A Man with a Mask: Flash Fiction
Bridport Prize Shortlist
The first thing he saw: Naked legs and a man with a mask. It was cold. He cried.
His First Memory: Running to a caravan, climbing up the steps and inside. Everything was so big. There was no TV.
Worst Childhood Memory: Walking to school with his mother when a neighbor pulls up to offer them a lift. He misunderstands, thinks she’s ditching him and cries unconsolably until his mother gets into the front seat. His classmate Debbie is sitting in the back with him wearing an “I’m a cool cat” t-shirt with a picture of a cat on it. He feels stupid around her for the rest of his life. Debbie’s father looks at him funny in the rearview.
Teenage Fun: Drinking his first beer with his buddy Frank, it tasted awful, they thought they were drunk and laughed a lot. They did it again a week later.
On Being an Adult: Maxing out his credit card on food (OK beer too) and having to ask for help at home. The raised eyebrows of his father make him feel stupid. He vows never again.
On Sex: Finally. It is as good as they say and different too. He realizes that everyone has a different experience of it and his is that he goes into a trance. It’s more intoxicating that any alcohol or drug that he has tried. He has sex with Debbie. They look into each others eyes for a long time afterward. He feels like a “cool cat”.
Best Adult Memory: Debbie says “yes” while they are looking at cots which they will buy with money borrowed from his father. This is the first time she has smiled at him for a long time and he remembers why he loves her.
Worst Adult Memory #1: He doesn’t want to think about that one, it’s vague anyway, not like a real memory. She somehow deserved it, provoked it at least. He remembers fear, then blood. Then it was very quiet.
Worst Adult Memory #2: Sentencing. Seeing has father’s face, eyes down, when the judge spoke. Seeing Debbie’s father’s face when he got what he wanted but he didn’t smile. No. He doesn’t want to think about that either.
Prison Memory: A man he doesn’t know spits in his food. He is afraid to do something and afraid to do nothing so he just looks at the man until the man hits him very hard.
On Being Out: He remembers walking away from the prison gate, the air above his head was endless. He reached his hands up to the sky and it didn’t matter who was watching.
Last Memory: He has been hit very hard and undressed roughly. Two men wearing masks drag him down the rain-dark beach. He thinks maybe one of them is Debbie’s father. He keeps saying sorry. He was sorry. He knew he deserved it. The water was cold, he cried. A man with a mask and his own naked legs.