Егор Журавлёв CC
Helpless, Helpless, Helpless
An uncomfortable silence, after our fight. Prairie yellow comes the moon while it’s so quiet we can hear the clouds rushing between us and the stars as you drive the rental down the highway to somewhere or another, I’m too worked up to remember now. Prairie yellow moon, and I pick a CD for keeping us together. Your hand on the leather of the wheel, mine on the buttons, clicking through. I want this one, I say, holding Neil Young by my fingertips. Fine by me, you say.
I’m thinking and you’re thinking and driving. I sway a little to the music. You and I, we’ve never had a house we owned, and we probably never will. North Ontario, haven’t been there. It’s likely huge, like this birdless night field we are continually passing. Then it gets into me, this song. Takes its steps going wounded, like a man on a bad leg making his way from place to place slow, admitting the slowness to himself, knowing he can’t get there the speed he wants to go. But going anyway.
It’s getting late, it’s got late, it’s too late, I’m late; slim differences and vast. If you sing helpless, helpless, helpless, like the singer does, it evokes almost its opposite, but not quite. In that difference, there’s a great deal of feeling. The difference in the heights of individual wheat stalks in a field of millions. The differences in the distance between the sun and the earth and the sun and mars. Between us and the moon. Degrees of coldness, degrees of light.
We get cold. I crank the heating; you, busy scanning the path the headlights give. All my changes are someplace else. I’m getting thirsty, you say. I put the water bottle up to your mouth and help you drink. The road makes no changes to itself, no lights are coming the other way. Only the moon is with us, touching the fields and the rare farmhouses.
You swallow a mouthful of carwarm water and say thanks. The realms of the world are endless. I am helpless, you are helpless, the world is helpless. I couldn’t keep it, I say, and it’s no one’s fault, not yours, not mine, and if we can get over this we can try again. You make a tiny sound, look on down the road. Helpless, helpless, helpless, I sing, and I mean all of it. I don’t look at you again, but the moon looks in, and the song seeps in, to pool in the gaps we leave.
Helen McClory's first story collection On the Edges of Vision, won the Saltire First Book of the Year 2015. Her second story collection, Mayhem & Death, was written for the lonely and published in 2018. The Goldblum Variations was published by Penguin in October 2019. Her stories have been listed as part of the Best of British and Irish Flash Fiction 2018 and placed in the Anthology The Best of British Fantasy 2018. There is a moor and a cold sea in her heart
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