March 21, 2021 § 4 Comments
The air is hot and dry, and the lichen-stained headstones are draped with clouds of slow moving pollen. Bees dip in and out doing barrel rolls. She takes photos so she can name them from the poster on the kitchen wall. The grasses and wild flowers are turning brown and the ripe seeds quietly explode. The smell too sweet. It takes her back to honey gathering time when she turned the handle of her dad’s extractor. It creaked and leaked honey and pissed the bees off for days. ‘I’m not surprised,’ she complained. ‘It’s stealing’.
She breathes in deep and wills the pain to stop hurting her head, to stop making her shout in her sleep. The dreams never wake her and she never remembers them, but he does because her sounds wake him. He sits up in bed and watches, his arms open ready to gather her.
The buzzing makes her sleepy. She sinks to her knees between two graves, and lies flat on her back, legs together, arms close to her sides. She breathes slower and slower until she forgets to breathe. She begins to feel light. Unseeable. Invisible. In a place where time doesn’t move. She can’t feel her body resting on the ground. She looks down. It’s there, it’s resting, but the eyes aren’t seeing. The grass is so long no one will see her.
So this is how it’s done. What will she say if he finds her like this? “I’m trying to imagine what it would be like to be dead,’ she’ll whisper.
His eyes will look at her steadily and his mouth will say, “And what is it like?’
‘It’s fine,’ she will answer turning her lips into a smile. ‘I like it’.
October 18, 2016 § 17 Comments
The Goodness of Mr. Smith
Mr. Smith rolled off his wife onto his side of the bed and opened his eyes. He scowled at the hairline crack creeping across the bedroom ceiling noting it had grown another inch since last Saturday. He made a note in his head to telephone the plasterer.
Mr. Smith was waiting – waiting for Mrs. Smith to say what she always did. Then it would be his turn. Yes. Lovely, dear. Thank you. Every Saturday after the ten o’clock news and before midnight the conversation would be the same, but this time it wasn’t. Mrs. Smith had fallen fast asleep with her mouth open and was snoring. He put his usual words away and began to feel a little light headed as new, unfamiliar thoughts formed in his mind. They bubbled up into his mouth and tried to come out. Mr. Smith clamped his jaw tight shut.
Yes, said the thoughts. On balance it had been rather pleasant, although I’m glad there hadn’t been over much foreplay. It’s been a hard week at the office and I’ve got quite a headache. Of course it’s always nice to feel another skin next to mine, but as the years have gone by making love to you has become rather a chore.
The thoughts carried on, determined to come out of his mouth. Of course, the reasons are clear to me. First, you have not aged well. Your skin has grown sallow, and your flesh has become increasingly flabby. Your wonderfully pert bottom, once small and irresistible, has become large and wobbly. And then there are the wrinkles. Mr. Smith touched his lips to make sure no words were coming out, then continued.
The real problem, as I see it, is we have been married too long. Familiarity has dulled my ardour. Your body no longer excites me. Of late I have found it increasingly pleasurable to imagine a new woman in our bed when we are making love on Saturday nights.
Mr. Smith became aware of a stirring and felt a flush of heat creeping up his face. He decided he must concentrate a little harder so he stared closely at the hairy mole on Mrs. Smith’s cheek.
The thoughts were backing up in his brain and making him feel a bit jittery, so he breathed in a big noisy breath and allowed them to continue. I think it may help our love life if I were to have an extra marital affair. Of course, I would be discreet. It may perk up my interest, and also, in the long term be of benefit to you. It may encourage you to shave your excess body hair, particularly that unsightly moustache that has taken to growing on your top lip. It might even inspire you to buy some interesting underwear.
Mrs. Smith snorted rather loudly in her sleep and groaned. Mr. Smith gulped down the remaining unspoken words, and felt them return to the confines of his highly disciplined mind. As he quietly plumped up his pillows and straightened the duvet one last thought appeared. There will be plenty of other opportunities to express my desires. And after all, the last thing I’d ever want to do was upset my dear wife. He gently nudged Mrs. Smith and kissed her cheek. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Lovely dear. Thank you.’
June 14, 2016 § 2 Comments
A story which I thought was incomplete as the rest of it is lost on my laptop and I can’t find it. But maybe it’s fine as it is. With thanks to Tove Jansson for being there…
‘How would you know when you’d gone to heaven?’ asked Alice.
‘I’d just know,’ Gran replied.
‘I’d feel different.’
‘What kind of different?’
‘I’d feel calmer because people wouldn’t be bothering me with difficult questions all the time.’
‘What would it look like when you got there?’
Gran puffed up her cheeks and breathed out like she was a balloon and someone was letting all her air out. ‘I can’t be certain because I haven’t been there yet, and I haven’t talked to anyone who has either. I think it might look like that meadow over there.’
They went to have a proper look. The day was baking, the road was cracked and spattered with dried up cowpats, and all the wild flowers in the ditch were shrivelling up. They pushed open the gate and sat down in the long brown grass bending over from the weight of its seed heads. There were ripe buttercups to pick, and low spiky bushes of young blueberries hiding in the grass.
An earwig jumped off a seed head and crawled onto the old lady’s shoe. She picked a blade of grass and flicked it off.
‘Earwigs bite you know,’ said Alice.
‘Don’t think they do’, Gran replied. I’ve been in this world eighty eight years and I’ve not been bitten once.’
‘Well, I’ve been here eighty years less, and I have. Maybe you’ve never met a cross earwig.’
It crawled away and Alice wondered if it might come back and bite her. ‘Are there earwigs in heaven?’ she asked.
‘No,’ said the old lady firmly lying down on the grass and putting her sunhat over her face.