The Scarlet Tang of Failure by Michelle Matheson

Tommy sat amongst the debris of his meal. His hands twisted in front of him; a dance of anxiety he was powerless to stop.

He had prepared for this evening as though studying for an exam, flitting around his kitchen, a courting ritual in motion. There was no pause for thought, only sauces to reduce, a full degustation to create. The potential of a new relationship fizzed champagne like on his tongue.

Now he waited. Long past the point where waiting made sense. Mindlessly he worked his way through the carefully arranged antipasto platter.  Pinot Noir coloured his lips as he sucked chicken from the bone and the table became littered with grease spotted napkins. Chocolate mousse stained the crispness of his white shirt and he stared blankly into the night. The scarlet tang of failure coated his tongue.

The faint ringing of what might have been was in his ears. Lost opportunities have a sound all their own. As he poured himself a twenty five year old port, its burnt sugar scent provided a mocking back note to his night.

At his overeaters’ group they talked a lot about finding your trigger. Understanding the need you’re trying to fill. Tommy drained his port and pried the wrapping off the first after dinner mint.

With his phone in one hand and chocolate coating the other, he idly flicked through dating profiles. Self-loathing doesn’t leave a lot of room for self-analysis.


Michelle Matheson is a writer in Auckland, NZ where she lives with her husband, daughter and Monty the cat. Michelle is currently working on her first novel and also writes short stories and flash fiction. She has most recently been published in Headland, Flash-frontiers and Reflex Fiction.

Image: Stéphane Delval