The following story "Where the Honey Meets the Air" appears in Australian Love Stories (Inkerman and Blunt) and also in my forthcoming collection (August 2015 - Spineless Wonders)
My Hearts Are Your Hearts.
"Where the Honey Meets the Air"
I call her Honey-Hannah and she calls me Sugar-Sam. It’s pretty sweet at our place.
And you know how it is with honey.
I hope you do.
Otherwise we’re not going to be on the same page for a while here.
You see it there in the bowl, pot, with the honeybee embossed – is that the word – on the side that curves and fits in the palm of your hand – and you take the silver spoon they gave you when you were born – that was a while ago now wasn’t it – maybe your were actually born with it in your mouth (joke) – and you dig into the viscous – I think that’s what it is, viscous, sounds good – viscous semi-liquid – it doesn’t resist – down goes the soft sharp side of the silver spoon (Shakespeare – joke) and you hold it just above your toast all buttery and gleaming in the light of the conservatory, and you let that honey run drip dribble flow manifest down onto the butter, the toast – and it glides and pools and glows, positively literally glows as if lit from within – and you think of a word and in the beginning it was, and the word was ‘meniscus’ and you wonder, there at the late morning breakfast table, if honey can be said to do meniscus, so you whip out the iPad (to tell the truth is was already there, whipped, all along) and off you go to Wikipedia and you’re a little bit the wiser because now you kind of know that the ‘meniscus’, plural menisci, from the Greek ‘crescent’, is the curve in the upper surface of a liquid close to the surface of the container, caused by the surface tension, and depending on the liquid and the surface’ – oh blah blah there’s lots more but that’s enough of that kind of talk really, for now – and I conclude that meniscus wasn’t what I was looking for was it – I’m just thinking of the skin of the honey aren’t I – the part where the honey meets the air and where it kind of resists something – pressure? moisture? distant laughter? – in the air, so that faint striations (OMG the old vocabulary is choofing along this morning) of heavenly pale butter beginning ever so delicately to marble (too heavy, this marble word) the envelope of the honey, and it is nearly time (tick tock/ ayers rock/silver slippers/ brighton rock – Shakespeare again) to put the spoon somewhere – where – not back in the honey, surely – oh bugger it, put it back in the honey and hang it all if some butter or a crumb of toast or the vestige of the dry wing of a dead moth happens to land in there – or an ant, what about an ant? have signals gone out to the bloody ants letting them know that the honey pot – pot or bowl? jar? – oh English it so devilish isn’t it – now if this were French the honey would be, I imagine, simply in a compotier de miel or some such and be done with it, unless some froggy whiz had siphoned it onto a soucoupe (yes I tried to look it up but if I faff around in the French/English, English/French for much longer we’ll be here all day and never get to put the toast and honey into anybody’s mouth, let alone mine) – but the funny thing was that not far from ‘miel’ there lay a squashed and dessicated ant caught in the pages of the big Larousse, and highlighting the word ‘mignarder’ which apparently is Frog for to pat, to caress, to fondle – I liked the sound of that – and it goes on to explain that if you do this thing called ‘mignarder son style’ (yes I too thought we had wandered into porno there, patting the stylus, but no) you are being finical – I could leave you to look up finical in your Shorter Oxford (get real, mister – look it up on google) but to save time I will tell you it means to be affectedly fastidious or precise in one’s use of language, and to engage in mincing metaphors (OMG!! – ‘mincing metaphors’!!!! exclamation mark – think of the dead ant – a metaphor, but is it mincing?) and I feel a figure of speech coming on in any case because the wing of the moth (imaginary) set me thinking that the honey is quite similar to amber, isn’t it, and what do you know – we called our baby daughter Amber, yes indeed we did – to Hannah and Sam, a baby girl – her eyes are as brown (simile alert) as – as what – oh you fill in the blanks – and her lips are as red as – oh no! – blood – some old fairy tale, I imagine it’s Snow White, is crossing wires with me and a witch or wicked queen or step-mother is planning to hook our baby (she’s now nearly two years old BTW and is partial to a spot of toast and honey herself, pat pat, caress, caress) up with a prince from some minor kingdom by the sea in the distant or not so distant future of the planet, supposing the poor old planet has a future which maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t, all things considered, what with the morphing climate and the disappearing bees (bee motif) and the way the sea is rising up like King Neptune reclaiming his rights whatever they were, and the way the sun is a dying star (have I got that right – oh sometimes I don’t seem to know what I am talking