Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Garden

She was only a little girl. When she was born they said, "Oh she's a little girl." She was a little girl at Christmas, a little girl when she started school, and then when she had a little brother- she was still a little girl- Christopher was a little boy.
  Sylvia and Christopher played in the garden every day. There was no grass, only plastic turf, which was badly burnt all over. The next door neighbour was mad and drank wine. She often threw cigarettes over the wall and then laughed about it the next day, screaming down the phone to her friends and lovers and then crying in the bath. They heard all this, because they lived out in the garden most of the time with the cat from up the road. 
  On the other side was a man’s house. He was very interesting as he had an enormous television and loads of musical equipment, like radios and speakers and plastic eggs that recorded sound. He had no sofas or carpets and only one tea cup and his house smelt heavy like a sickly kind of smoke, but he let the children climb over the wall and come inside when it was raining in their garden. Sometimes the students who lived at the top of the huge wall at the back of the garden leaned over and said, "Hi!" They dropped gummy fried eggs into the garden and Christopher ran round and round in circles with his hands out.
  He never caught any.
  The cat- he is very dull. He pisses in the large garden pots and flicks shit behind him through his back legs when he tries to dig holes in the plastic grass. He is also an idiot and licks his own cat cock. A year ago Sylvia stole a camera that lay dusty in a drawer of relics and memorabilia. If the film was ever developed it would show several pictures of a hot family holiday in France, cross brows in the heat and trips on a man's shoulders. Then twenty-seven pictures of the cat; the monotony of his fat belly pulled out to the cloudy sun. Sylvia pushed her face up against his lazy eyes and pressed the button. SNAP. It looked as though they were having a great time.
  There were other animals in the garden too. The two children pushed thirteen snails into a jam jar and then as many leaves as they could fit on top of them. They watched the snails over the next few days, eating and eating and finally drying up and dying in the jar. Sylvia said the snails reminded her of humanity and Christopher said he felt sick. After the last one fell to the bottom of the glass they lay on the spiky turf and looked at the sun until they could see toenails of light when they closed their eyes. The weight of the cat crushed Sylvia’s chest and they felt the brick walls closing in all around them.
  At 8.30pm the garden door was unbolted and the children came through the spider room, which was dank and so dark that Sylvia imagined her skin to be alive with legs and pinpricking fangs. They rarely saw their mother since their second cousin Mary had come to look after them. Mary pushed them around inside the concrete house and threw a can of sausage and beans at Christopher's head. Nevertheless, Sylvia wrote her mother long letters, detailing Christopher's progress, how he had read paragraphs, then whole novels, front to back and later with comment and annotation. Mary promised that she had delivered them and smiled. When Sylvia had run out of note paper she wrote on a sheet of toilet tissue; "Dear Mother, It may shock you to learn that Christopher died this morning. Please do not worry or concern yourself. Yours, Sylvia." She slid the paper into the darkness under her mother's door and waited to hear the creak of springs as she heaved her soft perfumed body out of bed.
  It was a humid day and the cat yawned and rolled onto his back. Christopher sat in the corner of the garden digging with a piece of flint and eating nasturtium petals. 
  Sylvia climbed onto the wall, which was a little taller than she was and jumped, with her limbs flailing in a way that she thought might cause her to break her leg or die when she hit the hard ground. She lay on the floor for several minutes, then put on her boots and looked at the cat who yawned again and half closed his eyes, his black lips curling up at the sides like part of a smile. She imagined the cat with another family on the next street along. They fed him salmon in a little silver dish. A bead of sweat broke free of her hairline. She kicked the cat in the softness of his stomach three times and when Christopher cried she kicked him too so that he screamed and swore. She tore at her dress and threw a rusting bicycle at the heavy door. The woman from next door squawked “Shut up you brats!” and the man from the other side looked worried from behind the smoke in his upstairs window. Three students heard Christopher screaming and popped their heads over the wall in unison and said, “Hey! Leave that cat alone!” But still their mother did not come out of her bedroom. 
  Sylvia looked at Christopher who was lying on top of the obese cat and realised that she would probably never be a little girl ever again.

No comments:

Post a Comment