• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 10


The chain of the swing-bench squeaks swinging backwards but not swinging forwards. To this music she watches the sodden clouds advancing and thinks they might inspire more awe if she knew their names and how they worked. There are plenty of people who know how clouds work. She sits and swings and feels no urgency to learn things already known by others.

When she was six Father Beard was in the classroom on a sunny day, vivaciously describing the glory of Heaven. He was old but still enthusiastic about this magical place. Didn’t all things become tiresome eventually? During her summer holidays she’d had the cheek to get bored of a beach she’d been brought to for a week. As a child she presumed you became more passionate about Heaven the older you got. But she was old herself now. His arms were raised high, his fingers wriggling about his head like worms on hooks, his eyes shutting tightly long enough for her to see the world of wrinkles on his eyelids then flicking open, wide and wild, trying to share the glorious image he’d just seen like he was thrusting a holiday snap at her. Father Beard put on a good show and it was wasted on her. It seems important to remember she was six. He threw open his sermon to the classroom floor for questions. A daring thing.

Is stealing food from another’s lunchbox a sin? (Yes!)
Can you go to hell for wishing someone dead? (Yes!)
Are there pets in Heaven? (Of course.)
Does Nana see me going to the toilet? (Er...No.)

She put up her hand and said, “How do you know it’s all true?” There were gasps and the rolling of little eyes. Taboo. She expected chastisement, but no.



In fact she felt all grown-up as he spoke to her about the mystery of faith and transcending reason. To believe you just believe. But aged six she’d already been burnt with Santa and Fairies and Immortality.

She sits on her swing-bench and a bumblebee flies past, too quickly that she doesn’t get a chance to worry about it stinging until it’s gone. It feels strange to worry about something in its absence. She looks up at the clouds. It’s not enough to witness something she doesn’t understand when she knows there are plenty of people who do. And it’s not enough to witness something unknowable when she knows ignorance is just a symptom of time. She breathes and smells the pot from Alex’s bedroom. She swings on the swing-bench and asks herself what would be enough to restore her childlike faith? What mysteries are left? The clouds, the bumblebee, the swing-bench and the pot. None of these. The classroom tables etched with the initials of daring pupils learning to question. Where is that feeling of peace she knew before beginning her own interrogation? Even still, it doesn’t rain. There are plenty who know how clouds work but the forecast today was for rain.