Sunday 28 April 2024

Commercial Book / Perfect Love

As many of you will be aware, my short story collection, "Commercial Book", was recently published by The Eyeball Museum via Psychofon Records. The collection features 40 short stories of exactly 1000 words in length, and these stories are based on the 40 songs of exactly one minute in length that featured on "Commercial Album", released by The Residents in 1980. "Commercial Book" is fully endorsed by the band.

I'm aware that some of my readers will be unfamiliar with The Residents, and fans of the band will also be unfamiliar with my writing. As the book can be enjoyed without any prior knowledge of the music, I've decided to post some of the stories here in full, so readers can get an indication of what the collection is like. My first posting was Margaret Freeman. This second story is "Perfect Love". A link to the song concludes this post.

Perfect Love

A hit is a necessity to the making of a miss.

Cate was on the rebound when she came to Pendour Cove. In other circumstances the area would be idyllic. The curvature of sunken green land sucked down into a basin peppered with black rock and curated by light refracting through a blue topaz sea. The only manmade structure the rentable shack at the top of the cliff, together with the well-worn path bearing tracks of the device containing the giant Mason jar which could be winched from the water and – through double swing doors – into the shack itself.

She arrived mid-afternoon on a late summer’s day. The sun creating a hard glaze on the veneer of the sea so that it appeared the surface might be picked up in one piece, like the caramelized sugar atop a crème brûlée. Cate sighed, the exhale carrying suggestive fragments of a broken heart. In her mind’s eye, her former lover, Giallo, the circus clown, approached her as he had on their first date, a bright yellow flower in his lapel. As she walked down the compacted trail to the beach a stiff breeze whisked a mist of salt spray onto her skin. She licked her lips. Cate preferred this taste to that of tap water. She reached the bottom and faced the sea. Her shoes made impressions in the soft, wet, sand.

That evening – after winching the Mason jar outside the double doors - she burned a candle for Giallo, the nicitating flame illuminating then eclipsing the furniture within the room. Despite the extortionate price, the interior of the cabin was meagre: a table, a chair, a fridge, a stove, a sink, a toilet, a bath, a bed. Each object functional, unromantic. Cate allowed a moment of reflection, her visage static as her shadow danced. Was there such a thing as perfect love? She wet her fingers and extinguished the flame, plunging her into a darkness from which a new light might emerge.

She woke early the next morning. Daylight straining against the double doors, delineating two rectangular patterns around the edges as though the open leaves of a gilded book, with the wider gap between them suggesting a gold-finished spine. Cate took hold of her hair and held it in the light, before making a three-inch cut. Moving to the stove she lit the gas low, burning the split ends just enough so that they didn’t disintegrate. An instantly identifiable, but indescribable odour filled the shack. She wrapped yesterday’s underwear around the hair and placed it in her pocket. Then she opened the double doors inwards and strode into the view bowed by the jar’s curve.

Operating the winch, she kept a keen eye on the jar as it jiggered on its little wooden trolley down to the beach. Once it reached the flattened surface she caught up with it. Taking the fetish from her pocket she stood on tiptoes then placed it inside. A second winch on a plinth half-buried in sand allowed her to ease the Mason jar into the sea. She counted to twenty-five once it was fully submerged. An optimum distance for fishing.

Cate spent the day squeezing sand between her toes, precariously climbing those black rocks, watching the movement of tiny red crabs which seemed to multiply before her eyes, and spotting the raised burrows of razorfish which fed by straining organic matter through their thin bodies.

Come evening, Cate returned to the shack. She prepared a simple meal of sandwiches and salad which she ate voraciously, her eyes fixed on the scene beyond the double doors. At 8pm, as the sun began its descent, she operated the winch, the electric mechanism drawing the Mason jar out of the sea and up the steep incline to the shack.

Despite her curiosity Cate averted her gaze until she had closed the double doors and was no longer alone.

The creature within the jar was more fish than man, but Cate’s response was dictated by the potency of the fetish. Gills fluctuated in their opening and closing either side of a ribbed neck; opaque eyes unblinking; webbed hands pressed flat against the interior glass; the remaining body suspended within the water, just as a bird might hover in flight.

Love swelled within Cate’s breast. A rush of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, phenylethylamine. She ran fingertips over the glass, which the creature emulated. Unselfconsciously, Cate removed her clothing, pressed her body against the jar, wrapped her arms either side. Angling her head, she directed her lips to the formerly liquid sand, and the creature reciprocated. Pure joy sparkled through her.

Over the remaining days the creature mirrored more of her actions. When she sat at the table, it adopted a crouch. When she slept, it curled. When she smiled and laughed the creature responded in kind, bubbles rising to break the water’s surface. When she ate, she threw scraps into the water. When she toileted, it did too.

Should the creature have exhibited any attributes of its own Cate was aware the spell would be broken. Perfect love can only exist without a partner’s intervention. She projected her desires upon the creature and they were mirrored. Should it initiate an action, this would risk displeasure. She knew the longer they were together, the greater this likelihood would become. Love was a one-way ticket. To retain it, she had to mythologise it.

The weather took a downturn on her final day. Clouds portended rain. She pushed back the double doors against a high wind. The metal latch rattled to hold them open. As she kissed the glass one final time, her insides ballooning in an amalgam of emotions, she saw hesitation in the creature’s expression, a panic of goodbyes.

The winch broke halfway in the descent, the cable whipping against the Mason jar as it tumbled down the cliff side, the glass smashing against the black rocks.

Cate gasped, polarised.

Those tiny crabs began their work; bodies the colour of hearts.

*  *  *

"Commercial Book" was available in a special limited edition version with CD and Perfect Love chewing gum, however this has sold out. The regular paperback is still available HERE although copies are also limited.

And here is the song, my inspiration (only the song, my story has nothing to do with the representation in this video):

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