What Pegman Saw: Ox blood red

The bar’s corrugated iron walls were ox blood red, the roof patched with the hood of an old army truck and an oil drum beaten flat. It smelt of the Mekong – weed and runoff from the sugar factory a mile upstream.

Sunny nodded. “I’ll take it.”

The For Sale sign came down, tables and chairs brought in. Some nights a local band would play on the river bank – the bar was too small, too weak to hold them – the reedy voice of the khene reaching across the water to Thailand.

He imagined the music – the thread of his longing carried on the wind – drifting over her as she lay in bed, curled and dozing. Would she smile as she slept? Dream of her old love?

The bar would empty, the band clear a table to play cards. Sunny would sit alone on the river bank, his thoughts following the music and the wind.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View. This week we visit Laos.

Notes

The Mekong River acts as a natural border between Laos and Thailand.

A stretch of the Mekong River was turned black earlier this year by the runoff from a sugar factory.

The Khene is a wind instrument local to Laos and Cambodia made from bamboo and used in traditional – often bawdy or satirical – folk music.

Advertisements

The Daily Prompt : The Last Parcel

Crumpled paper

Image: Pixabay

 

The box had been  on Mags’ sideboard for six weeks, gradually being enveloped by paperwork – Mum’s solicitor, insurance companies, utility bills. It had become part of the room, along with the sagging sofa and the coffee stain on the carpet. She almost didn’t see it any more.

The day it arrived she knew who it was from. Thick packing tape along each edge and on the corners, name and address written in neat block capitals in black marker.

Mum.

How had a woman who’d been strapped to monitors, pricked with needles, attached to various bags for the previous three months, managed to pack a parcel? The postman arrived as Mags was rushing – one shoe on, slice of toast clenched between her teeth – to see the consultant. After the meeting she’d got home, poured a large glass of red wine. Stared at the parcel until it turned blurry with tears.

In the following weeks she couldn’t clear enough space in her head to open the parcel. The more she thought about it, the more important the act felt. It was a bundle of lasts – Mum’s last letter to her, last parcel, last act that seemed like normal life – until it was too much. That’s when the box became part of the room.

Now the funeral was paid for, legal wheels set in motion.

It was time.

Mags cleared the dinning room table as the coffee brewed, excavated the box from its paper cocoon. It lay naked, exposed and she watched it for a while, its last moments of wholeness. With a small knife she fell to slicing the tape, careful not to push the blade too deeply in case she damaged the contents.

She opened the flap and jolted to a halt as a flood of scent hit her, the one she’d given Mum every Christmas for over twenty years. Heavy and floral – a perfume for romantic novelists – it never suited her, but Mum was always stubborn and had refused to even try anything else.

Mags let the pain ease, waited for the clawing horror that had first gripped her in the hospital pass – that knowledge that Mum was gone forever.

Hand shaking, she pushed back one flap, allowed her nerves to settle before pushing back the other.

Gently, she pulled aside a mash of second hand bubble wrap, bunched newspaper, a crumpled shopping list – tea bags, sliced loaf, dusters – to reveal a familiar face. Her Panda – threadbare, nose pressed flat from hugs. An ache pulsed in her throat as she lifted him from his nest. A flash of red caught her eye – a ribbon, shining like a new painted letter box. She remembered the colour, knew it had tied up her hair but the details of when and where were lost. The rest of the box was filled with drawings, school reports, photographs of them at the seaside, them on a steam train, them sitting on a picnic blanket eating Scotch eggs and sardine sandwiches.

Finally, Mags opened a single piece of notepaper, Mum’s writing still elegant even so close to the end.

My darling girl. Take things slowly

And her voice was in Mags’ head,  by turns joking, cheeky, stern. And after she finished reading Mags smiled and read the note again.

 


Written for The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt – SLOWLY. See here to read other contributions and to come along for the ride.

 

 

The Lego red jumper

building-blocks-456616_1280

Oh, hell, what’s the matter with him now? Crying in the park… God, I hope no one sees.

