Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oh just one more!

Well I've cracked open an old vat and just have to spill the contents, y'see. Cleaned up the hard drive of an old laptop. These stories only existed on stiffy drive, you understand. So here's another. Hey, whats a blog for if a girl can't air her old selves from time to time?



I have wanted to do this for such a long time now. It's one of those things that I knew would just give me such satisfaction. I am not by nature a vindictive person, by any means. Unless of course you count the time I sabotaged Henrietta's petrol tank. But that doesn't really amount to the same thing, because I was actually trying to save her life. It was a good thing she couldn't go on that journey. She would have died or met with a horrible accident. Everyone said it was vindictive, but actually it was a very selfless action. This is completely different. This gives me great satisfaction.

I sneak in here while he is still asleep. You have to be very careful that the stairs don't creak. You have to miss the eighth stair because it's been all chewed by termites and it makes a hollow sort of breaking sound when you step on it. He's a very light sleeper. He wakes up at the slightest midnight footfall outside his window. It's because he doesn't remember his dreams. `Sleeping is a waste of time,' he used to tell me. And `you sleep too much.'

Still, he really hates it when even a single mosquito gets into the net. It drives him crazy. He sits up in the middle of the night as if terrorists have arrived. Sits bolt upright and starts swiping at the air like a fat drunk kitten. And then he'll keep dead still, like he's trying to fool the mosquitoes, like if he keeps still for long enough they'll forget he's there and land on his arm, but they never do, because his heart is pounding with midnight adrenalin, he's breathing too fast. Mosquitoes can pick up vibrations really well, they know if a person is asleep or just pretending to be there and keeping really still to fool them. Every now and then he'll make a mad lunge at the side of the mosquito net where he thinks one has landed, and he takes his hand away, squinting for the grey-red smear, but they're always too quick for him. He blinks at the pillow, but all he gets is that thin whine, sailing past his ear. It drives him crazy, especially when he hits the side of his own skull too hard. If he could, he would fetch his Winchester .22 and blast their tiny heads off but he can't do that either, they're just too small. All of this makes him very irritable in the morning, especially as I'm always lying there so peacefully, dipped in warm watery dreams without waking.

That's the way it used to be, at any rate. I don't know if Henrietta is such a heavy sleeper. She's not here now. That's why I chose tonight. Henrietta has gone off with my sister on Safari. `Do you mind?' my sister asked me. I told her I'm not the jealous type.

So I tiptoe up the wooden stairs without too much creaking. He is very fast asleep this time, and there's an empty whisky bottle next to the bed, with a sticky smear on the wood where it spilt and the dust has collected. My hands are quite sweaty because it's a hot night and also I can't stand that smell any more. Lemon soap. I stopped using it last summer. I have my mother's best scissors in my hands, they've got an orange handle. Round my neck is a silver whistle, the kind policemen and dog trainers use. I want to laugh out loud, but I won't, not yet.

You know when you're a kid and they don't know what to do with you at nursery school so they give you paper and a pair of creaky silver scissors and you're told to cut out shapes? And then they show you how to fold the paper so that if you cut a person out and then unfold it, you get a whole string of paper dolls holding hands, with stiff skirts almost touching? I like those shapes, those angular paper people dancing in a line, looking like they're getting ready for a curtain call. So that's the shape I'm going to cut out of his mosquito net.

I start at the foot of the bed. I don't want the snipping noise to wake him just yet. I cut out three smug little A-line skirted figures, all smaller than the palm of my hand. Then stand back, breathing carefully. He doesn't even move. A slight lung rattle is all that disturbs the air.(He smokes far too much, though Henrietta's trying to get him to stop.)

I step towards the bed again. This time I cut out a much larger shape, its body just a little bit smaller than my face. I step back. I position the wooden chair directly in front of the bed. My wooden chair. Which he still hasn't given back to me, though he said he would drop it round. I position myself in the chair so that I will be in his direct line of vision when he wakes, perfectly framed by the largest of the holes. I put the silver whistle in my mouth and take a deep breath. I can just see his face as he wakes. I know exactly what his eyebrows will do and how his cheeks will quiver. How he will fight with the sheet before sitting upright, bolt upright and alert as if terrorists have arrived.

I am about to blow on the silver whistle when I notice a small movement on the pillow next to him. Just a quick scurry, then it stops. I peer through the hole, my eyes are quite adjusted to the dark. I peer through the shapes I have cut and there on the pillow is a small black scorpion. Not one of the really bad pale ones which keep you swearing all day, but still. Enough to really hurt, especially if it gets you on the cheek. All at once I am completely helpless. There's a lump in my throat and I don't really know why. I suddenly remember being seven years old. My first scorpion sting and sobbing all night from how sore it was, wishing my frail wish for arms to be holding me in the dark.

It was a long time before I could do anything. Too many thoughts bumping into one another in my head. I felt even more foolish than that time in Henrietta's garage, barefoot, on cold concrete. The room suddenly much bigger than it ever was. I thought That's my book on the bedside table. Right next to the whisky spill. Lolita. I had a sudden craving for ice cream, like when we walked through the shops that cold day.

A rush of something in my chest then I am standing on the chair I blow on the whistle over and over and I think I might be crying I'm not sure but I'm shouting `Scorpion! Next to you on the pillow.'

Then I'm very still because before I can head out of there I hear click and he's loading his gun. Click. I lower my head without breathing so he can see me through the gap. We stare at each other for a long time.

I say, `There's a scorpion on the pillow next to you.'

I walk. Down stairs that moan under my weight.

My bike purrs beneath me with the wind clean on my face but I wish I didn't feel like this. Lemon soap burning my nostrils, and eyes raw. My sister's coming home tomorrow but I can't really speak to her anymore. She wouldn't really understand anyway, if I told her that I wish I'd never put that water into Henrietta's petrol tank.

I've hung my string of cut-out dolls above my bed. Four dancing girls in their net skirts. They are the last thing I see before I fall asleep.


Val said...

HOW many of these have you got stashed away?? they are FANTASTIC - I love them... more more

Angela said...

Happy, happy birthday, Tam!! I am thinking of you from afar and always want to read more from you! You are a lovely nice!

tam said...

Haha. Val, I'm bored now with those. I do have more but will save them for when I'm desperate and have nothing to say!

Geli, thanks for the birthday wishes. I'm glad you think I'm a lovely nice. :)

Angela said...

Yes you are, even when you make fun of me!!