Transient Beauty

Heather McQuillan is part of WORD Christchurch 2020 Spring Festival

Fiction, Featured
Heather McQuillan | The commuting Book
Heather McQuillan

Sep 09   ●  3 min read

She is heavy on my bedroom wall. I reconstructed her, slapping mortar between each brick, but my room is not big enough so she is reduced to eyes, nose, and mouth slightly open, no forehead, no neck. I must keep the house cool so the moss that blushes her cheeks does not dry. I spritz her with artesian water.

I learned my bricklaying from YouTube. The wall leans inward. In an earthquake-prone city I probably shouldn’t sleep so near. Otherwise I’m risk averse – I don’t drive fast or leap into voids and rescuing princesses is not in my DNA – but when I saw the plans for the concrete slab, tilt block, glass edifice that would be her tomb I was resolved.

It takes deception to steal a wall, but in this city of reconstruction a hi-vis vest, hardhat and clipboard are effective disguise. As the potholed wasteland before her became a concrete basement, I chiseled mortar from between her faded bricks. Each had to be numbered and stowed for transportation yet I toiled with urgency in the glare of security lights, terrified someone would ask to see a permit.

I whispered hollow excuses from those who had once praised her beauty but moved on now to projects less ephemeral. The city needs certainty. And youth, they say. Not reminders of broken things.

There were moments when a city night sound – a drunken shout, a siren, a flapping of disordered pigeons – startled me. Then my chisel gouged fresh brick-red into an eyebrow or across a lower lip suspended between breaths. Flakes of whitewash fell like fleeting almond blossom.

When the cranes arrived to lift the new slab wall into place she was already mine alone. The only evidence of her transitory existence a red raw wound of newly exposed internal brick. My Wallflower was stacked between old blankets in my garage where I had time to undertake her reconstruction with greater care. I scraped each block until I was white with dust, my lungs gritty, and hands raw. As I spread fresh mortar, tapped and scraped, she reappeared, with eyes to look out and lips to breath in.


after street work by Rone, Worcester St

Heather McQuillan is part of WORD Christchurch 2020 Spring Festival!


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