DEBUT FLASH: 'The Mayor is Coming' by Shelley Hastings

I fly down the stairs two at a time. My long boots laced tight. The kitchen packed with people. Music blaring, ashtrays overflowing and Julie with her laddered tights and chipped black nails waiting, smoking on the kitchen counter. She jumps on me. We both fall heavily crushing a woman by the fridge who screams and spills her drink everywhere. Her matted red hair in my face, my eye on her thin black lips shouting ‘What the fuck? What the fuck?’ Julie just clambers over her, grabs the keys off the side and then my elbow, and lurches for the front door.

Outside there are jerk chicken barbeques blocking the road. The smell of smoke and rubbish gone sour in the summer heat. Bass bins outside Costcutters. Music so loud my cheeks vibrate. Jim is there, scaring everyone with his infected piercings. Flipping them in and out. The pink tip of his tongue waggling as the pills dissolve. Spit hanging from the corner of his mouth.

Later we lie on our backs at Castle Green and watch the sun go down. Julie pours lukewarm cider into the corner of my mouth. I roll around on the grass and stretch out, grab the flowers in the beds behind me, feel the velvet petals between my fingertips. Then I close my eyes and let the earth give way. I fall through the loamy darkness so I can only see a tiny shaft of light at the top. I feel the heat from the earth’s core on my spine. Julie peers down at me, grinning, her eyes like saucers.

At dawn we walk home. The morning workers stare at us. Julie cackles. Cracking her cider bottle in their direction. ‘You’re all fuckers’ she says. We collapse on an old blanket in the front room and spoon.

The following day Lou moves in. She sells speed all day then stays up all night re-painting her room then scrubbing down the sides in the kitchen where the plastic has gone yellow. Julie hates her, pours milk down the floorboards in her bedroom so she will think she’s going off. But it drips through the ceiling onto our sofa, so we drag it out onto the road where it sits festering, collecting rubbish and mould.

There are complaints and at the end of that month we are thrown out without warning. We sit on the pavement in front of the 7-11. Protesting. Singing.  Drinking brandy and finishing Lou’s speed, eating garlic fries from Slix. There is a fire on the main road and traffic comes to a halt as police and fire engines speed past us and we stand up and raise our arms in the air, like the noise, the sirens, is for us. The traffic is stopped for us. The Mayor is coming for us. Then everything goes quiet and I touch Julies cheek as the clouds billow past us and I feel my heart pumping fast in my chest.

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