about) – and anyhow we were living together for a yonk, me and Honey-Hannah, and happy as two little bees in lavender (that didn’t really work, did it – never mind) when one day HH who had not sighted blood as red as blood for a while came out of the ensuite with a funny look on her face and a funny thing in her hand and said she thought she might be pregnant and she was of course and so we thought we’d zip off to the registry office and tie the knot – something that went out of fashion for a few years, but has come back with a vengeance in the form of the Wedding Industry of which more a bit later – when Her Family swept in and tied us up in knots, ribbons, bows and a certain amount of barbed wire, and whirled us up the aisle of St Francis in the Jolly Old Fields with a huge reception at Quoile, the (her) family home in the rolling hills (have I got that right, Family?) behind Kyneton in Central Victoria, Quoile being named after an old old castle in County Down where the Family had its Elizabethan roots (joke) – we are the Gunns of Quoile Castle – yes she is Hannah-Margot Gunn of Gunn’s Constructions (not to mention Gunns Wedding Bells, Gunns Hardware and Gunns Honey, and not to forget Wishart, Perpendicular and Gunn, Barristers and Solicitors) – I should have warned you about how this narrative will tie itself up in the knots of several metaphors and coincidences and things – but Honey-Hannah is unlike most members of the Family – unlike particularly in the matter of issue – her mad sister has no children (not a hope in hell) – her brother’s mad wife will have no children (although the brother, Fabian, has probably fathered a bastard or two but they would not count as your proper Gunns or Quoiles) and so when HH put forward the idea of the coming of Baby Amber there was much joyful to-do among the constructors and wedding-meisters and hardware handlers and apiarists (at last a real word) and barristers and solicitors, and we were propelled together into the floral archways of matrimony until death did us part (relax, we are still buzzing along nicely in the real world) unlike – oh-oh, here it comes, the fly in the ointment, the snake in the grass, the ant in the honey, the startled grasshopper in the amber – who’s divorced, who’s dead around here? who got together and then got parted by something other than death? – well, in fact it was death – this is why I’m actually at home in the conservatory thinking about honey on toast instead of going to the office I occupy in Gunns Constructions where I hold a very responsible position and where I spend a hell of a lot of my time writing plays – wha-at? – yes, that’s what I do as I sit at my vast mahogany desk-a-rama, I tap away at my plays, some of which (hem-hem) have had readings at places such as the Court House and Fifty-Five Downstairs, while Sheba my personal secretary takes calls and takes care of all stuff such as email and – well – business – Sheba’s the real thing, I just draw the salary and look good – I should explain that I am generally considered to be very presentable, a fucking asset to the whole shebang (ha ha – look at that will you – Sheba runs the whole Shebang – I just thought of that – I had occasion to text her just now to tell her I’ll be late and she texts back saying – you’ll like this I think – saying Take Your Time Solomon, Sheba Runs the Show) you will have seen pics of HH and me around the place – at the opera, at the races, at the charity fashion thingie, at the opening of the super awful reception for minor lovely royalty etc etc – we get around – and the great thing is we get around together as a genuine social item, an item in every way – HH and SS and their adorable Baby Amber – unlike, as I have intimated just now, unlike Patrick my best friend from school so long ago, unlike Patrick who has – not to put too fine a point on it – who has – um – quite recently murdered his wife Cressida – wh-at? oh yes, he did it allright – and if you don’t know the story I should briefly fill you in – I warn you – it’s ugly – and it’s probably just as well you’ve got me with my finical phrasing – I will caress you as we go – pat pat, mincing metaphor notwithstanding – I will tell you the tale of Patrick and Cressida, one of whom lies at the bottom of the pool with her dead lover, and one of whom lies very much alive, telling himself long lies, just along the hallway, in my bedroom, watching who knows what on TV and drinking scotch and waiting for me to bring him toast and honey and good news as he waits for Deke Perpendicular to arrive with advice and the good oil and the loophole in the noose (I think my mincing metaphor has sidled off somewhere – and anyway we don’t do the noose or any other form of capital punishment in our light and enlightened social system) – look his name isn’t really Perpendicular but it’s something weirdly Greek and I can’t think it or spell it and so I am writing Perpendicular, emphasis on the ‘dic’ because in fact he is one in many ways, but in the matter or getting people out of situations as sticky as that in which Patrick finds himself, he’s almost magic – so, for want of anything better