What Pegman Saw: Her past beyond the curtain

Image: Google Street View

Mila peered through the mesh of net curtains, frustrated by the hazy view. If she pushed them aside she might see better, but then she risked being seen and the very thought made her forehead damp with anxiety.

‘Jaap?’ she called behind her.

A pan clattered in the kitchen out back. Jaap’s way of telling her he was too busy to come running.

‘Jaap, that child’s in the street again,’ she called.

A boy of around seven or eight years of age. Dusty red and blue striped tee shirt, skinny legs poking from wide shorts, the knees sticking out like knots in lengths of string. He’d come every day for a week, stood in the middle of the dirt road for an hour before leaving.

A cupboard door slammed. ‘What do you want me to do about it?’

‘Tell me it’s not him,’ she muttered.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting off point. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

What Pegman Saw: As the tanks rolled in again

Aliena stared through the window to the street below.

‘Yes, yes, I know,’ she said, absentmindedly stroking her cat, Mika. ‘We should have left months ago.’

Pulling at the balding, leathery ears, she smiled. She’d so loved Mika that when he’d died her husband, Dimi, had the creature stuffed. How long ago? Too long to remember.

A tank rumbled past, shaking the glass. Wehrmacht. Once it had been Soviets, later the Poles. She and Dimi had watched it all from this same tiny window.

Before that, when they were a young married couple, it was the Cupid bronze in the communal garden that had drawn them to the place. ‘Keeping guard,’ Dimi had said. ‘A good omen.’ He’d smiled, kissed her.

‘Where are your omens now, old man?’ she said.

But she spoke only to the air and to a stuffed cat.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we visit Minsk, Belarus. See here to join in.

Minsk has been at the centre of various conflicts for centuries, overrun by various nations. I saw the Cupid statue, that little window overlooking it and wondered what they’d both seen over the years.

See here to read more about the history of Minsk.

What Pegman Saw: The Desert Kin

Image: Google Street View

The shack had been the post office of a mining town, now deserted. Sunbleached boards across the windows, tiles missing from the roof like a reptile shedding scales.

‘This it?’ Roddy’s usual cocky smile had slipped as we’d driven further into the desert. Now he was a fifteen-year-old boy again, arms tight folded, fear skulking behind his eyes.

‘It’s okay, kid,’ I said, smiling. ‘Soon have a fire going. Go fetch the bedrolls from the pickup, would you?’

I scanned the plain, the distant ridge of smoke grey hills. At least we’d see someone coming. Any vehicle would kick up a dust trail and as long as we were vigilant –

Something cold brushed the back of my hand. Instinct made me look, but there was nothing. Of course not. You don’t see the Desert Kin. Not unless they want you to.

‘Roddy, I’ll take first watch,’ I called.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we visit Cloverdale, New Mexico. See here to join in.

What Pegman Saw: Enough

The house was built upside down.

The front door and kitchen were on the first floor, level with the road, while a small bedroom and study were on the ground floor, burrowed into the side of the mountain.

Three rooms, one fireplace, a view over the valley. It was enough.

In the winter he grew strong digging away the snow. In the summer he sat on the front step, watched the hikers march red-faced up the mountain.

The locals had been friendly at first, bringing him cast iron dishes filled with of polenta, rounds of Fontina cheese. But the visits had dwindled as his neighbours realised there would be no warm thanks or smiles, no reciprocation.

Some nights he dreamt of what brought him there, the day he turned his own life upside down. But every flagellant knows his own limits and exploring the past was his.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we visit the Aosta Valley in Italy. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

What Pegman Saw: On the foreshore eating apples with Dad

Image: Google Street View

Dad was a crane driver at the docks, loading and unloading shipping containers, ten hours a day, six days a week.

Often, to keep us from getting under Mum’s feet, Dad took us with him, left us mudlarking on the foreshore as he swung the sulphur crane limb towards the sea, towards the shore.

I was small then, unable to translate the containers’ markings into words, the words into thoughts.

Dad would join us on the pier at break time, share a square of cheese, chewy ends of loaf, one soft apple.

I’d pester, ‘What’s inside the big boxes, Dad?’ ‘Where are they going?’ ‘Who would need so many things?’

He’d shrug, look mystified, as if it had never crossed his mind to wonder.

That was the difference between us. I needed to know how the world worked, he was content that it did.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. Today we are in Paraguay. See here to join in, share and comment.

What Pegman Saw: Just for You

Ron’s Bait and Tackle stood beside Ellie’s Just for You for ten years.

Every Saturday, the men would go, furrow browed, into Ron’s to buy line, discuss the best place to catch salmon and wrasse. Their wives would nip into Ellie’s, coo over doilies and fancy teapots shaped like Sydney Opera House.

When the paint flaked on the Just for You frontage, Ron would appear with sandpaper and paintbrush, Ellie watching from the shade, serving tea from a pot with a chipped spout.

As the sun eased into the ocean at the end of the day, he’d sit on his step, roll threads of tobacco into a skinny cigarette, she’d perch on the wooden seat he’d made for her, sip lemonade through a red and white straw.

One day both shops were found boarded up. A sign on the Just for you read,

Gone Fishing

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we visit Tasmania, Australia. See here to join in.

What Pegman Saw: An Unmade Thing

Image: Google Street View

The stillness of the afternoon sits, heavy as a sand bag, on his head and outstretched limbs.

He’s lain under the bridge for hours. His back is still damp from the morning dew, trapped by his mass, while the grass around him has turned brittle in the heat.

This is his favourite place, the best time. Crickets rasp at his ear then flick over him, ants worry his hair. Better than town, the children’s sniggers, the adult’s guarded looks.

Troll, they call him and worse. Beast, Foetus … Abortion. He didn’t know that last one, so he asked Gem at the store who laughed spittle in his face. Gem’s words buzz like flies. Unwanted … Terminated.

A fleshy burn rises inside him, filling his chest and throat. The day fuzzes with tears.

Footsteps on the bridge make him jump. The touch is light, a skip-skip-hop.

Troll licks his lips.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week, we visit Saskatchewan, Canada.