The Last Post by Mark McGlynn

It came in waves then. Rolling, thunderous waves; a pressure cooker on the brink. I didn’t know how much longer I could hang on. I’m only a small woman. But I’ve witnessed, first-hand, the raw power I can dispense. An eight on the Richter scale. But these are the delicate moments in a relationship.

He shifted closer to me on the couch. Sweet Jesus, he wanted to snuggle. I normally love a good snuggle. But I was afraid even the slightest movement might cause a breach, and the walls would come tumbling down. The pressure was becoming unbearable. I’d already been to the bathroom twice. If I went again he’d think I was weird.

“Everything alright?” he said.

“Everything’s great.”

“Do you want another beer?”

Another beer, are you crazy. That’s what got me into this mess.

“No thanks. I’m fine.”

“I’m not squashing you, am I?”

“No, you’re fine.”

Stand strong soldier. Stand strong. I should have stayed single. There are no problems like this living on your own. Naked and free to do, say, be who you want. Thank you, Tinder. They should make that a prerequisite before you swipe. Babies, marriage, and bodily evictions. Or make it a first date ritual. Just get it out-of-the-way. It wouldn’t be the most pleasant of first dates. But at least you’d know where you stand. I’m a gassy girl me. Machine gun Molly my dad calls me. It’s my own fault. I should just let it all it out. Let him see the real me. It’ll happen sometime.

But to my relief, the pressure subsided. Sweet Jesus, thank the lord. I’d done enough. I’d done enough. I’ll wait for another day to open the traps.

And then, with my defences down, one slipped out. A slow, mournful tune, like a trumpet. The Last Post.

Soldier down people. Soldier down.

I waited for him to say something. Anything. But he just shifted in his seat, and I thought, slightly away. Three months, love blossoming, and all gone with one blasted toot.

What was I thinking? We hadn’t exactly reached the three-month window. And everyone knows you should wait at least three months. Rules are rules.

The panic.

The despair.

But then, out of nowhere, he responded in kind. His a slightly happier tune. A bit more confident, less restricted in its performance. Although I think it may have been in the same key. That was kind of him. A collaboration of sorts. Love is still there. Until the next time so.

Mark has had one short story shortlisted for The Francis McManus Short Story Award this year, and had his work read on Irish radio. He’s also been shortlisted and longlisted for the Fish Short Story Award. He’s been writing for three years and is married with two children. He is on Twitter here.

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