Interview with a catafalque

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Catafalque Rose

Catafalque RoseRose is short; the top of her head only comes up to my chin. She’s stick thin and pale skinned with big eyes made lar­ger still by her make-up. She’s wear­ing a man’s vest over a pair of cut off shorts and her arms and legs are bare. Her long neck and her long fine-boned face are topped off with an explo­sion of dark hair bulked out with exten­sions, rib­bons, Rasta plaits, beads and what looks like tin­sel gar­lands left over from Christmas.

She meets me, step­ping lightly across the floor of the empty nightclub in her bare feet, hold­ing two mugs – one for me – of what turns out to be very strong, very black cof­fee. We settle into a booth where a black­out cur­tain has been caught up to expose a win­dow. The morn­ing sun – get­ting on for mid­day sun – shines in to spot­light the table and her long-fingered hands cupped around the mug. Her face is a faint, hin­ted lumin­es­cence in the shadow. For the rest of the inter­view now I am strug­gling to see her as my eyes switch back and forth between her brightly lit hands and her shad­owed face. I take out my recorder.


‘Can I ask you first, how do you define your­self? What does it mean to you to be a catafalque?’

‘Cat-a-falk not what I be,’ she cor­rects me in her low, slightly hoarse voice. ‘Cat-a-falk what I do. It my mode, fhem?’

‘I’ve only heard it used for a few months now. There’s you and Biyard and Loos-e and Zuu Cruu…’

‘Yeah,’ the bright hands raise the cof­fee to her shad­owed lips then put it back on the table. ‘Was me an Loos-e use it first. We rip­pin an snatchin for a gig an they want to call us DJs. Q’dem! So we look for some­thing else. We like cats, fhem? We sleepy in the sun­light, but we wake up at night. That when we sing!’

She smiles, a flash of teeth in the shad­ows. ‘And we like birds of prey, like fal­cons, with us eyes an ears always open to snatch up somethin we can use.’

‘So you gave an old word a new meaning?’

‘Noway!’ She’s emphatic, proud of her cre­ativ­ity. ‘We came up with a new word. Cat-a-falk.’ Stressing each syllable.

‘So, no thought about the ori­ginal mean­ing of cata­falque? A stand or a plinth for a coffin?’

She laughs, imit­ates my deliv­ery as she repeats my words. ‘“A stand or a plinth.” Q’dem! You been Googlin? Granpa! Who do that now?’

© TheSupercargo

This is a year or so old. The trigger word was catafalque, obviously. I think it was a word from the Twitter hash-tag word game Artwiculate. Clearly the result was too long for Twitter, but I think it counts as flash fiction.

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