"Memories of Olive" is one of twelve stories which I'm hoping at some point will be published as a collection themed around golden-age celebrity Hollywood deaths. Fusing facts with fiction, gossip with direct quotes, movie memories and false memories, these stories are fictionalised biographies of actors who died too soon - whose promising lives were cut short. In this case, the story is of Olive Thomas, a silent film actress who accidentally drank a mercury bichloride liquid solution believing it to be drinking water (reports vary) whilst intoxicated. Her apparent words after realising what she had done were "Oh my God!" I've used this phrase throughout the telling of her story, a poignant coda to a truncated life.
I took the title, "Memories of Olive", from this painting of Olive by Alberto Vargas:
Here's an extract:
Oh, my God!
Brown hair cascading - oh how it cascades - to shoulder length. Red barrette, just so. Eyes closed. Lips parted. What was I thinking? Visible upper set of teeth. Jack: delete set, sounds false. Pale pink rose twixt thumb and ring finger. Black silk gown bunched, on the slide. Such exposed flesh. Breathe in. Breathe in. Left breast clutched (echoes of Wah!), nipple palmed. Right breast exposed: a masturbatory tool. Such sweet scent.
Topless portrait of Olive Thomas (Memories of Olive), painted by Alberto Vargas for Florenz Ziegfield. Current location unknown.
Oh, my God!
Ambit #231 also contains poetry, prose and art from Khairani Barokka, Victoria Kennefick, Lisa Kelly, Judy Brown, Elaine Beckett, Martin Bax, Dominic Kennedy, John Saul / Sinead McGeechan, Caitlin Newby, Imogen Cassels, Vala Thorodds, Helen Nisbet, Rosalind Brown / Laylah Amarchih, Bridget Khursheed, Stephen, Kate Schneider and Helen Charman, Sophie Larrimore, George Ayres, Gillian Walker, N.J. Stallard, Lydia Popowich, Sophie van Llewyn, Phoebe Eccles, James Stradner, Théo Mercier.
Finally I wrote "Memories of Olive" whilst listening to "Gravity Pulls" by Echobelly on repeat.