By Anthony Brophy

 

Zepp's scorched-earth coffee seized the nostrils but Joe was wider than awake. 

'What's the story Joe?'

'I need 300.' 

'….Say that again?' Zepp squinted, verb-blind, through ink-rimmed lenses, four walls of books surrounding him, pillars of prose, his very seat of learning, Tolstoy, warming his coals.

'300,' repeated Joe, paper plain.

'Words?'

'Yep.'

'..300??'

'Give'm up Zepp!?'

'..You're kidding?'

'Am I?'

'No Joe-'

'No?'

Nervous, Zepp tittered and laid his brow to the page. It settled him down, like breathing library air or fingering a first-edition 'rare'. He didn't like this new cock 'n' balls Joe. Didn't like it in the old Joes either; Orton, Heller or Conrad to boot. But he had responsibilities to the world greater than the joy of lazy taste.

'300's too much Joe.'

'Too much, or too few?'

'Much too much for a regular Joe like you.'

'For a Joe like who?'

'…For one like-'

'You?'

'…C'mon now Joe,' Zepp sputtered, '300 you cocky fuck!? For O'Connor or Carver I might open the book!'

The book lay before them, a silenced soprano, binding with leather their soul in her breast.

Joe felt Zepp splay his clean, covetous mind across it, an ice-kissed knuckle sliding over his chest.

'300 Zepp. Open it.'

'I can't.'

'Yes you can.'

'…Why Joe?' he choked.

'Open it'

'Tell me WHY!?'

Joe just smiled, not cold or cute, not brave or sure. He fought demons born the same day he was, waited for him in the mirror, just like Zepp did.

'….Why Joe?'

'Open it Zepp.'

'…You'll break my heart if you hurt them Joe.'

'And I'll break mine if I don't.'

Zepp lifted his head from the book, leaves fluttered, flapped, and up they flew, into the air-

Three hundred birds of prayer.

And landed.

Where?

 

 

---

 

Anthony Brophy is an actor and writer. Recent acting work includes; Tudors, Vikings, Trial of the Century and an Oscar winning short film The Shore. He can currently be seen on TV screens playing Liam Reid in Red Rock. Later this month he will begin filming The Professor and the Madman with Mel Gibson and Sean Penn. As a writer, his first two novels; Summer of Stan and The Vasectomy Kid Rides Again! were both shortlisted for the Irish Writers Centre's Novel Fair and as a playwright, his first play Chicane was shortlisted for the Stewart Parker award. He is currently working on his fourth novel, and he is absolutely delighted to have his flash fiction Words-Worth included in this issue of The Rose.