Quietus

  I sat at a dented farmhouse table on which a single tallow candle burned out a lidless biscuit tin. Kin pinched a twig with three muddy brown berries close to the flame. His digits were heavy with grey calluses and black mangled nails and shook like wetland reeds. He squinted at what he held with his one good eye.

 “Horse vine. This will help resolve your chronic pain,” he said. 

 Kin drew up a bottle from shelves hidden at knee-height, a green container for chardonnay stolen from its home on a rubbish heap. He poured a dash into a chipped handleless cup in front of him and filled the rest with water out a beaten can.

  “Soaked in vinegar for two years, it absorbs the active ingredient,” he pointed to the label dated in thick strokes of paint impressed around the bottle’s midriff. “An effective painkiller.” He drained the contents and tilted the bottle to a cup before me. A healthy measure gushed forth before he corked it again. 

 The liquor was the colour of milkless tea and reeked faintly of coal tar. I tilted back the brew and was greeted by a taste identical to its odour. I swallowed before I could consider regurgitating. Its stench clambered over every olfactory nerve and soon turned to numbness. 

“And of course,” he shuddered, “in concentrated doses, a fast-acting poison.” 

 I placed my empty cup onto the table and enjoyed the lack of sensation as it crept up my legs.

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