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Hailstones Melt

Collected Consciousness
Staff member
Board Moderator
Aug 15, 2016
Perth, Western Australia
A short story by Hailstones Melt (retrieved from a suitcase where it sat for 30 years).



Through worn shoes the gurgle of water seeped. The stockings, which had started the day firmly rolled and dry were now dripping with water. Her toes tried vainly to resist the water. They ached with the cold, but still their owner pushed them onto the pavement. The legs were running waterfalls erupting at hem and knees, now wetting the part between material and leg. It was this atrocious weather. It has been raining steadily since mid-morning. The sky had promised this. The charcoal sky had urged revenge on the pus-laden emission of the city. The sky had saved its tears and now unleashed a reservoir. The flushing, antiseptic waters rushed out of the hoses of the sky, arriving on grey tarmac streets. Skipping the puddles was impossible, as the streets had more water on them than they could easily offload.

Gloria had no raincoat. Her tweed skirt was getting wet. Now it had a country smell like dew-drenched grass. Her fingers clenched the umbrella stick, but it was no good. The wind fanned raindrops in at all sides, slanting one way and then that, to make sure that she was soaked.

Gloria was not aware of her expression, but it was tight with anxiety. Her face looked like a broken cloud, plummeting earthward. Her hair was drenched and stuck to the cloth. Gloria’s nipples stood on end in protest. Her whole body was set forward, in thrusting strides, and every particle protested at the intrusion of water.

Gloria was miserable. She did not like to be late. Lateness was a misdemeanour to be punished, as were all misdemeanours. Whenever Gloria had been late at school, she privately scratched herself and made a mark. She dug her budding fingernails which were the pride of her appearance into the soft flesh above the elbow, or into the tuft of her thigh, and tried to destroy a piece of her perfectness, just as a tree will sometimes mark the fruit.

Gloria’s face streamed with cold splashes, steamed with sweat, but the volcano inside her spatted tears which ran unrestrained as the rain. They trolloped down her round cheeks, pursued their course and paid no heed to her impatience to stop. Snivelling only reddened her nose, and wet gloves stained it redder. Gloria looked at the blurry street and recognised the place. She quickly halted and dripped like her umbrella. Feeling no drier, she climbed the stairs.

The door slammed on the gurgling. Inside, the snuggling and drivel of people, fast as jack hammers, punctuated the air. There were so many people. The place-mat was cluttered with articles: cutlery, salt-shaker and sugar. Gloria felt crushed, intimidated. She clattered the fork, looked down, red as a blaze. The cacophony surged on. People formed a pattern in the air. Different coloured hair and clothing advanced and dissipated like the breathing of the patrons. Nowhere could Gloria see the man.

Oh God, she thought. Oh God; timid, defeated. She burned where her tears had run; she flicked the burning trail to see if it was dry. She saw the waitress bearing down on her, a thin, angular woman.

“Coffee.” A pause, blankly. “Black.”

Gloria made a smile to please the woman. She settled, more relaxed into her chair, breathing in deeply. The red vinyl seat in front of her was empty. She looked at its smooth surface; imagined it pressed gently down by his weight, comfortable for a cafeteria. Through the protracted maze of people she could see the street, smudged against the window with a dirty crayon. His figure did not huddle past. She began to check, mechanically, the people in the aisles, in the corner. There was another man, alone, but he seemed too old. He had his back to her, he drank from his cup quickly. There were four young men, different, around a table, talking all at once. They sat forward, eager to be heard, demanding. Gloria snapped her eyes from the blue denim jackets. They might look at her. She concentrated on the short, wet hair of a woman near her, whose collar at the back was catching the drips of cold water.

There he is. There he is. Oh, my God, there he is. A young man was elbowing through the crowd. Gloria composed her face, and stared sweetly ahead. She did not yet meet his eyes.

Gloria was not fat. Nor had she the smoothness stipulated by fashion books. Gloria was perhaps comely. The skin, manufactured by her young body, reflected its health. There were no pocks or disastrous marks, the curves appeared to be distinctly planned according to ageless female design. She was calm and graceful as a young sea, mounting in hillocks at the tail of the wind. But over the natural freshness were imposed the dictates of her mother who had conducted a training worthy of parade-ground drills. In most things, Gloria was obedient.

Her companion sat down on the waiting vinyl. He blocked the light and assemblage of people. Gloria lost the choreography of the room in his eyes. With him beside her, looking deeply in her face, she felt her confidence split its casing and exude in tremors. The rasping and hooked breath of a moment ago vanished in his presence. Her face was smiling like a lantern.

