Melanie Dixon is short story writer, novelist and poet, based in Christchurch, with work published and anthologised internationally. She is a graduate (cum laude) from Hagley Writers’ Institute, and is currently a student on the Masters of Creative Writing programme at the University of Auckland. www.melaniedixon.com
Two miles to springsteen
That night Springsteen played we danced on the driveway, barefoot against the concrete, moving in time to the steady bass drifting from Addington. After the earthquakes and fires, the city breathed out. All that was over now.
You wrapped your arms around my shoulders.
Next door, shouting. Words barely concealed by weatherboard and gib. The smash of breaking glass. A door slamming.
In the distance, a baby crying.
Two streets away a police siren tears up the main street.
Warmth beneath my feet.
One of those still, summer nights. Perfect for dancing.
Swans May Bite Without Warning
I’m running and I’m running and I’m running, and my legs are pounding and my heart is thumping and I’m running along the Heathcote River and my feet are hitting the ground and my heart is thudding and I’m running and I’m running and I’m running through the Ernle Clark reserve, and there’s a black and white dog running in front of me, and it’s not my dog and it’s running and I’m running and it’s running, and the branches above me are being pushed around by the winter breeze, and the Heathcote is bubbling towards Beckenham then St Martins and I’m running and I’m running and I’m running, and a fantail loops in front of me and it’s flying and I’m running and it’s flying and the cold air stings my eyes and my eyes are watering and I’m not crying, I’m not crying, I’m not crying, and my feet are thumping the ground, and I run into a puddle and the mud splashes the back of my legs and I’m running and I’m running and I’m running and the sign says, Swans may bite without warning, and a family of shelducks with six ducklings paddle in the field behind the fence and they’re paddling and I’m running and I’m running and I’m running and I don’t see any swans and nothing bites me and nothing hurts me and I’m not crying, it’s just me and my legs and my feet and my heart, and I’m running and I’m running and I’m running.
If you keep going downriver, you’ll come to the place where they found the body that time. It was puffed up and floating, face-down, where the river reaches the floodgates at the Woolston Cut. It took four policemen in waders to drag the body out onto the bank where it lay stinking in the spring sunshine. One of the policemen threw up into the flax bushes and had to be taken a little way away, he was made to sit down while he got over the worst of it. It must have been his first body. Poor kid. They cordoned off the area with police tape and someone must’ve phoned for backup because soon the place was swarming with cops and cars and flashing lights. When they lifted the body, to put it in the van, all that built-up gas came out and the body moved like it was still alive, and the four policemen almost dropped it. Then that one was throwing up, all over again.
After the van had left and they’d taken the body away and things had got a bit quiet, three of the policemen combed the area, looking for clues. But there wasn’t anything to find, so by four o’clock that afternoon they’d all gone back to the office, or maybe home to their wives and kids and a stiff drink after what had happened, and what they’d seen.
On the news it said they weren’t looking for any suspects, which means it was a suicide, or a drowning. It all goes to show they don’t know nothing about anything that goes on around here, and if you ask me, that’s the way it’s gonna stay.