I am immersed in the sepia shot of memory.
Maple Summer and the slow lawns drenched in water. They soak the thick blades of grass and make you drowsy in the heat. The air is full of sap. Fluids breed. Drop by drop the water falls, saturating the drooping petals that want to rise with dawn’s tumescence. The lawns extend to the river that uncoils like a fettered snake beyond human harness and the things we keep at bay in daylight but not the night, never the night, for it knows.
When you’ve seen someone try again and again to end themselves and you’ve hung onto hope seeing desperation steam your window pane, it takes a massive shift to change things. The past is a dead weight, it lies in our minds with the heavy despair of a baby whose future is still born. It wasn’t the first time she miscarried but the second that opened up the scar that was too deep. The wound would not be stemmed. She would cry for hours naked and alone with a noise like blood in her lungs, rocking on the floor at the top of the Victorian house we haunted. We didn’t live, there was no life left. I used to hold her in my arms, lost in the darkness. She hated light and I’d go to bed with a guttering candle in my hand. The house itself seemed lost in shadow even during the daytime.
Indigo eyes set in olive skin. Maple had beauty from a teenager when she unfolded like an exotic flower and knew she could choose any man. She picked me for reasons that eluded me but I didn’t question. We had great sex. We partied until insanity stole the dawn.
Then she wanted kids and the alteration of her mind and soul began. It was like the slow implosion of some star. It’s beautiful. The colours change, the world shimmers in kaleidoscopic radiance. Maple’s face radiated conflict of being , her eyes shifted inside and she became someone else. She rode me into the dawn. I fucked several different women a week, all in Maple’s body, as if she was possessed by the wandered whores of a brothel. She pushed herself to extreme sexual acts at night, while during the day she sat alone with the few clothes she’d bought for the children who were never meant to be. She was dispossessed. And I was harnessed to a libido deranged by sterility’s cold touch.
I pulled from her hand the dripping razor blade, rusted with over use.
‘Leave me, fuck someone else’, she said one evening as we ate.
I considered cruelty to be her motive, but it was despair and its relentless accumulation that crawled across her skin like a silent spider in the kitchen twilight.
‘I don’t want someone else Maple.’
‘I am not her Leander, you need to find Maple again.’
‘She’s here’, I said, reaching out for her hand.
But it didn’t look like her and it didn’t feel like her and I grew tired of waiting. One night she got a friend drunk and took her into me as I lay in bed. I watched Maple strip this other woman, but as her skin touched mine what I felt lying next to me was the past and all its archived violations.
The next morning over breakfast Maple said ‘Leander bring me men, a new one every day so my body can forget who I am.’
‘Shoot up, derange yourself with drugs, there are many paths to oblivion.’
‘That is what I want.’
‘Why the body?’
‘It’s all I have, it’s all I ever had.’
Anger fought arousal in my loins as I looked at her and knew she was no longer the woman I had impregnated with despair.
‘How do we survive this?’
‘I need to forget the wound, I am Summer and all I feel is winter. ‘
‘You think this will get rid of your scars?’
‘And what do I do, as Maple pornographises her soul?’
‘You need to go out and fuck as many women as you can.’
I left her at the table and walked away from her and the haemorrhaged past, my back to the wind, my sail set relentlessly towards tomorrow.
It’s summertime and I watch for women at the edge of the garden. It lies by the river and is shared by a number of houses that parade rich brickwork to the sunbathers and boaters who pass by. It is a new house. I am alive. I am lost in the future, cut adrift, and follow the line of the water as I tread the grass looking for her, the one I will pick up that day and fuck and never see again.
I see her shimmer in the sun. I can smell her skin and the heat rising from it. She is like an exotic flower decked out in a bright swimming costume that leaks colours like bodily fluid. Her figure is perfectly full and balanced. The heat and the sap and the violent sun beating down on woman is life.
She sees me and gets up. She walks slowly, turns, looks at me, and goes to sit by the bank’s edge. She puts one foot, then the other into the water and moves her legs. And I watch her muscles ripple beneath her bronze skin. She is saying something, it is sensuous, it is an invitation. She looks ahead, as if she is the only one there and all eyes are upon her. The crowd of people by the water’s edge vanishes.
She dances as she moves, she glides.
I walk over to her, casting a shadow that falls against her shoulders, a part of me caressing her. Soon it will be my hands. I look down at her, at her clear skin. She knows I am watching her but she does not turn. I can see the shape of her breasts inside her swimming costume.
A boat passes along the river sending waves that reach her legs and she gets up and turns.
That is when she looks at me. I look into her. I penetrate her. I feel the lust of tides and know the secrets of fluids which course through her veins and shoot out from raised stamen to feathery stigma of hot flowers world without end.
She walks towards the house across the cool wet grass. I follow. She is leading me. Desire and longing are the second umbilical cord.
There is an open door and she looks back at me as she goes in. It is a simple fleeting glance that says everything. The glance existed before the world was built. I stand there and hear the noise of running water and enter the house like a thief. Across the hall is the bathroom. She is in the shower and she looks at me as she washes. Soap and water run off her large breasts and down her stomach, slowing at her pubic hair before dripping like come from her cunt. She places the shower head between her legs and gasps.
