- Vol. 07
- Chapter 11
Sunday tastes of the sting of oranges. Jeremy’s tongue is spiked by hot prickles as he walks the woodland lane. Lilac ribbons curl from the beech trees. Skylarks. Then, as the wood pigeons call, soft blue clouds puff between them.
Her stone cottage is straight out of a fairy tale, everyone says. Jeremy sees it as a tired old man, drooping eyelids and an untidy thatch of peppered hair, as he opens her gate.
‘Grandma,’ he whispers, for the pleasure of it, tasting the delicate sweetness of marshmallow.
He knocks. The sound is buttercup yellow, as circular as the sun. He avoids looking at the number ‘2’ on her door, intimidated by his arrogance. His grandmother understands how multi-dimensional Jeremy’s life is as a synesthete.
‘I’ll change it to the word,’ she has promised.
It will only be marginally better. The ‘w’ will be ringleader, he knows.
Brown triangles rise like sandwich-shaped balloons and melt at head-height. Rudy, the dachshund, is barking behind the door, appearing at his grandmother’s feet as she opens it.
‘Hi, Grandma.’ He swirls his tongue and swallows the delicious word as she hugs him.
‘Jeremy!’ She ushers him inside.
Jeremy strokes the excited dog and he quietens. Commas swarm like flies as Rudy’s claws tap on the stone flags. Jeremy is relieved when he curls in his basket.
‘Come and sit down.’ Grandma smiles under the umbrella of words which arch over her head, falling like spent leaves. ‘Just going to pop the cake mix in the oven.’ The words dissolve as she winks. ‘Chocolate.’ It quickly turns to specks of dark dust and vanishes.
Bold primary colours squabble their way out of the kitchen as she clatters, then, as the gas explodes in a discordant orchestral blare, Jeremy, for a moment, is engulfed in a black that feels so solid that he doesn’t know if he will be able to smash his way out.
As it disperses, the most scintillating fireworks throb and oscillate around his head, the crackles tinkling like xylophone bars. The meld of shooting stars, circuses and fairgrounds, and spilt ink bursting its coloured fronds in every direction, bores into his skull in beautiful agony.
He picks up the whimpering dog, hearing the magical notes of a risen phoenix, and, as he collects his grandmother’s scattered pearls and drops them into the cold dregs of her mug, he marvels at their translucent wings and iridescent bodies as they scuttle for freedom.
‘Grandma,’ he utters one more time, savouring the cloying sweetness of her name on the day when there will be no cake.