milton on drowning | waving one\’s hands in the air

Dragging my son to one side as a tin of coke two thirds full is lobbed from a fifteenth storey window. Erupting on the grass. Embedded like a shell.

It happens all the time. Minute acts of random disorder. We tiptoe through them half asleep, it is a wonder we have have not been killed or maimed. And there is not much wood left to touch. Concrete and glass. Rude steel girders.

Seals and Croft were cocaine dandies. Listless infatuists. Like Milton eulogising drowning, the gentrified swine. And you can\’t leave your own windows open anymore. The debris flies in and coats every surface. Upending dog-ends in the ashtray on the sill. It is Baghdad. After the war.

Well, not quite. Closer. Two evenings ago, my stepson goes down to the shop on the corner to buy some soft drinks. We send them out as a pair, but one absconds by bicycle. Presently, the intercom screams. It is clear he is distressed. He falls through the door clutching three bashed cans. Cherry Cola. The plastic bag shredded; carried off on the wind. \”What\’s wrong ?\” we ask. \”What happened to make you so upset ?\” I take the tins and set them down in the kitchen. One sizzling its stream of syrup into the sink. \”I fell and banged my head,\” he says. Taking off his glasses and checking for damage. Big round tears rolling down each cheek. \”The bag was cheap! I had to carry all four cans… One of them spilt all over me.\” We tease it of him. It seems he tripped on the kerb. Falling headlong. Glasses flying.

A man hurries over to see if he is alright. At least that is how he sees it.

The man – balding, stinking of whisky – stretching out one hand. Gathering up the loose change tumbling out of my stepson\’s pockets. Rolling on a nudge.

Making off with it.

Agile as a crab. \”Jackpot!\” I snap. \”Which way did he go ?\” It is a pointless gesture. Each and every evening there is a steady line of men and women coming and going between here and those two or three off-licences on various corners. Many of them balding. Reeking of alcohol.

My stepson is not inclined to venture back out to identify anybody. We pour him a bath. His sister comes back in shortly. We lock her bike in the drying area we share with two other families. If it is not nailed down somebody will claim it. photograph by ken heyman, USA.


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