Deryck was apologising as he inhaled the smell of fresh coffee. Modigiliani prints, he noted, swallowing Gloria’s image and the wall behind her.

She has a long neck. Her skin is very white.

He talked to her about the computers. Their names were metallic, foreign. Her breasts appeared to loom out of her jumper. He stared at their soft roundness as he spoke.

He was telling her about the data entry, and she was listening attently. His eyes cooed at her hair, which clung steeply to her neck. Gloria drank her coffee in short bursts; she soon drained the cup. Her fingers touched the table, and the ashtray, which was empty. Aware of the scrubbed glass, he pulled out a smooth leather case. Inside were white cigarettes. He inclined the packet towards her, she declined. The slope of smoke barely annoyed her. She watched the descent of ashes as he flicked the cigarette towards the ashtray. She sought his eyes again, with vulnerable intensity.

“They taught me the switch today. It’s quite hard. There are about fifty buttons”. She giggled, bowing her head.

He surged, leaned in close to her. He could smell a very sweet fragrance, like dew.

“You have to say the entire thing. McManus, McManus, Hunting and Stone. And Good Afternoon.”

He purred a masculine breath directly down her nostrils.


“And I said…” Gloria’s mother was buzzing like a fly, a monotonous, buzzing fly. “And then I said…”

“And what’s more…”

She continued.

“Of course he didn’t. But what could I say? As I said…”

More buzzing. Relentless.

“Yes, and then…” The poor listener could not respond. All the time Mrs Hammond was expounding her theory, she traced a pattern on the carpet with her right foot. Mrs Hammond had repeated the saga to at least two other people. Ritualistically, she gasped in exaggeration.

“And except for that, I wouldn’t have believed it!”

The fly was droning, beating its wings. What about the blue teapot.

“Diana, I saw a wonderful blue teapot.”

“Yes, of course… Well, I don’t know what he’ll say.”

A wire door slammed. Good God, six o’clock already? Mrs Hammond knew Gloria was giving the family a passing visit. She was pleased the moral programming she had dispensed without let up had been so well ingrained, that not visiting the family from time to time would seem wrong to her daughter.

The house, to Gloria, looked normal. The living room was small and closed. It had an oval feeling, like a bird’s nest, but this was perpetrated by the furnishing, which softened every angle. The colours were patterned, each crying out for attention. The settee was fleshy with cushions. It looked lonely without its counterpart of human flesh. Soft, moulded surfaces undulated around the room – vases and lampshades continued the rhythm. Even the portraits curved benignly. The dominating note of the living area was comfort. A cat could comfortably curl on the cushions and begin to purr. A cat at home in a bird’s nest.

Layers and layers of paper lay everywhere. The room was padded by this extraordinary nesting. Most of it was Stew’s, she supposed. Layers of wasted paper. She thought it must have an importance, perhaps social, that paper covered not only the walls, but books and tables, even newspaper on the floor. Gloria was bemused.

Stew appeared and clawed her roundness. His arms were springy, but could not reach around her stomach. His face, small with popping eyes, grinned like a goblin. She bent, and enclosed his head with her hands, a familiar smile stretching her face out of proportion. In a second he was away, bobbing, teasing like an urchin, back to pinch, then laughing loudly. He was a mobile spring. Gloria, with her height, got dizzy. She suddenly stopped twirling.

Mrs. Hammond was spraying Mortein. A fly in the corner annoyed her. Gloria kissed her and stood. Mrs. Hammond buzzed. Food smells were multiplying, savouring the air. All this was familiar to Gloria.

“Of course your father’s going to be late. I’ve got stew on.”

Stew cooed: “Stew, stew!”

Dinner was a comfortable affair. The conversation ambled along oiled tracks. Gloria heard about the shopping excursion and some little doughnuts that were consumed at three in the afternoon. She heard about the teapot and where it would stand. She wondered why her father wore a moustache. Deryck’s upper lip just slightly serrated her smooth red one. The feeling was quite exotic, and she imagined natives rubbing noses and then their pink tongues touching. The mashed potato was creamy, and Stew oozed it through his fork. This caused a sharp rap to fall on the offending implement. He nursed his hand with exaggerated injury. Mr. Hammond snorted and snuffled a lot, rather like a horse with chaff, but he was really trying to dislodge some meat between his teeth. At the end of the meal, he let out a long burp to express satisfaction. He was ignored.

