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“Nose Ring” by Karen Arnold



Late afternoon heat makes a jungle of the canal. Curtained by purple Himalayan balsam,

carpeted with sulphur yellow water lilies. The handle of a child’s bicycle reaches out in

supplication.


She stands on the edge of the railway bridge under a gun metal sky, looking down at the

tracks. In the distance, the train rumbles like thunder. She counts, working out how long she has. One finger gently strokes her silver nose ring, the raw skin around the piercing, over and over.


The thunder gets louder. She pulls herself up, onto the parapet, and becomes weightless,

sitting on thick, water scented air like the buzzard above her head. It lets out a lonely, cat

like cry that sends tiny, furred creatures scrabbling into the undergrowth, seeking the

shelter of discarded beer cans and cardboard.


The thunder gets louder, fills her heart, her head, her stomach. All the empty spaces.

Sunlight glints on the sculptures running alongside the train tracks. Iron Horses, manes

streaming in an imaginary wind, caught in a race against time, rust already eating at hooves

and manes.


Air pressure builds around her as the oncoming train pushes the air before it, pushing her

to the edge. She closes her eyes and tightens her fingers around the nose ring, the one he

had given her before everything exploded.

The thunder roars beneath her feet. In the space between heartbeats, she rips out the nose

ring and hurls it onto the track. Opens her eyes. Breathes.



Karen Arnold can be found on Twitter @aroomofonensown

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