Ted, Sylvia by Jason Jackson

Ted, Sylvia

Jason Jackson


I’m at the theatre. He thinks I’m at home, but I’m here, wearing the dress he likes. I texted him an hour ago: break a leg, darling.

There’s a hush, and the curtains part. An empty stage, and then there he is: my husband, but he belongs to someone else tonight. Even though I know the lights hide me from him, I shrink into my seat.

And then she comes on stage. White dress, off-the-shoulder. Smaller than I expected. Beautiful.

I came because I had to see. At night, in bed, he recites his lines, and I fall asleep wondering if he does the same when he’s in bed with her.

He’s told me a little about her, and a little about the play.

“The opening scene shows the first time Ted and Sylvia meet,” he said.

“Is it love at first sight?”

“She bites his cheek. Draws blood.”

“Shit. Why?”

He sighed. “Haven’t you ever felt like that?”

“What? Have I ever wanted to bite someone?”

“Not someone,” he said. “Have you ever wanted to bite me?”

And now the theatre is hot. I want to say to the man on my right, “That’s my husband.”

On the stage, they’re both spotlit, moving towards one another, spinning. It’s a scene he was unsure of. He thinks it looks stupid. But the director is experimental.

I watch as she spins. Her hair is longer than mine. I imagine myself at home, spinning in front of the mirror, naked, trying to see my own chaos.

He’s surprisingly graceful. She’s taught him that move dancers do when they twist around, where their head seems a little behind their body, and then it quickens at a point in each turn to catch up with the body’s spin.

And now they collide. Their spotlights join in an intense brightness. The director was right: it’s incredibly effective.

They don’t kiss, but their hands are on each other. An intense embrace, and then she pulls his head down by the hair, drags it to the side.

She bites his cheek.

There’s a gasp from the audience, and he pulls back, covering his face. When he takes his hands away there is blood on them, and he rubs them down her dress, over her breasts.

She throws her head back and her laugh breaks the silence.

The spotlight cuts out, and I’m standing, fists clenched.

The man to my right is looking at me. I want to say, “I know how it’s done. A blood bag in his hand. She didn’t bite him.”

I want to say, “He’s sleeping with her.”

A single spot: Sylvia – her real name is Catherine – alone at a writing desk.

And only now do I see what I can do. I ask the man to my right if I can get past and I walk into the aisle, then straight up to the stage. I put both hands on its lip, take a breath, and then I push myself up.


About the author: Jason Jackson’s prize-winning writing has been published extensively online and in print. In 2018 Jason won the Writers Bureau competition, came second (for the second year running) in the Exeter Short Story competition, was runner-up in the Frome Short Story competition and had work shortlisted at the Leicester Writes competition. His work has also appeared this year at New Flash Fiction Review, Craft and Fictive Dream. In 2017 he was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Jason regularly tweets @jj_fiction


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The Black of the Words, and the White by Jason Jackson

The Black of the Words, and the White

by Jason Jackson

In the accident, James broke himself in so many places that when he came round three days later he was encased from the neck down in a full body cast.

“Look at all that white,” said Elizabeth, smoothing her hand along the plaster, but James didn’t answer. It was all he could do to blink.

The next day, Elizabeth brought a pen, and soon enough, with the sun coming through the slits in the blinds, the only sound was James’s sleep-breath and the scratch of Elizabeth’s pen.

She wrote first about driving through snow, listening to Joe Cocker on the radio singing about a letter, and then a man’s hand turning the dial. This led her onto a thought she’d had of how some forms of rage could only be contemplated in fragments. And then: a bag, left on a foreign train-platform and only remembered after two stops, how that moment of remembering would engender a decision to either sensibly get off and go back, or accept the will of the universe and continue on regardless.

This was all left-leg, and as she read her work back to herself she heard a strong voice in her head which was nothing like her own. The sound of quickening breaths interrupted her, and when she looked up she saw James blinking rapidly. She smiled, and when she looked down again at her words she became aware, suddenly, how much more white she still had to fill.

Over the next week, she would write on the chest-plate of ceiling fans in holiday hotel rooms, how their lopsided gyrations might lead the husband to demand an upgrade even though his wife admired the low-rent glamour of the creak and the whirr. She would write on an arm about a dream of a cheap false-eyelash, half pulled-away from its lid, how a woman might leave it like that as she climbed into bed with her dream-lover, and how the dream-lover might tear it off with his teeth. She would also write, moving towards the groin, of a cloud that really had looked like a castle, despite dismissive protestations, and a wave that had broken over a woman’s feet, leaving an orange starfish clinging to an ankle and a distant man, oblivious, with a camera and a rock. She’d write here also of a freshly-split avocado, its stone-cavity filled with black olives, left ostentatiously in the middle of an otherwise cleaned plate on a table set for two, and also of unworn yellow lingerie balled up in anger and thrown into a wicker bedroom bin.

And still, there was the black of the words, and the white of the cast, but Elizabeth was becoming increasingly unaware of any difference between the two, and as she wrote she forgot more and more to listen out for James’ breathing, which in any case had become quieter now, and soft, and slowing.

About the author: Jason Jackson writes short fiction and poetry. He also takes photographs. In a busy life, he hopes to get better at all three. Find links to Jason’s work at jjfiction.wordpress.com  and Jason tweets @jj_fiction

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