Rose 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-falc.’ 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?’
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.