Thursday, September 18, 2008


The wall is tall, grey and utterly smooth. There are no chinks or chunks.
She is sitting on the gravel in front of it. A slight pain develops in her neck as she stares up at it.

There is silence, at first. Tiny points of gravel dig into the soft flesh between her sitting bones and the ground.

Touching the wall leaves a fine grey film on her fingers – concrete dust. After a while she realises that the silence is not complete. There is a far-off chink-chink sound. As if somebody somewhere is stuck behind a similar grey wall but has a chisel to chip away at the concrete. Or perhaps it is a team of men who are building another wall like this one. She looks around her. There are no tools. No chisel or hammer. No pole or rope.

The sky is vast up there where the wall ends. No clouds. Just a hurting blue.

A strange thing happens when she looks down from the sky. The wall has curved into a continuous sweep around her, enveloping her like she's at the bottom of a well. A dry well, with no water-softened pebbles, only sharp gravel. She blinks. A minute ago the wall was distinctly square. She still has the imprint of a right angle, a corner. Perhaps that was another wall, at another time. This one is definitely curved now. Not softer. If anything its more panic inducing, this benign curve.

She has a soft memory of what the doctor said. She must keep out of the sun. But here she is in a hot flood of light. No hat. A lick of sweat on the back of her neck. She must move, to there where the shadow starts. It must be afternoon. But muscles do not follow the impulse that rises in her. Or perhaps it is not an impulse. No, you could not call it an impulse. It is a dead set of words in her head. A sound like something falling onto hard ground. Her muscles do not obey. She will wait, until the shadow creeps onto her. Then she will be in the shade.

Thirst. This is the next thing. Her tongue wraps top teeth, drags over bottom lip. Moisture has moved away from her mouth, it has shifted to different parts of her body. Her hairline, and the backs of her bent knees.

In fact the wall is not completely smooth. You can see the seams, the tiny pockmarks where the water bubbled quickly away from the cement. It was cast in sections. That's how you cast a big concrete wall. In sections.

A quick memory of her grandfather. He was an amateur builder. The way the hairs on his arms stood up so tall. He taught her to mix cement - remember? How water slakes the grey powder, sludges it. Swift nausea. That feeling on your hands when you touch unmixed cement. Could he have built a wall like this? Unlikely. Besides, he's gone now. Not coming back. The image recedes.

Grandfather. Doctor. So there is memory then. Yes. She can picture cold lettuce leaves, water. Television. Shells on a beach somewhere. Something before. Only - how she got here, and how long its been since the wall was there - this is not available. There's a slow spooling out of thoughts then. Like an old movie when the tape finishes and its just the white flick of snow under a too cheerful tune. And this dry mouth, and the slow trickle of sweat down the left calf.


Chimera said...

Gorgeous, gorgeous. The wall, the sun, the concrete dust...the description of the moisture moving from her mouth. Wonderful stuff.
And Dorathy P would do the black box thing...
T xxxx

Val said...

so lovely.... and intruiging! i can feel the sharp gravel and the burning sun.. thats so odd that when you start to sweat your mouth goes dry - so true... never thought of that before :-)

Angela said...

I want to tell the sad girl that no one should feel as lonely as that, and so encircled by the surrounding walls ... not as long as there are aunts around!

Reya Mellicker said...

I've had dreams like this - not the particulars but the feeling.

I mean, nightmares. Wow!

Adrianne said...

Good lord, do you ever know how to write! I still am not sure that I understand the full story (I'm a laywer, so I can see multiple possibilities and shades of meaning), but the experience of reading this was one of pure pleasure.

I also am grateful for your thoughts on my animal post. I need to take a closer look at dog mythology and plan to get hold of the Ted Andrews book ASAP. I already have another totem animal book, which I am going to try to unearth when I sign off tonight.

My Internet was gummed up last night, but today I read your post about spider medicine. Wow. It reminded me of how, once, I was blessed with a large spider and her even larger web in my front doorway. Somewhere between my fractured Spanish and my cleaning lady's fractured English, my instruction of "don't clear the spider web" got translated by her as "clear the spider web." When I came home I was furious, but that night I got to watch my large spider friend weave a beautiful new web in my doorway. I stood indoors looking out, and she and her emerging web were lit from behind by the light of the moon. I have never seen anything like it.

Janelle said...

tam? you ok babes????? as i said. come to zanzibar!! xx janelle

Janelle said...

tam? you ok babes????? as i said. come to zanzibar!! xx janelle

Janelle said...

those frigging word verifications...i mean. why put w's and v's next to each other? you can;t tell where the one ends and the next begins.they're really trying hard to trick the robots hey?..! XX janelle

tam said...

Thanks for all your comments. This was something I had written a couple of months ago, and because I had such a busy week last week I cheated a bit and just posted this up without explanation. Actually, I was curious to get some feedback.
Val, I'm glad you felt a sense of intrigue, and thanks for your kind words, Chimera.
Geli, your concern warmed my heart, but don't worry, this is really fiction! I'm interested to see that you read loneliness into it.
I wrote it during a particularly acute bout of writers block. That feeling that theres a whole world you could access but something impenetrable standing in the way. I wanted to try and write my way out of it.
So yes, Adrianne, there are multiple possibilities with this one, it's just a fragment and I was curious to get some response so that I could see if there was anywhere else to go with it.
Thank you.
Reya, I can imagine this would be a nightmare you would want to wake up from!
Janelle - I AM FINE!! Honest!