Off the rails

Van Gogh on the rutilant rails towards Arles is diverted - a rail replacement coach to ruddy nowhere. The driver pulling at the brake, good practise in the motion, imagining he’s throttling his geese next winter. Vincent lights a cigarette, slouched on the coach’s back seats. He has a novelty lighter, shaped like a revolver, and he points it at his chest and pulls the trigger, then trembles the lit thing to his dry lips, hiding behind the hay-ricked seats. Sated, he unfurls his flat razor and carves into the arm rest, “the coach ride will last forever.”

The red-red-redolent fields on either side of the motorway, scented like fire-bricks and caramel. They drift into Arles, with all the sway of cotton, snagged and unwinding. The air conditioner rattling, truly they were becoming threadbare the closer they came. The steel peeled off from the coach as if someone was going over it with a can-opener. The tyres shrank, the ladies demurred. Swathes of cloth, rubber and flesh wound away in tight strings the width of fishing wire. The passengers effaced, lost in a shower of fine rain.

A cuttle bone coach of skeletons, ground into Arles on its axles. Bone dry except for Vincent, who rode down the steps in wet flesh, his eyes closed, the artist on his way to work, free-easeled and his pockets stuffed with breath mints.

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