Gloria dreamily spiralled her food across her plate. Mrs. Hammond was noticing. Three feet away from her, across the table, was this living indication of herself. She privately scrutinized her daughter. She saw the round supple arms and the inward-bent head, and the deep suffusion of colour that rang all over her – and she knew for a moment that in this girl, and in all her progeny, was the immortality of herself. The shape, yes, was different; she wasn’t exactly like herself. She had to admit the presence of the man, her husband. Yes, she could see his strain in her girl. And she wondered then, about men, about their classic interjection. Why, when all was said and done, they burst in to assert their will, they burst in with the male dominance to which she instinctively succumbed.

“And what is your friend like?” she asked pleasantly to shatter Gloria’s glass cocoon.

The girl looked up nervously, while a faint blush centred in her eyes.

“Deryck?” she asked, and almost smiled.

“Yes, the young man”, the mother said.

“Oh, well, he’s very nice.” There was an awkwardness in the pause.

“Do you go out very much?”

“He takes me out… after work. We see a picture sometimes. We, we go driving.”

And the mother remembered the old sedan and her days on the leather seat, when she sat anxious as a mouse and full of trepidation. She could see her own hands folded gently on the lap of her full cotton skirt, lying with a quiet line but trembling underneath.

And Gloria thought of the trim new automobile that Deryck drove, with almost reckless abandon as he swung it audaciously over bridges and around curves.

Gloria found herself describing him, while Stew and her father seemed to fade away, become an unaccountable part of the furniture while she explained to her mother the fine stature and presence of Deryck.

“Is it, do you think it’s serious?”

“It’s good. I don’t know what you mean by serious.”

“Well…” Mrs. Hammond felt counteracted. When a relation was formed and duly sealed, it was serious. She saw her daughter’s expressive eyes, saw the gleam that jostled there, but they seemed so open, as if they were hiding nothing. Deep within Mrs. Hammond a knot relaxed, a tight silent knot of apprehension that had grown during the evening. Even now her daughter was still her own, the tight male interjection was not complete, the girl was still a girl.

As the mother and daughter spoke, Stew and the father retired to the kitchen and began washing the dishes.


Deryck and his friend were drinking. After work they had gone to the Marble Bar, in through the mosaic hall, into the gilt and deep steamy atmosphere. The place was thriving with the after-work drinkers. A thin net of smoke hung slinking, catching the party as they crouched and hung and undulated in the room. The crowd massed over the marble floor, flowed against the counters, tripped and eddied around low stools. Each person was buffeted, but preserved a sense of calm in his small area. Once sitting, the rest of the room could move, but he would not. The noise was a river of voices, each thundering or pausing.

Deryck sat against a column that seemed to hold the place up and stop the roof from caving in. With the broad coolness of it against his back he could survey the scene. Mark returned with the drinks, two long glasses of beer, frothing at the top and spilling on the table.

“Need a beer in here”, he said, as he hugged the stool with his knees. The heat was certainly oppressive.

Deryck wiped his thin lips, where the short moustache grew sparsely. He was a fair man, pale face with sandly light-brown hair curling away from his forehead. He had a substantial height, but a narrowness in him that was not physical.

Mark and he talked on a mundane level about the activities of the day and then the expected results of a cricket match. Somehow, inevitably, the conversation turned to women, or at least, two women in particular.

“How’s that girl of yours, that young sheila?” asked Mark.

“Gloria?” said Deryck, staring the other man in the face. “She’s a bit, well, slow, you know, to catch on…” His light eyes dilated at the thought.
“Well, I’ve been taking her out five weeks now. When I first met her at Arthur’s, she was so wild, dancing and flinging her hair about, but she’ll hardly let me touch that hair.”

“You ought to give her a going over, mate. Let her know the joys of life.”

“Yeah. I’m working on it, of course. She’s very shy.”

“Not a bad looker, actually.”

“No, she’s pretty good looking.”

There was a gap while noise of other people filled the room.

“How’s Veronica, then?”

“Right into it, right into it, man.”


Of course, the men grew tired of the Marble Bar. It was all right as an aperitif, but it had its limitations. They were drugged now, the alcohol was running high in their veins. They felt they needed action, some sparring to fill out the game. They wandered into the street, to find streetlights glinting at them, and a pale darkness covering the city. They knew the streets. It all seemed so odd and familiar.

The man, the thick-set man with curly reddened hair turned to his friend and trying to make contact reached out his hand, but did not touch the other.

