Almanac Short Fiction: ‘Brian and His Mum’

Salvador Dali, The Moon, 1929. (Source: WikiArt.)


Brian and his Mum


The kid had a big, red, plastic-looking face, a loud voice he found hard to control, and an anachronistic fascination, bordering on obsession, with The Who.


I taught him guitar. His fretboard work was awkward and desultory. It was no wonder – his fingers were like Chiko Rolls. Why his mother insisted he learn the thing, I’ll never know. He didn’t like it that much, anyway, seemingly putting up with the lessons for some practical reason, as if knowing how to play the guitar might one day come in handy.


Although he was a strangely likeable kid, in a small, hidden way, I was scared of him. It’s hard to explain, but when I looked into that big, red, plastic-looking face, I got the feeling that there lurked the potential for events calamitous and strange. I never, ever, wanted to make him angry.


Our tutoring sessions had been going fine – that is, uneventfully – for almost six months. He seemed to learn slowly, though, and because of this, I felt guilty every week taking the money from his mother. But I told myself I was a good tutor (after all, no-one had ever complained about the quality of my teaching) and it wasn’t my fault if he was stupid.


The fateful day, however, arrived.


We sat, as always, in his mother’s lounge room. He was having ridiculous trouble playing a simple exercise I had set. His big, fumbling fingers blundered into all the wrong places on the fretboard, making the guitar yowl like a distressed tomcat.


The lesson was driving me crazy. I could take no more.


“Youstupidbigredplastic-faced drongo!” I yelled. “Youstupidbigredplastic-faced drongo!”


He stopped playing. (He was a big kid, too. Momentarily, I feared he might punch my lights out, but no … in retrospect, if only he had.)


His mother, who had been listening to our lesson through the keyhole, heard my abuse and burst into the room, angry as a little shrilly boiling kettle.


But Brian – that was the kid’s name – only stared at me. His face grew redder and redder. He was in grave danger of becoming a tomato head. I remained bolted to my music stool, petrified. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. His mother, standing between us, looked on fearfully.


Suddenly, his head began to expand. When it was about a metre wide, his mother, now hysterical, put her arms around it and tried to squeeze it back to its normal size. To no avail. His head grew bigger and bigger, inflating more and more. It looked like a bizarrely anthropomorphic balloon.


I watched in awe, my bottom lip having dropped below my knees. By this stage, his head was almost as big as the lounge room, and I felt myself pressed against the large window that faced the front lawn.


A massive creaking and heaving followed. Giant cracks appeared in the walls and ceiling. His head strained against the confines of the room. There was an explosive shattering of glass as his lips, now a metre wide, spat me backwards through the window. As I lay on the front lawn, the top of his head burst through the roof, spraying terra cotta tiles and fibreglass insulation through the sky.


From the opposite side of the street, I saw his head split from his neck – which, along with the rest of his body, had remained at normal size – and soar high into the air, getting bigger and bigger all the time, though eventually looking smaller and smaller as it climbed into the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere about fifteen minutes later.


Panic stricken, I ran home.


That night, when I uncoiled myself from the embryo position I had been in for some hours, I looked out my bedroom window and saw a big, round, reddish object beside the moon in the night sky.


A poignant, recurring sound made its way through space – a quavering sound, a sound out of control. I got out my telescope to look at the new red object in the heavens, having a terrible premonition of what, or more exactly who, I would see.


Brian stared back at me. Through the telescope, I could read his lips just as clearly as I could see the Sea of Tranquillity in the moon beside him.


You know what he was yelling? “Mum! Mum!” He was calling out across 380,000 kilometres to his mother, who, at that moment, lay heavily sedated in a casualty ward.


Huge tears tumbled from his eyes, as he cried and cried. “Mum! Mum!” his plaintive voice went on and on. Everyone awake on my side of the world that night would have heard it.


I put down the telescope, shut the window and pulled down the blind. Then I sat on the bed and strummed a few quiet chords on my guitar.




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Kevin Densley is a poet and writer-in-general. His work has appeared in print in Australia, the UK and the USA, as well as on many online venues. His fourth book-length poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, has just been published (late 2020) by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Recent other writing includes screenplays for educational films made for tertiary students.

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