Sam Averis lives in Christchurch with his wife and daughter. His stories have been published in Psychopomp Magazine, Flash Frontier, and other online journals. Two of his stories were highly commended in the 2016 New Zealand National Flash Fiction Day competition. You can find him on twitter @sam_serif, or on his website samaveris.wordpress.com.
It’s like exercise: difficult and frustrating, but ultimately satisfying..
Escape from Stanley Island
Heavy rain-drops continued to fall, giving the flood-water the dappled texture of reptile skin. Stanley trudged to the shed, skirting the muddy garden that ringed his house. The little red-brick structure sat atop a rounded hill that rose from the water, like the long pink nipple on Eleanor’s perfect left breast.
Not so long ago it had afforded Stanley’s wee family a view of their neighbourhood, from the squat pre-fabs of his daughter’s primary school, to the sycamore-studded park. In the autumn the three of them used to lie together, face up in the leaves, to watch the samaras spin their way earthwards.
Now it was just grey water, extending to the horizon to meet an equally grey sky, a bland expanse punctuated by occasional slate roof tops emerging from the murk. He exhaled hard through pursed lips, blowing out his cheeks like a frog. He was in a right pickle, and there was no denying it any longer. He slammed the shed door shut behind him, and winced under a shower of rotting chunks of timber framing.
Inside it was nearly empty. She’d taken their stuff while he was at work one day. Hauled it across the city to a fancy garage three cars wide and owned by some asshole who named his boat after himself. The SS Gerald! The scraps she’d left behind were piled in the centre of the concrete floor, half claimed by rising mildew. It looked gross, but any smell was blown away by the chill wind off the water.
He dug out a blow-up paddling pool, a broken half of a kayak paddle, and a pair of floaties from when Eleanor took their daughter for swimming lessons. They’d stopped going when the instructor moved on, taking his abs and his tiny togs with him. A mere coincidence, she swore. He smiled with the barest corner of his mouth. Guess she regretted that now, in this waterlogged world.
There was a box too, sealed with masking tape. He peeled it off into a ball the size of an orange, which stuck to one hand then the other until he flapped hard enough to shake it off. Inside were a stack of old department store catalogues from when Eleanor had modelled part-time. He flicked through damp pages until he found her, hands on hips, peddling a mid-priced sports bra and brief set. He ripped it out and folded it into a little paper hat, which he propped up uneasily amid his thinning hair. Eleanor’s face stared out from it like a skull, facing the world with the leering smile of someone who knows exactly what they want.
When he dragged his gear outside, he could hear the distant buzz of an outboard motor. He squinted and could just make out the white hull of Gerald’s stupid boat ploughing through the water. It carved graceful arcs around jutting chimneys, and skipped past lonely weather-vanes. Eleanor leaned out from the bow, her hand raised to shield her eyes as she searched for him, a histrionic gesture under the roiling cloud.
Shit. There wasn’t much time to get away. With one hand holding the hat to his head he threw the paddling pool into the shallows. He stepped in and it floated, after a fashion. He pushed off with the paddle then thrashed at the water, throwing up spray and moving the makeshift vessel in a sad little circle.
She called his name. He stood up, fell, and stood again, floundering on thin PVC floor of his vessel. As the speedboat neared he raised the paddle to the clouds, shook his fist and screamed.
He was Stanley, pirate-king of the flood, and they would never take him alive!
First published takahe 89