to do, and as a displacement activity, and because this is how I think in a crisis – OMG but is this a crisis!! – I’m watching honey running slowly off the spoon while Patrick is in my bedroom, as I said, and I don’t know what he’s thinking, but I’m actually trying to distract myself from thinking about how Cressida was having this hot affair with Damien Bliss (I know, I know, but that was the name) who was the hot topic that looked after their indoor pool (heated) and everybody knew except Patrick and guess what there comes a time when Patrick arrives home in the middle of the day because he suffers from asthma (mild) and he was suffering from it, and – look I apologize for the banality of all this – but this is why Patrick is lying in the comfort of my bedroom waiting for his toast and honey and short black – so he was feeling pretty seedy and he goes in the front door and what does he see but the naked Cressida and the naked Damien hotly engaged in a soixante-neuf on the dark and wonderful Turkish rug just inside the front door – that was apparently, according to Patrick, what got to him – and the shock did wonders for the asthma – it was the location you see that got to him, and so to cut a long story short he loses it and he grabs Cress by her long chestnut locks with such sudden force that he breaks her neck, and then he king hits dazed Damien who cracks his stupid head on something or other (Patrick isn’t yet clear on this) and he doesn’t get up either – and so what does Patrick do then – you’d wonder, wouldn’t you – well he drags them one by one across the floor leaving trails of blood and stuff – and chucks them in the pool – incredible, mad, but you never know how these things will take you – I said they were on the bottom but I don’t really know do I – maybe they’re floating around like blow-up toys – I don’t know how long the various processes take, what with the body and the water and the air and Archimedes’ Principal and so on – what Patrick did was pretty amazing when you think about it – just goes to show what rage can do – then he rings me – of course he does – and I ring Perpendicular, and Patrick makes what is probably a mistake – even I can see that – he gets back in his car and comes around here where I’m getting ready to go to the office for a late morning meeting, and where I put him to bed and give him the scotch and start making toast – and so far nobody has called the police, but anyhow Perpendicular can work all that out and what I’m really waiting for is for Patrick to have his toast and get the hell out of here and then I’m going to message Sheba again and tell her I’m really going to be late-late, like not coming in until tomorrow week, and I’m going to go and get HH from her mad sister’s where she’s making quince and elderberry something or other (a quaint lot, the Quoile Gunns) and I’m going to collect Amber from Brighton Bambini and we’ll drive out to Quoile and stay for a few days because in spite of anything I might have said, if there is one place I can feel safe and sound and silver-plated it’s behind the great iron gates and up the winding tree-lined drive of the Family Home where Hannah’s mama and also old nanny will enfold us in an incredibly stilling and sticky form of love – yes love – and nothing can ever disturb the knot of us – where no Mr Bliss can ever come, where – wait for it – here comes a rushing wave of somewhat mincing metaphors – we will be enfolded in the sweetieness of our own slow flowing honey, and we will live happily, ever after, in love and eternal ease – OMG what dismal dismal bullshit all this is – because I know, and Patrick knows, and Perpendicular knows, and the police are going to know, and even you know – what has happened to Patrick (has it happened to Patrick, is that it? or has Patrick done it – this remains to be sorted out by lawyer and police and jury and judge etc, not to mention the merry media, social and anti-social) could conceivably happen to anybody, and when you say anybody you could mean me – it could happen to me – I could come home one day and find HH in the arms (so to speak – I can’t go further than that) of, say, Deke Perpendicular (laughter), and I could lose it and I could, say, shoot them with some handy gun or other and there I would be, rushing off to somebody’s conservatory for scotch and toast and honey – oh yes, honey – and I could dip the spoon into the honey and I could lift up the spoon (silver, remember) and I could watch as the honey slowly falls and makes its way down onto the golden and buttery toast and I could think about bees and ants and I could wonder about the surface of the honey and I could ask a kind of question about what happens in the universe (picking up some crossed wires from Hannah’s mad bad sister of the quince and elderberry concoction who has a habit of saying – oooh – everything happens to everybody in the end you know – everybody dies in the end) what happens in the universe when the honey meets the air, or you could say when the shit hits the fan – I prefer to meditate on the honey – what happens when the honey meets the air.
Yes, I could wonder about that.