Title: Sport 23: Spring 1999

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, November 1999

Part of: Sport

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Sport 23: Spring 1999

Unity Books 10th Birthday Short Story Competition

Unity Books 10th Birthday Short Story Competition

page 188

The Unity Books 10th Birthday Short Story Competition attracted approximately 500 entries—an astounding response. The three winners were Penelope Bieder, David Lyndon Brown and Prue Toft, who took the top prize. Unity would like to thank all those who took the time to enter, and to heartily congratulate Prue, Penny and David.

Prue Toft

The Dragon's Gullet

Once she had been awed by the snow-capped mountain peaks and convoluted ravines, then engrossed by the minute details of a heron spearing carp, peasants bearing loads, circling serpents and dragons flying on fanned wings. And that was only his chest. His wrists were bangled with manacles of barbed wire as untidy as a child's needlework, clumsily drawn black cracks criss-crossed with sutured thread. But it was the latest addition to his body-art which captured her attention. The rest was mere wallpaper.

Her own name stood out freshly raw, pin pricked in blue ink on his forearm.

She looked in horror at her name so familiar, which he had transformed into a pink and swollen, slightly weeping wound.

‘I've bought you a copy of Metro,’ he said, ingratiating himself. His smile could be very winning.

She did not answer. Was he so manipulative, she wondered, to have deliberately tattooed her name on him arm straight after she had asked him to leave?

‘I thought you'd be interested in Bill Ralston's editorial,’ he persevered.

‘I've read it,’ she replied irritably. ‘Why did you do it, Mike?’

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He gave his slightly abashed ‘little boy grin’. ‘I don't know, I was just thinking how special you are. Don't you like it?’

‘How could you get that tattoo when I had just told you things were finished between us? I want you to shift out.’

‘Shall I read your horoscope?’

‘No, I don't want my horoscope. I want you to go,’ her words getting loud and precise.

‘What's the matter, did I get you the wrong book? I thought you'd be pleased.’

‘You could have bought the whole of Unity Books and it wouldn't make the slightest difference to what is happening between us.’

His smile died. He dropped the Metro on the table.

Now, as usual, she felt awful. He walked out onto the deck with his head hanging. He pretended to admire the bush, his thumbs in his jeans’ pockets, rocking slightly on the balls of his feet. Muttering embarrassed sounds of ‘hmm’, ‘yea’, he shrugged and nodded to himself.

She would normally do anything to break the silence, expunge her guilt at wounding him; make things normal again. Her pity bound her as fast as the barbed wire inked around his wrists. The familiar see-saw was tilting. He infuriated her beyond endurance, then faced with the remorse she weakened. She prepared the vegetables for their dinner knowing she had not the heart to make him leave, not this time anyway.

Slicing through the purple kumara skin, she wondered what would happen, would they continue like this year after year until they both grew too old for other options? How would he age? Would the larks on his shoulder disappear down the gullets of the dragons, and the mountains collide with the waves as his body shrivelled. Would the lines run together gradually turning him into a little old navy-blue man, an ink-coloured goblin?

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E-mail: unitybooks@xtra.co.nz