“Why don’t we bring out your missus?”

His action was revolting, his leer and his uneasy tilt. He was not well made, he was not refined. But the other returned the leer, for he also was an animal.


The knock was on the door. It was not, as she had imagined, the banging of the window, for the window was tightly secured. When she got to the door, she saw Deryck, and she instantly smiled. She was about to stretch her arms around his neck when she saw behind his shoulder the form of another man. She stepped aside to let them in.

And in the two hulking men came, guilty like returned soldiers, confining their hands and their shoulders and roughly hiding a smirk.

As Deryck stood there, contrite yet with a vague effervescence, she admired him fully. Her fantasy had embroidered his shape and smile and his eyes, for after all, they were looking at her.

She had them sitting and had politely offered coffee before a minute had passed.

“We thought you might like to come out with us, out to dance.” She disliked Mark; he was oafish. She could tell he thought himself pretty smart, but he seemed so inelegant, especially in the broad suit and pointed tie. He sat with his knees open, dangling as if they were a weight. His shoulders were not expressive, and humped down in a lazy, loafish way.

Deryck beside him had elegance. He sat well, casually, and his arms were thin, not like the hams of the other.

Leaving the house, she and Deryck linked arms.


The floor and her moving two at a time. The floor spinning, the lights twisting, hair flying past her, dance, dance, dance. Legs flying, floor moving, lights spinning, dance, dance, dance. Keep it moving, always moving, spin the body round, fling an arm out, keep it moving, dance, dance, dance.


Now she was still. Somewhere in her body was a palpitating – an incarnate beating of blood and bones like the breath of a tabla. Somewhere deep in her tissue was the rap and response of her heart. In the colonnade of her being, under the portals of her bones, rose an essence of wind and song which issued in breath from her lips. Her body was quiet on the surface, gently rippling at intervals with the quiver of breath.

She waited on the strange bed, felt the coarse cloth of the cover and the smooth springy pillow under her elbow. She wanted to look at the room but her gaze was fixed in a half-glazed stare towards the door. There a slant of light fell sideways, perhaps a beam to escape on, or a line holding her in.

She lay, and her ears noticed the small vibrations of the water running in another room. Her head felt separated from her body, which seemed lifeless and unable to move. Her head, instead, was spinning in an unspoken tirade, her mortal self in earnest conversation with her other voice, the voice that always interrupted, came when not called, hovered by, and always guided her. The voice that was closer to her than her mother’s voice, which had soothed so often from the outside.

There was no question of misdemeanour now. This was what she had come for. She had allowed the tight arms of the man to bring her here, she had softened in his grasp as they stood at the threshold to the room. She had giggled and been shy when he showed her so much attention. The attention she loved; she was addicted to it and could no more let go of it than he could her. He seemed so ravenous in his desire to touch her, and she felt naughty and good at the same time as she allowed it. Please hold me and touch me more. No, no, you’d better not, the other voice said. Oh, but just this much is so fun. Don’t let him get too near. Why is he touching me there? It feels so good, I can’t bear it. You’re letting him. Don’t let him get too near.

The voice, on and on, muffled by the fuzziness in her head. Her shoulders were bare now. What did it matter if her shoulders were bare, if he touched and caressed them as if she were a cat?

Now she lay, in the interval, waiting for the man to be near her. He appeared, softly, a thin form, angular and naked. She felt conscious of her clothes as he rippled his hand up and under them.

Instinctively her knees drew together, she curled her knees up so that the space was tight – at the same time she made a luxurious movement with her body that was more than an invitation.

She decided to let him with practiced fingers remove her clothes. She felt he was the teacher, she the patient pupil, determined to please, if it were at all possible. As she became naked she thought how much she loved this man, how much the light within her shone when she visualised or saw him. He was reduced to a halo of warmth as he covered her with his body and gently but persistently forced his maleness towards her receptive feminine being.

She was passive, moonsome, white and dark in the shadows.

The kiss she liked, she felt it wilting in her mouth and made an effort to revive it; her whole body tautened.

Ah, he was in, he was teaching, slowly she would have to learn. Now it was rough, it was hurting, but she was breathless and also scared. Her most sanctified arena was opened. The lion was prowling, her modesty the flimsiest veil that no longer held itself in material form. She felt that the dark was closing in, the strong knees around her also pinned her down.

