• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 01

Stuff and Sales

I wonder whether you’ve seen the sign already, whether I should cover your eyes. Or whether that would just alert you to the fact that there is something to see. Of course it would. Stupid me. So, I keep walking, keep you walking, your slim hand in mine. You seem peaceful, staring ahead. You tend to look ahead. Sometimes you are beaming at butterflies in the future and run into a rock in the present. I have to stop that, be your guide, which isn’t easy. I was not designed for looking any way but back.

It is not even the word “dead” that might trigger some kind of pain in your sweet soul. It is more “stuff” and possibly even “sale”. Years later, assuming that you are still here, you may hear this story and think, what on earth’s wrong with “stuff”? It’s the animals, you see. At the museum. The elephant, and the foxes and even the round little squirrels. I had envisaged a kind of dead zoo. It wouldn’t be that different to a living one, they just … wouldn’t be moving. Or making noises. Or able to see us or communicate with us or know we were there.

Well, they were still and they were silent. But their blank dark eyes – plastic, or glass? – stared into mine as I stood holding you and they did not like what they saw. The elephant’s anger chilled me to the bone. The foxes’ scorn made me turn away in shame. The squirrels looked confused. Why do you not love him? He is perfect, is he not? He is hers, is he not? I ran out, clutching a confused baby you. We must have looked ridiculous.

“Sale”. The word makes my mouth shrivel up. Depending on accents, it can be either salty or dirty in French. I remember the shortbread, how careful I was. How I measured out everything perfectly, took my time mixing instead of charging around being angry as I usually would. It was actually quite therapeutic to just stand still, do something mundane and repetitive.


Stuff and Sales

I cut neat little hearts, sprinkled sugar. I presented them to her meekly, almost hiding behind the kitchen door. She took the tray suspiciously. How could I, the resident failure, have made such a beautiful thing?

She bit into one and spat. “Salty. Of course. Only you.” Back she went to her crossword. I poured the tray into the bin.

It is no doubt far behind us now, that sign, but I am not looking back. It would kill me. Then they could sell my clothes, if such a mismatched set of rags could ever appeal to them. “Mama, look there’s a tree with stuff in it.” That word. But it is ribbons and sequins and bits and bobs. I let you lead me to it. The sparkles dance across your cheeks. It’s some kind of prayer or loss tree. I really don’t know how pain can create such beautiful, beautiful things.