Flash – “Games”


Finishing the river stage and finally even my hands are tired.  Reflected sun from the plain concrete stands dazzles me and the tiny wooden pontoon lurches.  Water clothes me but my heart cramps, hot now, the sweats beginning.  Sensations define my surface.  I know I am a relic.

Others struggle towards me, through the tide.  I am comfortably alone and should feel this win.

Some of the small crowd are far too loud.  My family, my lover.  It is just as well that they come with numbers decreasing as they are.  They dominate the video screens, quaintly diverse; sight pieces, technolobes and even an antiquary.

The electronic banner accuses.  All results provisional.

The official approaches me and then holds still.  My technology conforms, they know this.  A single movement; a step forward and her hand stops before shoulder.  My outward breath moves me away, a little. Touching my skin only lightly she rolls back the unitard material.  Exposed there is the small ageless tattoo, overlapping, centred; blue, white, red.

By choice I stand alone and watch the others as they win.

Two pence, return.

Memory is never accurate and my dreams are just an approximation of what has passed.  This is a dream

Two pence, return.

The harsh, synthetic fibres in the seat resist my weight.  Upstairs, at the front.  I am absorbed in the usual distraction, looking down through the driver’s periscope. It is an empty vision.  There is a second frame to the glass, vague fingerprints in colourless chewed gum pressed all around.  Yellow bus tickets stick there like feathers, each one showing the last journey to Schofield Street.

Nearly there now; that’s where I am headed.  Tomato reds, cocoa browns and citrus oranges from the seat confuse appetite and vision.  My blue shorts, cut from trousers, bunch; their hand sewn hems lumpy.

The deep, repetitive bleep of the level crossing flashes through my head and pulls my sight up.  The flimsy barrier lifts. A grimy diesel hauls a long coal train into the power station siding.  There is a rough ride then, across the rails into the long rise and over the new bridge.  Crash barrier aluminium shines with the crystalline patterns of its cooling extrusion.  I can smell the iron bolts that hold it safe.  But the graceful arch of the bridge falls away steeply.  Water laps at the tarmac as the road submerges.  A line of detritus marks the change in worlds.

The red sides of the bus magnify as we enter the lens of the canal.  The image is bulbous and clear. We do not distort the surface as it takes us back.  Our path is unhindered, recently dredged.  A single, phantom pushchair is animated by our current. The coal dust smells hard in the water, there is the sherbet tang of asbestos.  Guppies, mostly orange, occasionally fancy, crowd this strange creature that has joined them in the over warm emulsion.

I think that this is a shorter way.  The road travels past the pacified Castle Hill Park, the shops, the other school and the main road on up to the Grammar.  Here the landmarks surprise me.  The old wool mill that now houses a powder coating factory.  Vast doors stand open showing the bright, white light of women welders. Sinister grey steam rises thick over two bridges.  Two railways; this place only ever hinted at offering more than out and back.

The bus stop is neglected; concrete crumbling with weather.  The everyday is grey as we move free; water drains away.  As I walk cold marks our changing fortunes.  Goose bumps chafe against my legs.

A familiar door, its glass of blue sea and yellow sun, stands open.  The brass mouth of the carpet well gawps.  My eyes fill now with water, like that in the canal, but this carries a solution of heart stopping salt.  I wipe my nose and tears with the back of my hand.  Cheap, dysfunctional clothing has no pockets.  I am not putting a hanky in my knickers.

I leap over the welcome mat. The walls are heavy with frames, imagery of things held close or excluded. Birds: birds bring bad luck indoors. Butterflies carefully preserved and colours failing.  Daffodils dried in an attic. The stairs rise, each step grows deeper, the dust thickening at the edges as I climb moving up and towards.

The direction changes and I accelerate.  There is space here in the turn for a castle: an imagined court.  This fortress I have defended.

The hall now makes an uneven pathway.  The leaves in the carpet pull free, form a noisy autumn floor.  On the landing doors stand open, vulgar and anxious.  My parents’ room holds fears that I do not need. I am old enough to have my own.  Four doors suggest choice.  I take the only option.

It is my place.  But there is no space here for me.  The problem is obvious and simple.  These things are well made and well conceived; forged not factoried.  Hands that worked; pink and caring; calloused and considering. Never touched by metallic, unhoping and unthinking. Shortage and waiting.

Bear worn with care.  Doll often dressed.  The bed, narrow and constraining, soft with years of use. A faded butterfly from the hall attacks the bare lamp.  Brittle wallpaper carries simple yellow flowers and brown dot bamboo.

Lost heat describes patterns against the chimney back.  Soot bubble ants climb upwards, not yet dislodged by winter wind and rain.  Around the fire there is white gloss paint; modern luxury on cold cast iron.  Tiles make an exotic rendering of a familiar rose.

On the bed sheets are furry and bobbled; wrapped in a distorted cellular blanket.  By the bed a book of poems; care worn but new.  I start with the first one.        The words are clear and unreadable.  I know I must understand but I cannot make any sense of them.

I can remember only that there was a bird.