Turning by Rob Walton
‘The thing about pride is that it always goes before a fall.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous. You’re talking about pride as a negative thing. Pride can be a brilliant, positive thing. It can motivate and inspire.’
‘There you go. Prime example. Listen to you. Proud of your own vehemence. My simple outlook – uncluttered, that’s me – it won’t do for you – because you’ve got this higher intellectual thing going on. Academic pride. It ‘ll be the death of you.’
‘It ‘ll be the death of us. I’m hardly intellectual or academic, Hannah. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be going out with me if I was. If I were. If – see?’
‘Maybe you ensnared me by being so clever you were able to pretend to be less clever, and that’s how a simple girl fell into your trap.’
‘Right. Can we eat now?’
‘Well, we could do, but I thought the idea was we’d find some sort of lovely patch of grass. These are fields.’
‘They’re fields full of beautiful sunflowers, Hannah.’
‘But there’s nowhere to sit. Like you said – the fields are full of sunflowers.’
‘We could ask them to turn. You know, they turn and follow the sun. We could get them to tune in to my radiance. I could trick them into bending over naturally.’
‘We’ll just bend a few over unnaturally. Monsieur Farmer won’t mind. There are hundreds of them – ‘
‘Hundreds of beautiful – the other word you used – hundreds of beautiful sunflowers which you now want to destroy so we can eat some cheese?’
‘Sorry. And bread.’
‘And drink wine.’
‘You got me. Let’s burn them.’
Cliff and Hannah shook out a picnic rug, took out the food, took out the wine with the strange label and lay down on the rug. They closed their eyes, felt the warmth and briefly held hands. Cliff’s were slightly clammy and Hannah, in the course of rolling on to her side, wiped hers on the rug behind her. She smiled, then sat up, looked at the wine bottle for a few seconds, unscrewed and poured. Cliff took the glass from her.
He wasn’t pleased with the wine. He wanted better. He always wanted better.
They managed to finish the wine though. Hannah enjoyed it. She enjoyed the picnic until she convinced herself one of the sunflowers turned towards her. She leant over to tell Cliff, who had his eyes closed, and as she did, sunflower seeds fell on to the rug.
She looked to see if Cliff had brought another bottle. It was the kind of thing he would do even if, as now, they were only heading out for a couple of hours.
The sunflower spat seeds on to the rug. Then bent down and pinned Hannah’s hand to the rug. She heard it whisper and reach over to Cliff. It shook its head, resumed its original position, winked at Hannah, and burst into flames.