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April on this island is a clarinet’s high C; green and golden, verdigris and lemons. Daylight tastes of chewy bread and bitter, tepid coffee – swiftly cooled as I’ve carried my cup through the cat-scattered streets above Patrice’s café.

I’m perched now on the sandy ramparts of the timeless, timeworn citadel. It seems her walls grew organically out of this rocky outcrop, forming a vast granite tumour crammed with cobblestone capillaries, narrow streets and subterranean alleys. They weave together a world as ornately complex as a sea-smoothed coral. But today those streets are swaddled up in early Sabbath peace - sleeping under a spearmint sky strung with psalms. It is cotton-soft up there and cloudless, crisp as a new-made bed. Only a gaggle of keening gulls can crease the sheeted calm of this unstirred morning.

Out to the south, the coast road dwindles fast to a lizard-tailed track of tattered tarmac, snaking doggedly over the crumpled cliffs towards Cargese. There are bees in the butter-yellow broom; bellflowers deep in the dusty green maquis. There are bright-bloomed cacti, crackly crickets and a smell of rosemary fit to cleanse a coffin. It hasn’t rained for weeks... yet here, in this ragged roadside gutter, sunlight springs from a single sourceless puddle. The nacreous surface squiggles strangely and crouching down, I find the water wriggly-thick with gleaming gumdrop tadpoles - button black and plump as polished marbles.

We used to keep such tadpoles every childish spring in a tupperware carton: scooping a hatful of glistening spawn from the murky pond where David swore that eels lurked, thick as your wrist and hungry for ducklings. We’d slop the spotted jelly home and set it to simmer on a windowsill like glutinous Chinese soup until the clotted eyeballs winked into chubby commas and finally burst into ruthless, cannibalistic life. I’d watch transfixed and suffer vivid nightmares about tapioca pudding.

Surely, then, the tadpoles stranded here on this rocky roadside must be weeks old already – older by far than their amniotic puddle? How on earth did they come to be here? How will they survive the coming weeks, trapped in the gutter under the papery heat of this suddenly-searing April sun? I stir the puddle pensively - I do not, after all, believe in miracles. Only in biology, and luck. It is luck, after all, which hours later sends a solitary, battered Renault pickup rattling north along my empty road. Twilight has gathered swift and chilly, now a purple-shouldered night is moving westwards faster than my feet.

Inside the truck, the floor has rusted through to a hole the size of a football. A dizzying ribbon of indigo tarmac spools between my knees. The air in here is rank with fish and a potent presence of sweat and sweet alliums. At the wheel is an etiolated liquorice lace of a man, cured walnut-brown by a blend of nicotine, espresso and pastis. Beside him, the slim child perched in the passenger seat is bird-boned and beautiful, like a baby dryad stolen from some pretty, ancient myth. Now the child twists around and stares in solemn appraisal at her lumpen mortal hitch-hiker. There is a note of mute enquiry in those depthless molasses eyes. I fervently wish that I could remember the French for ‘mysterious tadpoles’. This little dryad doesn’t look as if she believes in either biology or luck. And what use is a miracle, allowed to die unshared?

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The following comments are for "Of loaves and tadpoles"
by MobiusSoul

This is possibly the most favorite piece of mine I've read on this site. Really really enjoyed the imagery.

"the coast road dwindles fast to a lizard-tailed track of tattered tarmac, snaking doggedly over the crumpled cliffs"

Simple yet descriptive as hell at the same time. Great stuff.

( Posted by: tetsuohand [Member] On: January 13, 2006 )

T'hand - walking reptilian roads
Many thanks. I too enjoyed writing that line. Some places in the world make the poetry come so easy...

( Posted by: MobiusSoul [Member] On: January 14, 2006 )

Corn pretzel!
Wow... someone's been reading too much De-Loused in the Comatorium. Or listening to The Mars Volta incessantly.

Which means it's good with me.

Which probably means not good by "normal" standards.

Nevertheless, I like it.

( Posted by: Lachrym [Member] On: June 26, 2006 )

Lachrym - fiction is from Mars?
Woo - I write flash fiction in the style of frighteningly-intricate thrashy prog rock? I'm cooler than I'd ever dreamed :) Personally, I feared this piece would just risk irritating with too much whimsical romanticism (I guess your comment title hints at exactly that). But then, I happen to like whimsical romanticism, so that's OK with me too...

( Posted by: MobiusSoul [Member] On: June 26, 2006 )

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