Sorry for doing something right - Stephen Henderson

The dog barked. I woke up. I was still half asleep. Mat swore. I got out of bed. The dog was still barking. I stood up. The ground rumbled.

This was not a normal rumble. It was as if mother earth herself had been awoken by my Jack Russell’s bark. I froze. In the early morning air. I froze. A lightning bolt of panic. A moment of realisation. We were all going to die.
The ground shook. I grabbed the dog. His barks were now soft whimpers. I held him close. I ran to the doorway. We shook with terror. The ground shook with anger.

The walls bent. Our building swayed. Matts stereo hit the floor. The fridge leapt from its spot on the wall. Chaos in the early hours.

I could feel the ground beneath my feet. It was like water. It rippled. It came in waves. It came to destroy. It came to crush. And it came to kill. You could see it. The concrete slabs underneath our carpet start to distort. Crack. Break.
I was waiting. Waiting to die. Waiting to… see her again. It went on for too long. Seemed like days. Was only seconds.

The ground stopped. The dog still whimpered. We still shook. I slowly walked back to my bed. It must have been a dream. It must have been a dream. This doesn’t happen here. In New Zealand.

I woke up again about five hours later. 62 texts on my phone. “Are you alright?” Was I alright? The aftershocks had come and gone. My mind was too numb to notice them. Our pantry was empty. Our floor was full. But we were alive. 
That was the first. The second…

I was asleep. It was in the afternoon. But I was asleep. Joes 21st the night before. It shook. It was more violent. But it didn’t last as long. The dog was asleep too. He fell out of the bed and sighed. We were over them now. I laughed it off.

185. 185. 185.

That number would be etched into my mind forever.

Sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, girlfriends boyfriends.


185 people didn’t laugh it off. 185 people died. It should have been 186. I slept in. I missed my bus. The bus that I caught in to work was crushed. Under the rubble. No survivors. No survivors.

Kelsey died. I felt guilty. She had a baby. She died too. I couldn’t look at the pictures. I couldn’t share the post. I couldn’t watch the memorial. I texted her. I invited her to parties. It wasn’t right. I’m sorry.

Where was I during the Christchurch earthquakes? In bed. Safe. Alive. 185 people. Weren’t.

Yacht Club - Stephen Henderson

“I just don’t feel… happy.” Ella lets a deep breath of smoke fill her body and cloud her eyes. She shivers and her toes writhe on the deck. I pause; I have no idea what to say next. We sit in the quiet, I take another sip; she takes another drag. The world crusts over in congealed smoke and brown beer bottles. I look across the lake. It’s different at night. The water may as well be ice. I let it sting the cracks in between my toes.

“What if that’s how it’s supposed to be?” I mumble. Ella’s hands surf her stockings from ankle to thigh before she realises what I’ve asked. The bruises on her legs flower in blues and pinks. Little soccer trophies, or so she says. Her stockings are black, but worn thin and ripped. Circles of her skin reflect the security light above us. I take another sip, she takes another drag.

“What kind of answer is that?” Her eyes narrow into two green lights that shine through the void. Her hair sweeps across face and neck. Her lips contort, she wears a natural shade of fuck you. Her cheeks hold fire; the tip of her lip.

“Who do you know that’s actually happy?” She leans back on the deck. Her white blouse; stained with nightlife hangs open at the top. Her necklace hangs low on her chest. A Christian pendulum, a gift from mother, 24 carats. Her skirt is a deep green. The kind of green that nobody would wear. Her finger tips nestle between her legs. Seeking protection from the cold. I take another sip, she takes another drag.

“If pointing out how shitty the world’s become is supposed to make me feel better, you’re fucking it up.” I watch her lips reseal around the cigarette. She breathes in more smoke. I let it roll out before I answer.

“Why is happy so important?” She reapplies her shade. “We are so much more than that. You’re selling yourself short. You’re far too amazing to worry about just being happy.” I take another sip, she takes another drag.

“You’re more fucked up than I give you credit for aren’t you?” She forces a smile. Her skin wrinkles. It’s not real.

“You have no idea.” I take another sip, She takes one last drag and flicks the carcass into the water. It floats on the surface.

“It works for you though doesn’t it?” Her hands find their way into her jacket.

“What?” I stare as she fumbles in her leather. Her wrist glows red in the lamplight.

“Being fucked up, it’s like you’re not even a real person. You’re just this thing, you just… are.” She finishes with a hand gesture before lighting her new cigarette. For a moment a universe is created. A new spark, a new energy, a new life. Then it collapses back on itself.

“I am a real person.” I take another sip, she takes another drag.

“Pinocchio, it’s time you got me home.” She tries to stand but falters. I don’t want to take her home. Taking her home I go back to mum, to another bottle of empty pills. We stop outside her mail box. She forces another smile.

“Don’t do that.” I lock her eyes.

“You are the strangest boy I have ever met.” She flicks her hair back out of her face. She steps towards me steadying herself on her mail box. Her perfume is sweat and smoke. Her lips have lost their shade. Nothing forced, perfect.

“Goodnight.” I smile at her. She smiles back. A real smile. I take a drag.

Contributor's Note

A 23 year old theater and English major working towards teaching and writing professionally.


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