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Bad Poet

I kneel, and study the poet’s left eye. Anywhere less liquescent on his magnificent head—that silvered temple, or between those Schnauzer eyebrows—and inevitably the entry wound would have been described as ‘neat’ by busy pathologist or unimaginative crime writer.

Here, it’s a mess.

There is no corresponding exit, no pavement-porridge of bone and brain: a small calibre weapon was used. I imagine its tiny projectile zipping around the fine interior of the poet’s cranium, nonchalantly carving its way through haiku and quatrain, mincing half-remembered juvenilia and rendering rhymes to soup, before halting in the hatchery of the yet-to-be-written stanzas of his twenty-page (to date) free-verse whopper dissecting most of Europe’s post-Renaissance politico-philosophical history and speculating brilliantly (I’ve read some) about the continent’s and, by extension, the planet’s shaky future.

Tragic, irrevocable loss! This was a man whose envious peers found themselves, at unexpected moments—at a bus stop, say, or on the lav—contemplating the mysteries of the organ now irredeemably compromised: its weight, volume, circuitry and surface topography all, surely, more complex and mysterious than their own dull-grey matter. It seemed the poet understood everything; certainly I never knew him to be lost for original perception or impassioned opinion, though his originality was always underpinned by learning, and his passion tempered with wit and keen irony.

After tonight’s reading—packed, as usual—the poet had bought drinks for his admirers: his generosity was as authentic as his genius. And at closing time, en plein air, he entertained the crowd with pastiches of certain rivals’ efforts, spontaneously rendered into hilarious cod-Chaucerian couplets. His killer simply strolled up behind him and tapped his shoulder. Miffed at interruption the poet turned to remonstrate, then smiled in recognition just before the assassin aimed and fired.

The gun was a second-hand Beretta: nondescript, lightweight, and surprisingly cheap.

Flash Fiction by Robert Mason

Published in Autumn 2017


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