Monday, April 30, 2007

days

It took seven weeks to throw off the cough and I was a lump from sitting around so long. While I was still getting worse an on-off boyfriend had his bike taken from outside my house while a brief visit developed into a needy one. He didn't get away with it this time. I was more upset about it than he was, and afterwards I had an unrelaxed feeling about where I lived. Years had slipped by while I was working. I found out that I didn't know much about my neighbours, the kids flitted like a mixed flock of birds and I wouldn't even recognize them. Now I wanted payback, somehow. I was aware I must keep my wits about me and know people's names and where they all lived. I sat in the shadows a little back from the window and spied. On Mondays and Wednesdays the noise of the binmen was a pleasure, and later still the postman cycled in with his bag of supermarket offers and election promises. Library books expired. When the kids went back to school the scooters no longer revved round the flats and with a sigh of relief frightened old people crept out on their steps and read in the sunshine, but not for very long. Soon the mothers and toddlers filed up the road from the playgroup. I tried to learn the doors they entered. Every afternoon was fine. Sometimes the sky was hazed and the sun was a hot copper ball. The next day it was clear again. Driving in the countryside the rapefields hidden by hedges smelt of honey and also of cheap margarine. A cloud like a large comic turtle was being drawn across the sky. The shorn head of a child on a bike glided along the top of the wall. A crow, every feather fanned out, swirled to rest bouncing in the cypress. I ought to know the cars they drove; what a car betrays about its owner. If someone gave way to me at the end of the road, I didn't just wave my hand, I tried to learn their faces too. Friends. Enemies. I tried to make out that I was still hazed, but it was an art that didn't come naturally to me and my attention provoked attention in its turn. What's your problem, they looked. Want a picture? My coughing invaded their homes. I had panicky thoughts of them talking about me, saying She's a bit funny. I was beginning to have a face.

*

I was just getting ready to leave when Jen called me over and she told me Nerys would be doing the bar in the evening so I wouldn't be needed later. She said Nerys had been promised Saturday night but now Mark and Jen had cancelled their plans for the week-end she wasn't needed so it was only fair that they let her work Friday night instead. I said to Jen that's fair enough but I felt gutted. Friday has always been my night and I've been working at the King George a lot longer than Nerys has but she was taking my shift so I wasn't impressed. I've had the feeling from the moment when Nerys started there she was brought in to replace me so I think I might have to start looking elsewhere soon. In the afternoon I went and did for Margaret as we arranged and then I went shopping. I had no plans for the evening and I was going to have a quiet night in but then I told myself don't let it get to you girl so I decided to show my face anyway. I wore a halterneck bustier and slingbacks plus the new snakeskin bag I got down town. It was a bit awkward at first because I was sitting at the bar on my own and Nerys made it plain she did not need my help so I just sat quietly and had a drink. Then Mark and Jen and Jen's sister Trish came in and I got talking with them. Later on I had a couple of dances

*

One thing which gets me every time is when I go past a field and I see the elm trees coming up behind the gate. I think, that field hasn't been mown for three-four years, and it gives me a good, peaceful feeling of nature coming back strong and green. Then I go on thinking, and it's always the same. I realize it's the next field to the last house on the edge of town and I realize that they're just waiting for someone to cark it so that they can sell it on for building land. If by then the field is all full of thistles and thorn then you'll never get any problems with the planning department because the people who live next to it say: what an eyesore, it's time it was sorted out. It's all about greed. But for me this is a good opportunity because I can tether my animals in there, of course that makes people even more anxious to get it built over. We've always lived along the edge. The edge keeps shifting just like I say but there'll always be an edge. Right from when I was young I used to play the game of looking for money in the street and I still play it now. You learn to look along the gutters where people get out of their cars because the change falls out of their pockets. Markets are good places too, and best of all are the pubs of course but I can't go in that sort of pub, I'm too conspicuous and in two minutes it turns nasty, you'd be surprised. When Kelly was a baby we used to go down to the NCH day centre where you can use the washing machines and kitchens. The dogs are part of our lives. It's good to keep dogs, it's about respect because others are the same around here, they're not very well off and they keep their eyes open. The rule is, if you look after your property you won't have any trouble, but if you take liberties with it then it's fair game. That's how it works.

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