I only married him because he was handy. The first day we met, he offered to fix my car, to clean out my bunged up guttering… He reminded me of my dad- so practical. Good with his hands, you know. He wasn’t one of these drippy modern men who talk about their feelings all the time and have to call in an electrician to change a light bulb. I thought, ‘you’d better hold onto this one, Soph. You don’t get many of those to the pound.’

Then on the wedding day, in front of all those people… He cried when we exchanged vows, cried during the speeches. I was so embarrassed; I wanted the ground to swallow me. You could see people looking, smiling to themselves. Afterwards during the reception, I made a point of going round apologising to people- I knew he wouldn’t. Oh, they all said the right thing… ‘It’s nice when a man’s in touch with his emotions.’ That’s what Aunty Brenda said, sarcastic cow.

Up until that moment at the altar, I’d been upset Dad wouldn’t be there to give his little girl away. But when David started to cry… I’m ashamed to admit, I was pleased. Pleased poor old Dad didn’t have to sit through such a spectacle.

I never once saw my dad cry. When he knew he’d have to have his legs amputated because of the thrombosis, he just said, ‘You gotta go somehow, love.’

So brave. Didn’t cut down the cigarettes, even after the diagnosis. A proper man, my dad.

  ***

I was just thinking we’re so lucky with this weather. Above seasonal norms, the weather lady with the big eyes said. I was thinking of the weather lady and her soft brown eyes, of it finally being dry enough for me to look at the roof. Sophie’s been nagging, but it’s just been too wet and…

Then I saw her. An old lady sitting on the bench alone, knitting. Bit of an eccentric by the looks of her. Still in her slippers, dressing gown cord holding her coat together. It crossed my mind that maybe she was a bit confused, that she’d been wandering. I thought about ringing someone. Sophie would call it interfering, but you’ve got to look out for people…

We were just drawing level and I was being nosy, looking to see what the old dear was knitting. I thought, ‘Right, Dave. If she’s making some mad bit of stringy underwear or something, we’re stepping in and Sophie can moan all she likes.’

But then I saw it. A little red jumper. And it was the exact shade of red. Not tomatoes, or post boxes, but colour of red Lego bricks. The colour of my favourite jumper when I was six. The last time I saw it, it was hanging from my dad’s hand…

I remember thinking that if he was going away, it couldn’t be for long because he hadn’t packed many clothes in his holdall. But then he asked if he could borrow my jumper.

‘But it’s too small for you,’ I said. I think I was actually worried he might try it on and it would be all stretched out of shape by the time I got it back.

Then Dad said, ‘It’s not for wearing, Davey. It’s so I can look at it and think of you.’

His eyes were all bulgy-looking and I remember being very worried then, because you only need things to remind you of someone when you don’t see them for a long time.

I started crying, wrapping my arms around his neck, gripping one of my hands with the other, thinking that if they couldn’t separate us, then I’d have to go with him, or he’d have to stay. I thought of Action Man and his curly, rubbery fingers and I pretended I was him and gripped and gripped. It was a shock when my mum pulled me away so easily. I’d tried so hard.

Dad was still clutching my jumper as he walked out of the door. The last thing I saw of him was a flash of red as he vanished round the corner of our road.

***

Nice bit of sun, this. I could just ease me slippers off, get some warmth to these bunions of mine. Ooh, look at these two coming along the path.

Now, she looks like she’s been chewing a wasp, that one. Chewing a wasp with a rod up her backside. Not comfy. And he’s crying, poor man. Not surprised if he lives with that. ‘Marry in haste, repent at leisure’ my old Ma used to say and she weren’t wrong. Ah, love him. Give the man a cuddle, you flinty old cow. Ah, well. You makes your bed…

Now, where’s that girl got to with my babies? I needs a dog to measure this thing against, or I’ll keep knittin’ and knittin’ and it’ll be too long and get all tangled up in their paws.

Here she is now.

‘Edie! Where you been with them puppies? Bring Bluey over and we’ll give him a fitting…’


Today’s Writing 101 Prompt: A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry.