Archive for June, 2012

When Peach-pit lifted the Rock, the Earth stopped working.

“You done it now,” said Apple-seed pushing one dirty finger into her mouth and moaning so loudly mountains stirred in their sleep. “You done and broke it now.”

Azure skies, shot through with golden threads to keep the stars from falling, dimmed as Peach-pit looked up. The Rock was still heavy in his massive hands and his tongue waggled a loose tooth. “I done did nothing, ‘seed. I just done what I did. I can undone what I done did.”

And he did.

Or tried to as Apple-seed fingered her nose to stem the waterfall of winter she’d come down with. “You won’t plug it like that,” she said, but she might well have been talking to herself about herself because Peach-pit wasn’t listening. Peach-pit was twisting, this way and that; hammering and yammering his Rock in the Earth.

When it didn’t go back, when it didn’t quite fit, Peach-pit began to chisel; tapping and chipping, snapping and clipping. Stones fell as he worked and became huts and houses, tracks and roads, strewn and scattered across the Earth.

“It’s too small now,” said Apple-seed, sneezing into the rubble and filling the fissures with primordial snot. “Needs to be fat to fit. Needs to be fat to fit,” she said, patting her tummy.

Peach-pit looked at the Rock.
Peach-pit looked at the Earth.

“It’s no done good,” he said at last. “It don’t fit like it done any more.”

“You done broke it,” said Apple-seed.

“I done broke it,” said Peach-pit.

Words: 259

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Droplets of rain streamed across the widows as the train raced through the suburbs. The carriage smelled of warm rubber and damp steel. It whipped past the backs of council houses, high rises and once stately Victorian terraces, their gardens now filled with multi-coloured wheelie bins, sunbleached garden furniture and paddling pools half-full of rotting leaves.

Feeling the cold, she pulled her coat tighter across her chest as she looked out of the window. She thought about her husband.

He’d be getting home at five thirty, as always on a Friday. The police would be called of course, but her note, however short on actual answers, was clear enough. No serious amount of police time would be wasted on what was, as the officer would lament with a well-rehearsed weariness, “a regrettably all-too-common occurrence nowadays, sir.”

The train continued past rows of tiny little houses, just like the tiny little house where they had spent the past twenty years. The house that – however much she decluttered and rearranged the furniture – always felt like it was getting smaller.

She thought about the nights she’d lain awake wondering “what if”; then she remembered how, little by little, what if became how, then how became when. Eventually, when had become now.

The houses thinned out as the train snaked further into the countryside before suddenly disappearing into a tunnel. She continued to look out of the window but saw only her own reflection, criss-crossed and distorted by the pipes and wiring tacked to the uneven surface of the tunnel wall. She lay back in her seat, lulled by the rocking of the train and drifted off to sleep.

Droplets of rain streamed across the window as the train raced through the suburbs. The carriage smelled of warm rubber and damp steel. She was woken by an announcement on the PA system. Ten minutes to Gare du Nord. She slipped off her wedding ring.

Married in Hastings, she would repent in Paris.

Words: 330

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You could drown if you swam in there. It looked deep, even though the sides, stretching down ten feet at least, were overgrown with pondweed, dandelion, nettles and ferns, a messy hairdo of weeds and crumbling grey rock, bursting with vegetation and rotten soil fruited with beetles and worms. I shivered and looked down at my bony white knees.

My shorts hung from my hips like an overused shirt from a coat-hanger. The old blue towel, threadbare in places, patched with bleach stains from my sister’s home dye jobs was rolled up in my left hand, pressed tightly against my thigh. I shook with fear.

A mock swimming pool. A brutal mockery. Who would want to, who would dare, climb down the rusty ladder, made for men a century and half before, to move peat and soil from barge boats painted green and peeling.

Their breath must have smelt of stout and rotten meat in the cold muggy air. None of that mattered now though. Because I had to swim in there. I had to. It was a done deal. A sure thing.

Flinny and the others stood on the other side, their legs spread apart like four cowboys waiting to duel. Smithy’s lip curled up like Clint Eastwood’s.

“What you waiting for then, shitbag?”

They roared with laughter, shoving each other around, their bare feet making archaic bird-like impressions in the sludgy earth. One end of this ten foot basin opened into the river, with a curved bridge above it topped by a footpath for anyone who cared to walk along the damp banks into Salford.

I stepped closer to the edge. A baby snail crunched between my toes, squirming for life. I closed my eyes and half jumped, half tripped into nothing, pulling in as much air as I could into my lungs. My arms were flailing, I was out of control, my legs cycling in thin air. The water hit me like a fat slap.

Words: 328

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Boiling mad, I am. You know what they’re saying? Don’t stop stirring just ‘cos I’m talking. Soon as I heard I thought I’ve been doing that for years. Anyone round here’ll tell you. Just cos he’s gentry and

I’m from a village bakery. Yes, add the sugar. Tip it all in. Don’t dither, girl.

That old lech. Drinking and gambling with his posh mates in that so-called gentleman’s club, while the rest of us work day and night. Oh yes, I’ve heard the rumours about what he gets up to with young girls.

It’s like a sport with his sort. No thought for their reputations. I put money on there being half a dozen of his bastards round about. His reward for that behaviour? Chief admiral, if you please. And a right royal mess he made of it too. I’d have done a better job and I’ve spent my whole life in a kitchen. Silver spoon.

No, don’t get me a silver spoon. I mean he was born with one in his mouth. I just get to polish them and be grateful for the sit down job. We’ll have some tea once this is ready. Bread and butter. Plum jam, cheese, meat occasionally. Of course he has meat for every meal. Gooseberry jam. Rhubarb. Red currant. No, it will be at least another half hour. You should listen more carefully. Fetch the jars. We’ll put them in the oven.

That girl’s useless. Oh dear. I’m getting hot and bothered. I just absolutely hate to think that people are saying anything in between two slices of bread is a sandwich. People should be calling them Harriet Wilsons. A round of cheese Wilsons. Jam Harriets for the kids. Damn him. I don’t care if he is an Earl. At least if they had my name it wouldn’t make you think of sand in your food. I hate that. All gritty on your teeth. That makes me mad too. Boiling mad.

Words: 328

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My neighbour has built a wall. Hundreds of feet high but you can’t tell just by looking at it – it’s the size of his intent, his ego that pushes it higher. When you see it out of the corner of your eye, you know.

Up, up it went, making a border between his clouds and mine until even heaven has him banging on their door demanding entry: ‘It’s the Party Wall, you see. Reasonable access. Etcetera’

He patrols every morning with invisible dogs that send his cats yowling in protest over to my side to shit on the lollo rosso. All his cats are named after composers or musical instruments but none of them can hold a tune.

When I water the garden at 7pm each night I play the jets over their wall. At first they shouted but now, because I have learned to let their words wash over me, they pretend nothing is happening, sit there wet through eating their tea.

He comes in the night to poison the climbers I trained up the wall (nimble-footed with their ropes and spikes). I hear him stumbling into traps I have laid. That’s how he lost his foot. I found some bloodied toes next to the razor wire, but he only lost his hair to the garrotte – turned out he was shorter than

I’d thought. I have imported snakes, and planted shards of glass around the roots of the new plants.
The moon still has to choose which side to shine on, but the sun has plumped for mine, ripening my tomatoes nicely until they wither suddenly on the brink of blushing. I spot a pipe coming from his side through a small tunnel into their pots. Poison.

I steal his grand child. It is playing outside alone one day and easily lured by ice cream. They have been looking everywhere. I have a hostage to the wall. I have no grandchildren myself.

Words: 325

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Ben gazed at the sky through the window. His mind was half on the history lesson.

… after WW1 the government commissioned a report on managing morale and under the Baldwin government it was decided that there was not enough colour in public life…

His other half was mostly kept on Sarah. She sat by the window in a light summery dress. How much nicer is sixth-form with no school uniforms, he thought.

… colour had been controlled by the Colour Control Board, instigated over concerns that photography would overuse and somehow reduce the available colour in the real world …

Her eyes were paying attention to the lecture, only occasionally looking down to make notes.

… the board was supported by the major filmmakers, concerned that their productions would seem drab compared to real life. However the board was abolished in 1923…

The sun came streaming through the window, deliciously lighting her hair. He allowed his eyes to wander down the back of her neck and the length of her graceful arms.

… paving the way for an explosion of colour in public life. The art world’s response was art deco…

She pushed her seat back slightly. Ben gazed wistfully as she smoothed a crease in her dress.

But his trance was broken by a sudden BANG as his teacher’s ruler hit a desk.

“BEN!”

Damn! Caught, he thought. At least it wasn’t by Sarah!

“Can you tell me what the abolition of the CCB changed?”

He thought about the clean blue of the sky, the seductive red of Sarah’s dress, the deep blue of those eyes now focused only on him, the soft peach of her skin and, still visible from the corner of his eyes, the vibrant yellow of her hair lit up by the sun shining through the window. For the first time he drew a connection between history and his own young life nearly 100 years later.

“Everything.” He said. “Everything.”

Words: 330

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