leather squeaks, expressing his anger proactively. I make him remember he does love me.

‘You weren’t in our bed, of course. So I played tennis with myself.’

Tension is in every part of him, even his aura and the finger nails he cut first thing this morning before shaving. His eyes move around my face like a search-light. It’s tempting to tilt my head back a little or to turn to one side to show my best side. His eyes rove a little longer and deeper on my freckled skin. I wish I had a tennis ball to throw and catch. 

‘Now,’ I say,’ take your silly car to a place you’ve never been to with a woman and set the fucking thing on fire.’

‘But –‘

‘Take your mobile. I’ll pick you up.’

I watch the silver car vanish out of sight, happy to see it gone, old enough to know something else will soon replace its fibreglass body. 

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