Thursday, January 4, 2018

pennies

"To perish there among the crabs and anemone sewn across the dark seabed."
It was the Hallmark spectre of a Christmas looming which officially stamped the demise of one era. The ushering in of another.
     It led him around the corner and into an Early Learning Centre.
     He was tangled in the process of re-education of sorts, the pushchair snagging on the tails of hand-carved wooden crocodiles, when he locked wheels with the mother of a good friend he had once ill advisedly fucked.
     "The Campbells Are Coming" wheezed from a loudspeaker mounted just overhead. Small change, at least, from the obligatory psalm.
     It gave him pause to prepare a smile.
     She waved back at him, her hand fluttering like a stricken Robin.
     She in charge of twins, granddaughters, he his only begotten son.
     They exchanged small talk.
     She looked at him stiffly and asked if he knew that Alan had died. A cardiac arrest.
     He felt an odd discomfit settle in his throat like acid indigestion and wished for a cigarette.
     Alan never smoked in his life. Well, once, perhaps. When they were kids.
     Both of them green. Overawed by phosphorous igniting.
     She asked him if he was alright.
     Neither of them spoke for a time, each of them too ashamed to swap further pleasantries. The game of pass-the-parcel on hold indefinitely, a truce, no gifts in their baskets to bestow upon the infant Jesus.
     He remembered how they had flattened pennies of the railway line running behind their parents' bungalows. How his father took his own life with a rope not long after his own dad had died. How they drifted apart until an awkwardness stood between them as strangers.
     He remembered screwing this woman's daughter one fragile night in December. How she had tasted on his tongue. The trembling in her thighs.
     He remembered how close they once were as nine-year-olds.
     Never less than at home in the Wendy House in the back of her garden.

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