Saturday, 28 August 2010

A Love Song to The Man at Fort Victoria

Our eyes meet. They linger. They linger longer than is polite, or remotely necessary. I look, and I see your eyes are the colour of the translucent blue-grey agate you sell on your counter, the same colour as your t-shirt, and the colour of the shrouds of cloud obscuring the sky.

You hold my gaze unflinching. Your face softens with a shy smile. But I have been staring. I turn away, and am dragged back to my reality by the noisy demands of my clamouring offspring. I leave a universe of possibilities swirling in my wake.

Another time, my love; another time. But I should have told you, I wish I’d told you; your eyes are remarkably beautiful. I think of them, and sigh.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Rites of Passage

A teenaged handyman is creosoting my neighbour’s fences. He’s not happy. He’s got one hand stuffed in his pocket, and he keeps stopping to sigh, and text. I wonder if his mother volunteered his services: mine did things like that. She was determined I should have a part-time job, and nothing could deter her.

One day, she and I were in Antonio's, the local ice-cream parlour. I was tucking into a knicker-bocker glory when she suddenly leant across the table.

“Quick,” she hissed. “Hide your hands.”
“What?” I had no idea what she was talking about.
“Hide your hands. Put them under the table.”
My brain toiled to work out what she meant, before I got into trouble.
“Why?”
“Put them under the table now, before Mrs. Antonio sees your nails.”

I did as I was told. I knew better than to challenge my mother. My nails were painted bottle-green because Lena, the beautiful blonde girl in the year above, had her nails that colour. Somehow mine didn’t look the same.

“Morning Mrs. Antonio,” my mother beamed as the starched matron approached our table. She gave me the ‘sit up straight’ glare. I sat up.
“This is my daughter who’s looking for a Saturday job,” she said, nodding at me.

I was? Well, yes, I was looking for a Saturday job, but I didn’t want to work in Antonio's. No one did. Mrs. Antonio was terrifying.

“She’s a good worker, Mrs. Antonio. She won’t let you down.”

I tried to smile, but I was quaking. Fortunately Mrs. Antonio looked at me as though I were a slug she’d found frozen in the ice cream, told my mother the vacancy had been filled, and walked off. But it wasn’t long before my mother did find me a job, washing plates in another restaurant.

So I’m watching the handyman struggling with the fences, and I’m betting he has a similarly determined mother. Ah poor boy! We’ve all been there.

Monday, 23 August 2010

The Isle of Wight

Ghosts litter the island. They stir as I pass. They resurrect memories of picnics eaten, things said, walks undertaken, and days out; a myriad of smells and sounds and snapshots from a living album lost under the junk hoarded in my mind. But you look, and you see nothing. You huff, you roll your eyes and you tug at my hand when my feet falter again. You groan at another of my anecdotes, for I am the queen of the boring story, and you don’t want to be part of my court.

To me the island is a patchwork of my past. To you it is just another place. The resentment I feel when you drag me away is probably equal to your boredom.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

The Blackberry Picker

The train rounds the bend. James sees the man. He gasps. He is sucked back through the years to the night the young woman dived under. It was dark then, and it was Christmas. He goes for the brake, but he knows there is no point. It will be too late. His pulse thuds. The figure looms. He braces for impact. He shuts his eyes.

Nothing happens. Nothing happens at all. There is no thump. The train carries on as it has carried on all day, rattling along the track. His legs won’t support him, so he clings to the controls. He reaches for the radio, and his whole body is trembling. His voice falters as he calls up to report. There is a trespasser on the line, stupid fool. He is wet with sweat, and reeling with nausea. Tomorrow he was going to do overtime, but now he’s going to call in sick.

Meanwhile, George goes on picking blackberries. He’s been picking blackberries down here by the railway since he was a lad, and he’ll be damned if he’s going to stop now. By the time the police arrive, he’s long gone.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Canvasser

You see me coming. I duck and weave, but it is useless. I must be wearing a neon sign which says ‘accost me’: you are the third so far.

You are charming. You talk of widespread suffering and how it could all be stopped if only I’d part with some paltry monthly sum. You put your hand on my arm, lean in close, and confide that you’d do the same for me, were I in need.

Poor fool. My polite self is listening, but I am not. I am wondering how much your charity squanders on your employment. I am wondering where one buys blue and green hair dye like yours, and I am wondering, based upon your penchant for facial piercing, what other parts of your anatomy are skewered with silver.

Your message is wasted. You picked the wrong one. You could never be trained to spot the likes of me.
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