Charcoals in the Basement
Parallel lines cut running tracks through the hay. He pony vaulted into mine, infront of me. I wanted to sprint, to do it myself, so I sliced across to his and the game continued.
‘Dead,’ he shouted, stopping, the long hay up to waist.
I came to a slow, panting to see where his finger pointed. A small velvet dark mouse, resting on its side.
Further on we saw some spotted blue and red butterflies, but no puffins. Not that day. The cliff walk up to them was steep; sharp. It said, ‘Climb at your own risk.’
Earlier, he’d asked why we were alone, staying in such a big place. I’d tried to make it fun.
‘We can choose any of the bedrooms we like,’ I’d said.
‘The attic,’ he’d said, sliding the metal shovel into a wedge of wet sand. ‘I like the attic,’
I’d taken a photo then, of my shadow on the beach, as he dug out a moat. My legs were thick, head small. Hands raised to either side of my head as if to say enough.
Later, from the cottage, I’d seen two dots out at sea, inching closer and closer to the shore. Dolphins, I’d almost cried out. Then I saw thin rods moving like majorette sticks and the long snouts of kayaks.
Before we left, we filled the base of his punch bag with sand.
‘Why were you so sick,’ he’d asked, lifting a fist of trailing sand then filtering it into the small hole.
‘Tummy bug,’ I answered, using the back of my hand to wipe grain from my eye. ‘That was all.’
We’d carried the base between us to the car, lifted its weight up to the boot.
On the long drive home, his thumbs jerked; killing, shooting, maiming. I thought of the dream he’d told me about. The one he had the first night we’d slept there.
A man was at the window, with a potato sack on his head, and a chainsaw in one hand a gun in the other- pointed at me. He’d tapped it on the window.
Then he woke up.
It was the same day an old window had come crashing down on my thumb, mashing the skin, indenting it; too sore to cry out, to speak, to say anything.
I wonder if he’ll notice, I thought as I flicked down the windscreen wipers. I wonder if he will ask. I wonder if there will be a note left on my mat, a letter, a birthday card.
‘I liked your pictures,’ he said, throwing his game down on the wet sandy towels, the empty crisp packets, the tangerine peel. ‘Did you use the charcoals in the basement?’
I nodded. Recalling my hands were like a coalman’s. Paper turned black. The triangles. It brought comfort, going over and over that shape until the charcoal snapped and all that remained was a small stump in my hand.