The Clock Strikes Twelve

I’m a novice to flash fiction, but have been fascinated with it for the past few months. I’m still not sure I understand the principles. Be gentle with my experiments.

I need to count each chime with my chin up, looking straight ahead, because if I look to the right… the monster might sneak in. The corner of the left of the eye down and under. My greatest fear: missing a chime. All twelve to surround, all twelve to protect.

Then I can wash my hands. Just like my mother taught me as a child, with plenty of suds, not forgetting to scrub between the fingers, above the wrist. You never know where I have been, where you have been. What toil and soil we may have seen. Rinse three times, not a sud to linger. I catch a glimpse of the back of your head in the mirror and I long to touch and unfurl that sweet tendril, the one still moist from earthly exertion. The one that keeps you from being an angel divine.

But then I would have to wash my hands again. Perhaps even wash my mouth out with soap. Oh, the synapses that fire too soon, extend so much further than you could ever want.

We sit down to eat. I dare not touch much, but I can examine each morsel passing your lips. How the red chard leaf ondulates with your tongue, how the beans fall from your fork, how you cut and spear artichoke hearts, not just mine. You lick your lips before and after you drink; your glass glistens with pearl droplets. I count each one, but then you trail your thumb down from rim to bottom. You leave marks too light for memory, too deep for forgetfulness.

16 thoughts on “The Clock Strikes Twelve”

  1. Oh, this is excellent, Marina Sofia. I get such a strong sense of the narrator’s personality, You’ve put layers in this story that are quite effective. Well done! I hope you’ll do more.

  2. I LOVE that piece . Great attention to descriptive details. A sense of mystery, of impending doom, of buried childhood memories waiting to spring out .
    Will try a French version shortly 🙂 though not too sure how to deal with the grammatical structure of ‘The corner of the left of the eye down and under.’ ( = the left corner ?) [stylistically , the repetition of “of..of ” should perhaps be avoided ?
    “Le regard glissant / coulant vers le bas depuis le coin gauche de l’œil ” ?

    1. Oh, you flatter me again… It’s that image, when something seems to flutter in the corner of your eye, but you are not quite sure if there was anything, or if it was the upper or lower corner? Too fast for your eye or mind to catch up with it…

      1. Here is a modest attempt at reproducing the brilliant poetry of your lines. You really have a wonderful sense of language and undeniable ability to build up a sense of atmosphere .

        Les douze coups de l’horloge

        J’ai besoin d’écouter chaque tintement avec le menton relevé, le regard fixé vers l’avant parce que si je tourne la tête à droite… le monstre pourrait entrer à pas feutrés. En bas, en dessous, dans le coin de l’œil gauche. Ma plus grande crainte : manquer un tintement du carillon. Tous les douze à entourer, tous les douze à protéger.

        Alors, je peux me laver les mains. Exactement comme ma mère me l’a appris quand j’étais enfant, en faisant bien mousser le savon, sans oublier de frotter entre les doigts, au-dessus du poignet. On ne sait jamais où je les ai mises, où tu les as mises. Quelle besogne et quelle glaise nous pourrions avoir vues. Rince-les trois fois et pas une bulle de reste. J’aperçois ta nuque dans le miroir et je brûle de toucher et de dérouler cette douce vrille, celle qui est encore mouillée par ton labeur terrestre. Celle qui te retient d’être un ange divin.

        Mais il faudrait que je me lave les mains de nouveau. Peut-être même la bouche aussi, au savon. Oh, les synapses qui s’animent trop tôt, se déploient tellement plus loin que ce que l’on pourrait jamais souhaiter.

        Nous nous asseyons pour manger. Je n’ose pas toucher grand-chose, mais je peux examiner chaque bouchée qui passe tes lèvres. Comment la feuille de bette rouge ondule avec ta langue, comment les haricots tombent de ta fourchette, comment tu coupes et piques les cœurs d’artichauts, pas juste le mien. Tu te lèches les lèvres avant de boire et après ; ton verre luit de gouttelettes perlées. Je compte chacune d’entre elles, mais tu fais glisser ton pouce du bord jusqu’au pied. Tu laisses des marques trop légères pour la mémoire, trop profondes pour l’oubli.

        1. That is brilliant – very generous of you and beautiful language! Makes me reread my work in quite a different, more attentive light. For an instant there I was thinking of saying: replace the Tu te lèches les lèvres with ‘les babines’ (because that is the image that I wanted to convey, someone who behaves like they have finished eating the prey). But that was not obvious in the original, so it wouldn’t be fair.

        2. “Tu te lèches / pourlèches les babines” did spring to my mind but I decided against it as it conveys a different image, clearly that of an animal like a cat that has just emptied his bowl or a wolf that has just devoured its prey. Somehow I find it has a slightly comical ring to it, not in keeping with the tone of the passage. But do change it to “lèches / pourlèches les babines” if you feel it translates your words better. Also, that would be a clever way 🙂 of avoiding the repetition of “lèvres” (already used in “passe tes lèvres)

  3. I have no clue about the rules of flash fiction but I really love this Marina – your love of poetry comes through in the rhythm of the piece as well as those layers of story telling – brilliant.

    1. Ah, thank you, yes, I got a bit seduced by the rhythm of the words, which I’m not sure is the purpose of flash fiction. But it is the way I write it, I guess…

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