What Pegman Saw: Lost, found, stolen

Image: Google Maps

We were led along a narrow lane into the backyard of a house. A hosepipe coiled round the base of a banyan tree – emerald green and dusty – an equally dusty tortoiseshell cat coiled on a nearby garden chair.

The gallery was a wooden construction built onto the back of the house, the roof glass, letting in any dappled light that escaped the clutches of the banyan.

Sonny handed his kyats over to the elderly artist and strode in. I watched the twitch of his shoulders through his sweat-soaked shirt as he moved from one image to the next. The trip had been good for us. Time to heal, learn how to be a couple again, not a family.

‘Kim.’ An edge in his voice.

A painting. A little girl with Sonny’s charcoal eyes, my ash-blond hair. Our little girl, holding the ragged Mr Ted we buried with her.

***

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

What Pegman Saw: Forever Change

Image: Google Street View

The island speaks of forever.

Rock the colour of a whale’s back. A fathomless sea that leaps into the sky, swallowing the horizon .

Everything is as it has always has been and I want to be part of it, lie in the waves, let the barnacles clump my skin, the worms burrow into the warren of my bones.

A dash of red draws my eye, the colour so bright it hurts. The colour of pillar boxes, of telephone kiosks and buses, of change.

I want to be alone with the sea, but the colour grows, becomes a girl in a red dress. She battles her hair, the skirt that tangles round her calves. She bends, plucks shells from the whale’s back, tucks the stolen treasures in her pocket.

She smiles as she passes, the shells jingling, that smile pulling me back to life, the possibility of change.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View. This week we visit Guyana. See here to join in – it’s a fantastic prompt, so do come along.

What Pegman Saw: The unforgiving sand

Image: Google Street View

When I was a little girl, sand meant days at the beach building castles with a bucket and spade. Once the work was done we’d sit back and admire our hard work, eat shrimp paste sandwiches with crusted nails as the sea undermined the foundations, as the walls softened and melted into the brine.

No castles here.

The sand is too dry – it sucks the moisture from my skin, grinds at my teeth and the corners of my eyes. It’s harder too, filled with the rubble of ancient cities, fragments of musty tombs returned to the light, the secret corners of a lustrous palace laid bare.

The castles melt away and city’s fall. Only the wind remains.

***

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

Years ago I was lucky enough to visit Egypt, to the north of Sudan. Venturing into the Sahara Desert, I can vouch that the sand is pretty much as I describe here – definitely not fit for making castles.

What Pegman Saw: A million watching eyes

Image: Sukhbaatar Google Street View

Khunbish stared through the grubby window, out across the spine of the steppe. She smelt the clouds gathering, sensed the droplets of water shiver as they pinged together, eager to fall. Soon the brown grass would shimmer like a million watching eyes.

She’d played her role well. Allowed her father and brothers to bind her, bundle her in the little shed among the unwanted things. Grew still as they padlocked the door. It calmed the men to believe they retained control.

But she couldn’t rest forever.

As the first bullet of rain hit the tin roof she twitched her wrists, shook off the nylon twine. She reached out with her mind until it pinged against steel, felt for the gaps between the molecules in the padlock and encouraged them to grow. Metal fell to the ground with a bony thunk.

The time had come.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that takes you all across the world via Google Street View. This week we visit Mongolia. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

When researching Mongolian names, I found Khunbish, a gender neutral name which, according to Mom Junction means ‘not a human being’.

I suspect that describes my character pretty accurately.

What Pegman Saw: Winter Ghosts

Image: Google Street View

Our village is overhung by the forest, the mountain a spiteful mother at our backs.

For generations the coming of warm weather would prod us from our nests of furs. We’d pick and pickle, cut hay, fill larders and log stores. Ready ourselves.

The cold was always hard when it came. People died, but only those buffeted by years, stripped clean by illness.

Then one year the snow lingered, soft grey ghosts of winter hiding in the shadows. Children scuffed the drifts with their boots, prodded them with sticks before moving on to other quarries.

Each summer those ‘ghosts’ retreated less, were harder to ignore.

This year there was no hay. The ground is too hard to cut even for the smallest grave and the saplings dwindle and die through an endless winter.

Summer haunts my dreams.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View. This week we visit Maienfeld, Switzerland. See here to join in.

What Pegman Saw: Oversight

The hill cut the sky in half, a black shrug between the dappled water and slabs of slate grey cloud. Six pylons prickled the horizon, three groups of three, arm in arm.

Even here, the weight wouldn’t lift. The sky pressed down, hills pushed at his back, pylons watchful.

He tied another fishing fly, plucked the silken fluff from the shaft of a quail feather, twisted the cord, trapping more feathers. Once the fly was done, he added it to the others lined up on the pontoon.

They stirred in the wind, a twitch like the flex of dying muscles. He scuffed the bundles of feather and cord into the water.

“It’s time.” The aide was at his side, signalling towards the car. “They need your signature to go ahead.”

“Yes.” He watched the feathers float away.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its jumping off point. This week we visit Newfoundland and Labrador. See here to join in.

What Pegman Saw: The sound of metal on stone

Image: Google Street View

Aidee hadn’t noticed the guy in Speedos.

He and his friends had been looking at Didier’s new Jeep, a 2 litre turbocharged Wrangler, four wheel drive. Hakim had squinted at the faultless paintwork, one dusty foot resting on the other, spat his jealousy on the kerb. Golden paced, cursed his family, his bad fortune, temporarily forgetting he was a lazy degenerado who spent his days sitting on the couch with his hand down his shorts.

The sound of metal on stone made Aidee look to the pavement. A scalpel. The guy in Speedos turned, hands spread, two bloody vees yawning on his wrists.

The man looked at Aidee, right at him.

That face would wake Aidee for weeks, return years later when he was old and lost. It was the look of a being who’s heart still beats when the man inside is dead.

Aidee never saw a Jeep again without feeling sick.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that takes us around the world, courtesy of Google Street View. This week we visit Angola. See here to join in.

Notes

Portuguese is the main language spoken in Angola, hence degenerado which is Portuguese for degenerate.