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Magic Smile

Sushi discovered a new clothes shop called ShootUp!

She pushed through the hand-painted red doors and went inside to look at the goods. There was a café at the back where a few people sat drinking lattes but clothes-wise there wasn’t much to look at. Then, on a rack, she found a T-shirt she liked and she slipped it into her shoulder bag. Then she went and ordered a coffee and, while it was being served, she went into the toilet. She opened her bag. The message on the T-shirt said:

A Moment of Guilt

A Lifetime of Innocence

She took off her old top and dumped it in the toilet pan, and then flushed twice, so that the toilet blocked and the water was brimming over and spilling onto the floor.

Then she left without drinking the coffee.

Lishman was sitting on the step of Grey’s monument staring into the dull sky from behind sunglasses. She thought that, perhaps, he had been waiting for her. A busker was playing sax, standing at the corner of the plinth.

‘All that sunlight, you’ll age your skin,’ she said, sitting down beside him.

‘I’m ageless.’ he said, still staring at the sky.

‘Sackless,’ she replied.

He turned and smiled broadly, shuffling along an inch or two, closing the gap between them.

‘Get off,’ she said, with practiced irritability.

‘Chill, Sushe,’ he told her, ‘and shift along a bit. I’m sitting on a pigeon’s toilet here.’

She moved over for him.

Then, after a while, she asked him, ‘Do you like my new top?’ He nodded absently, and continued watching people go by; old ladies with shopping trolleys, office workers going to and from lunch, men in suits, women in swishing skirts and smart coats and court shoes with small, sharp heels.

The busker paused to wipe his mouthpiece.

Lishman glanced down at Sushi’s scuffed boots. Looking up again he saw two drunks ambling by. Deep sun brown tanned skin, ragged sportswear and loud voices, both were carrying bottles of fortified wine.

‘Hey, Sushe,’ he said, pointing.

She followed the direction of his hand with her gaze. Then she spied the bottles, smiled and repeated the old mantra: ‘Buckfast! Brewed by Monks, drunk by drunks.’

‘Me and you in twenty years,’ he told her.

‘Huh. You say,’ and she reached over, took off his sunglasses and put them on her own face.

As she turned away again and looked toward the sky, a strange thing happened; the whole world lost it’s colour and slipped into a rainbow of black and white and grey, and then, even as she quickly grew comfortable with this the light began to fold and separate into a half-tones of pure black and pure white; without depth or perspective; shadows slipping into and out of each other. Shapes merging. The world became incredibly new and strange. She gazed around as the pleats of light and dark spun together like rope; dappling, strobing.

A voice told her ‘you can’t see from light into dark‘ and then giggled.

She twisted to peer at the source of the voice, and as she did so everything began to speed up, just a fraction so that she’d notice, except her heartbeat, which got slower.


Bebop sax floated visibly before her in a string of cartoon musical notes.

She focused her eyes in Lishman’s direction and gradually his shape made itself known, carved from and rising out of the soup of flattened shapes, like a printers plate rising from a pool of black and white ink. He was looking fixedly at something just over her shoulder. But she knew that he was spying on her. His face kept merging with and then returning from the background, against which he had no real separation, but at those moments when she fixed his image onto her memory she could see that his lips were moving. Silently.

‘Bring it back,’ she said, still staring at Lishman, and suddenly the colour ran back into him as if poured from a bottle, until his face flushed blood red, and his hair corn yellow; his eyes became so brown that she could see the grain of the bark from which they were carved. The colour spread outward from him until the whole world became rich and saturated. Only the shop front signs seemed to remain normal as the colour from the sky and the buildings and the people crowded her mind.

Then she re-calibrated, and it was normal.

As she did so Lishman’s gaze sped back quickly, guiltily, from over her shoulder to her eyes and he frowned, patted her arm, saying; ‘Wring it out, Sushi. Where you been?’

‘Uh? Oh, Lish, flashback,’ she shrugged away his hand, embarrassed, ‘or magic glasses,’

‘They go with your magic smile,’ he said.

She shrugged.

The sax player had stopped playing and was packing away his instrument.

Lishman pursed his lips, frowning, and then said, ‘I know this guy called Cass, he’s a real old punk rocker, with a Mohican and everything. Bondage pants. He’s got a dog on a string and he’s a vegetarian. A real an-ar-chist! He can get some serious Nineteen Seventies-style acid, and he gets Fly Agarics too, but I think it’s the wrong time of year, or something. Every August he drives to a secret spot in the Lakes and picks these big Fly’s, and he keeps them in his freezer. One time he swallowed two, whole, and then he shrank to the size of a spider and spent a week living in his carpet.’

Lishman laughed to himself, ‘He had adventures in his Axminster!’

Then he looked at Sushi and could see that she didn’t quite follow his point, so he told her, ‘There’s a whole world of flashbacks there, if you want some.’

‘Get some for this weekend, huh?’ she said.

He nodded.

Then she stood up suddenly, said to no-one in particular, ‘I’m tired, I think I’ll go crash out. I’m totally worn.’ She asked him, ‘Do you want to come back with me?’ adding, almost in explanation, ‘I’ve got a new place.’

He nodded, rose and followed her back through town, a few paces back, like a Moslem bride, quiet and obedient. Once, as they walked past the railway station, he saw her shiver, hard, all the way down her spine, and his heart skipped a beat.

She high steps, he thought.

She high steps like a pony.

She took him straight into the bedroom. He drew the curtains as she pulled back the quilt. He took off his jeans. She teased him, ‘You still can’t afford underwear?’

As she peeled off her skirt and pants he looked at the patch of dark hair between her legs. She paused and looked at him, then she sat on the edge of the bed and unlaced her boots, kicking them away, but as she lay back she still wore her new T-shirt.

They lay together, face to face, legs twining, hands running around gathering skin and goose pimples. She stretched over and lifted Lishman’s sunglasses from the table and put them on. Then she reached down and took hold of him saying, ‘Let’s try not to make a mess.’ She shifted beneath him to accommodate him, stretched out her legs, pointing her toes, feet raised just above the mattress. Then she curled her heels around his waist and locked them together at the base of his spine.

He entered her. They kissed some more. They licked tongues and drank each others saliva. He raised himself up on his elbows and looked down at her; lank hair, sunglasses, a wide mouth breathing sweet shallow breaths.

He looked at her breasts rolling lazily beneath her T-shirt, the nipples were hard points that he gnawed in turn through the cheap cotton.

He looked at the logo on her T-shirt. It said,

A Moment of Guilt,

A Lifetime of Innocence

He whispered to her, ‘Sushe,’ but she didn’t notice. ‘Sushi!’ he repeated louder, as they rocked together. She looked up at him through knitted brows, ‘What?’

‘Can I shoot on your T-shirt?’

She nodded.

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