I strip and she pulls me in by my cock. I touch her breasts, I run my fingers around her nipples and I take her mouth. I take her body. Her buttocks slap against the tiles like the wet and rocking hull of a boat resisting anchor. She is holding me, she has her hands around my back and she is pulling me into her. She penetrates me with nails. And I enter her with sin, for the richness of its taste is released as innocence in sinning is born.
I can feel her temperature rise, as the small gasps increase in rapidity. I look into her eyes and she looks away. I must remain unknown and be forgotten, I know the rules. She is beautiful and I feel the scars inside. They have tattooed her being and enfold her like the tendrils of a vine. The loss of promise is our wine, it tastes of hills full of summer’s heat. We are fulfilled by the emptiness that takes hold. The house is tenantless. She is alive in fits of passion, like someone coughing words from a broken lung.
Afterwards we get dressed and cross the slow wet lawn together.
It has to be like this for Maple, without speaking, as if we are strangers.
Bio: Richard Godwin is a widely published crime and horror writer, whose work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including recently Pulp Ink. Apostle Rising, in which a serial killer is crucifying politicians and recreating the murder scenes of an unsolved case, is his first published novel. It has has received excellent reviews and is under offer for two foreign rights acquisitions. You can find out more about the author at his website here http://www.richardgodwin.net/ . His Chin Wags At The Slaughterhouse are popular interviews he conducts with other writers http://www.richardgodwin.net/blog .
27 thoughts on “Maple Summer by Richard Godwin”
A fine piece of writing
Having read much of Richard Godwin’s fiction and poetry, as well as his one-day-to-be classic Apostle Rising, I can honestly say that few writers can provide readers with as much reading pleasure as he!
Sal thank you so much my friend.
This is a wonderful story full of sadness and beauty. Thank you.
Kristin thank you for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
Are we describing the inevitable evolution of a marriage. Poetic . . . yet so repulsive. Hmm . . . I’ll have to think about this one.
Bryant it is about the breakdown of a relationship. And two people attached to a situation that only allows for mutation.
You write so beautifully, man.
Charles thanks so much. I appreciate all your support.
All the slow, languid feel of spoiled honey on the skin. When Richard wants to set a mood it is certain and unmistakably he doing the narration. You cannot help sliding into the despair and corruption of the piece. Sad and moving, my friend.
AJ you have caught the mood entirely. Thank you for all your support my friend.
Ahh here’s another of Richard’s lyrical lovelies that make life worth living – the delicious drear and despair of carrying on under Doom’s watch – the futility of games to get by – and yet I can’t help but feel good that Maple’s game wasn’t all game in the end.
A disturbing and perverse vision of endless love. Richard, You paint a dark and painful picture of a twisted sort of devotion, and one can only wonder how long it would take before they completely destroy each other. Then again, that’s assuming that hasn’t already occurred. Only you, Richard, can create images that evoke fear and heartbreak at the same time.
Joyce it is about a process of mutual destruction. Thank you my friend, I am glad you enjoyed it.
MissA wisely said, the game is their undoing and yet no game at all. Thank you for your comment.
Wonderful use of language. You display raw, pungent emotion smoothly and beautifully. You have a terrific ability to portray incredibly painful situations with a grace that allows us to fully appreciate the emotional impact they possess.
I loved. “insanity stole the dawn”.
Charlie thank you so much.Your ability to appreciate what I am doing is a great thing to experience.
First-rate writing, as always. And imbued with this vague sense of dread.
Chris thank you for your comment. I appreciate all your support.
To this tale of corrupt despair, Richard weaves a sad beauty throughout the tragic fabric of two souls who exist only in each other’s twisted desires.
This is a powerful, evocative blending of horror and the longing of the human heart… a love story of almost sublime terror..
“She was dispossessed. And I was harnessed to a libido deranged by sterility’s cold touch.” Haunting… absolutely haunting!
Once again, Richard… you have crafted an incredibly breathtaking story, breathing life into characters who bring such an ache to this heart, I had to stop several times and come back to it later.
As other stories of yours have, Richard… Maple Summer evokes an incredibly strong response in me… I need some time to think on these feelings. For a mad moment at the end of this last reading… I wished to be the woman.
Veronica thank you so much for your detailed response and close reading. I really do appreciate your support.
Really impressed by the allotment of metaphors in this. A fine piece of work, dangerous, exotic and dark.
Thank you for your comment Carrie.
I’m glad you enjoyed it.
I found the style you used in this excellent story very poetic. I was almost like reading a long free-verse poem. The descriptions of sex were impressive, not for the erotism, but in the way you managed to drench the whole act with sadness and longing and despair. You created a very dark atmosphere …… I saw this played out in the colour of dried blood.
Very evocative work.
Keith thank you so much for your comment. Your understanding of what I was conveying is most welcome.
So many gorgeous lines, like these:
…all in Maple’s body, as if she was possessed by the wandered whores of a brothel.
Desire and longing are the second umbilical cord.
And embedded in so much gorgeous imagery. This has such a slow, bright feel to it, like staring at the sun, or yes, like the implosion of a star, as you say. Exquisite in tone, and so much longing and despair. Beautiful despair, I should say.
I have to commend Leander, though, for he is still faithful to her, and that has its own beauty.
Really, really beautiful, Richard. (I overuse the word here, but truly, it is)