Soon they were lying together, he withdrawn and gently panting, she in the same position, too taut to move. Now the flood of warmth was on him, he was so relaxed, like a warrior in victory, that he let his arm flop over her thigh, as if it was his prize, his piece in the victory. His arm, now heavy and leaden, flopped over her.

Her brain and body reunited, the one exploring the other, gingerly and with wonder. All parts of her were there, nothing broken or gone astray, but a handling had taken place, she felt extended in some way, as if she had discovered inner pockets that were not used to hands.

She grew cold as she lay there, but she was too afraid to move, lest she disturb him for he had gone to sleep.


The afternoon was turning grey. Deryck sat in front of the small panelled board, doing nothing. He was staring at it, but other thoughts were traversing his imagination. In a way it was not hard to imagine how Gloria had felt, how soft and untouched and unbroken she was. Somehow her skin was extra smooth, like something just purchased, with a new smell to it, and a gloss just finished by the manufacturer. He couldn’t believe that he had that skin to fondle and examine and imprint into his very own.

But no, his mind reprimanded, jumping in with reasons, excuses. She was too young, too much the flower, uncrushed, and he the passer-by, leaning to admire, smell and pick the flower, rub between his fingerprints and drop the faded morsel by the roadside.

He was too much the destroyer. He had nothing to give her, materially, for he wanted only her body; only to feel that creamy softness, to incarnate it into him. She wanted more, he knew. She wanted his life as ransom.

His life, that without thinking he poured into figures and computers, and his image of himself as a man. He had only his cock to give her, and that was not enough. He knew women, they were insatiable. When they had control of that, they would tie him by the arms, threaten him with children and overpower him with their sensuality. He was too weak, he knew.

He wanted the security of his manliness, his symbols: his car, his mates, his beer, his casual approach. He needed, very seriously, to live his life within these forms.

And Gloria was a young woman who had a power over him.

He must never allow it. Only the contact with her body. That was enough.

As these thoughts formulated and swam before him, he looked like a man entranced. The phone rang, a hard reality beside him. Her voice was very close to his ear when she spoke.

“Hello, it’s me, Gloria. How are you?”

“I was thinking of you.”


“I want to make love with you.”

A silence prevailed. She hesitated at so frank an admission.

“Can I see you tonight?”

“I’m going to Mum’s.”

“I need your body.”

“Look, I’ll call you back, OK?”

The receiver clicked. He felt very unsure of himself.


Again she rang, again and again. At home and at work, she left her silvery voice. But she would not bring her body. He desired it so much, just to touch it, he dreamt and dreamt of her.

She was unavailable. The plum, so ripe, was still on the tree. She had her girlfriends. She was going out with them. She told him that she couldn’t sleep with him again, but they could have dinner together. That was agony, he had to look at her piqued face as it demurely partook of all the food, leaving the plate bare while her dress remained buttoned to her neck.

One night, in the car, he gripped her tightly, held her chin and forced himself upon her. This left her shaken, white, with an invading feeling of repulsion as his hands left her body. She did not move, but sat glazed as a statue, while he fell hunched over the steering wheel.

The episode was at an end. No more could he hold attraction, now his eyes were sharp, like a ferret’s, his hands rasping, his moustache a prickling reminder of his severity. Now she felt freed from her bond. Now she resumed her normal life.


Two girls were talking on the phone. It was a pleasant way to fill an afternoon.

“That rat that Gloria was with.”

“She could have had a baby. What would she do then?”

“Who knows? I can’t imagine it, myself.”

“I wonder what he was really like. I mean…. In bed.”

“Have to ask Gloria. She knows!”

“He seemed like a rat, that Deryck. Sort of smarmy. He might even have had a tail.”

Schoolgirl titter erupted down the line. Such a good talking point, when it was about someone else.


Standing in a queue at the library, Gloria felt eyes travelling up her neck. Very imperceptibly she moved, until she was at an angle to appreciate the looker. He was tall, a good head higher than herself. His hair was dark and sprang wildly away from his face. His look directed itself at her hips as she swung her weight to the other foot. She managed to look direct in his face before he said, affably:

“Your gymboot is undone.”

And she was obliged to give him her books while she bent and tied the offending lace. As she was still doubled over, she decided her response: she would allow him to invite her out for coffee. She was sure he would, but she smiled to make certain.

Not such a bad prospect, really.

She had already begun to like playing the game.



Collected Consciousness
Staff member
Global Moderator
Board Moderator
Jul 28, 2016
And a writer of intricate stories. I shouldn't be surprised:-D
I particularly enjoyed the ending.
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