Jennifer Harvey

 

Coconut Fever

The days were long and there had been six of them apparently, though that meant very little. Weeks or months would have felt the same. That’s how it is when you’re a kid. Time passes differently.

All I knew was that the bed had grown smaller as I’d lain there, shrinking like something Alice would have known. The fever bending and warping everything in a way that pleased me.

It was fun. The bed sucked me up and I spiralled away into the folds of white sheets, laughing and shaking.

From somewhere I heard a voice which could have been my mother’s.

‘Get a doctor.’

She sounded exotic, like a mermaid, her voice deep and long, something I felt rather than heard. The sound rippling like a current underwater. But when I turned to look for her, to see if she had a glistening, scaly tail, there was no-one there. And, disappointed I spiralled away again.

Six days later, I was shivered loose and rose to the surface, back into the room where I lay, bored and exhausted, the sheets clammy, and damp, and sticking to me like an extra layer of skin.

There was a strange lightness to my muscles that left me feeling floaty, like an astronaut, and with nothing to do, I decided to become one. Took to imagining the dust motes which flickered in the sunlight were distant stars and planets. Through the gauzy gaze of half sleep it was easy to believe the bed was a space craft carrying me off into deep space.

It was nice to drift that way. It passed the time. The days. The weeks.

Every now and then someone would pop their head around the door and say something, like: ‘are you okay?’ or ‘do you need anything?’ then disappear. Sometimes they’d come back, bringing with them the usual comforts for the sick – soup, a glass of water, a cold facecloth. But always leaving before I could explain.

‘Hey! Stay a while. I’m bored.’

I could hear them below, the sound of their voices filtering up through the floorboards. It sounded like they were having a great time down there. There was a lilting, melodic quality to their voices I’d never heard before, a bit like a baby laughing, and it left me wondering what they could be doing.

When curiosity got the better of me, I shimmied to the edge of the bed, and flipped my legs over and onto the floor. It was December, but I’d forgotten, and the shocking cold of the linoleum gripped my feet with a vicious chill that made me wince, then fall to the floor with a thud.

Below, the music stopped, and in the silence which followed, I lay there not moving, the oily smell of the linoleum strangely soothing, the way familiar smells often are.

It reminded me of the biscuits my grandmother used to give me. Strange, pink, foamy things, sprinkled with coconut so they tasted like a summer beach. The foam always sticking to the roof of my mouth, like polystyrene and glue, a taste which lingered for weeks, though it may just have been days.

 

 

 

Jennifer Harvey is a Scottish writer now based in Amsterdam. Her writing has appeared in Carve Magazine, Litro Magazine, The Guardian, and various anthologies including the 2014 and 2016 National Flash Fiction Day anthologies.  She has been shortlisted for various prizes including the Bridport Prize (2014, 2015), and the Waterstones & University of Sunderland Short Story Award (2016). Her radio dramas have won prizes and commendations from the BBC World Service (2016, 2009 and 2001).  She is a Resident Reader for Carve Magazine.  You can find out more over at www.jenharvey.net

 

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