“I don’t wanna keep on wishing, missing
The still of the morning, the color of the night” – Carrie Underwood
“We are stronger in places that we have been broken” – Hemingway
It could be worse.
My mantra, that is so passed it, it should of been binned by now; swept away like the moldy crumbs in the bread bin; the little specs of green that weren’t letting any seeded artisan loaf last passed a Wednesday. Sometimes it wouldn’t last because due to nutella calling it’s name; I was there, the bread was there and the nutella had been knifed… all very dramatic and murder she wrote-esque.
Always look on the bright side, another phrase ingrained from the age of 7 by the man who left us to live. To live without being weighed down creatively by 3 kids and a stepford wife. He went in search of the bright side instead of realising the lights he already had.
The sparkler of a daughter, hypnotizing and humble; the one who fizzled out on many interested and ventures. The one who had the thirst for life and would just light another match when she was so easily stamped out.
The study light of a son, always curious, slightly careless but cared none the less; Sometimes more than he should or the person was even worthy of.
Then the last, the subtle string of fairy lights, not the brightest but the magic and Hygge were found here. Emerald eyes of the youngest that hoped if she keep her magic alive he would come back and realise… she never did finish that sentence. She was unsure of what he needed to realise or why on that autumn night he even had to leave.
Mother was there. I can’t describe her brightness, it’s just there. Always. I’m yet to see her fade even slightly, she simply glows morning, noon and forever nightly.
Our household was run by a list even before that night, the simple bullet point was not taken away. Live with a list and never worry, that was the way and her bit of advice on a bad day; list the good things they always out number the bad.
Yes I get that but the weight is never the same for each bullet point on that list. I could have one thing weighing me down and 25 helium balloons filled with good trying to pull me up to the clouds, but their only success is keeping my body upright.
Then you are still winning, still standing as someone once sung; so stop trying to give up when you haven’t even begun.
I write lists and send them to her now from the little flat in town. Every week without fail just so she knows things are alright and my life still had some light. Even though I am not in love, Adam is kind, caring and treats me right, I could have it worse like the man next door who gets a daily right hook from his wife.
“and he said, it started to snow embers, sparks from the sun, a sign of the last battle, a sign the war is won”
They’d made it through the heatwave with a dehydrated mind, when all that was wanted was to give up, and in to the bind.
The breeze grew colder, chilly and forceful, it was needed, craved each and every morsel. As it filled their noses, lungs and head; clearing out the dust bowl, so sand covered thoughts could be read.
They’d made it through, their eyes greeted with colour, fire and freshness; their bones relaxed, no longer restless.
The first step outside was one of a victory lap; one that would keep going until their final clap.
What happened in between was time capsuled away, for someone else to hopefully not find; no that would ruin their day. It’ll happen anyway because problems are passed through the generations. Inevitable sadly but that doesn’t mean they become like poor Boo Radley.
That’s the easy option, one without scars; i’d take another one just to see those stars.
Diamonds, pixie dust clusters, fireflies shining with so much lustre. They are something you don’t want to miss, each shine with so much light you’d think the darkness has been kissed.
And yes I know they are brighter in the dark but you must know they started beaming way before the day lost it’s spark. They keep burning, simple as; they just keep going. So remember that when you think the embers will never start snowing.
She was too sweet. Sickly. Like candy floss coco pops.
Maybe that’s the reason I saw her every Friday, sat at the bar. Alone.
A pink Passoa, always stared at her from the damp beer mat, equally as lonely now it had been separated from the rest of the bottle.
Did she give everyone tooth ache? getting those perfectly shark white vaneers was expensive so why risk it with something a little sweet.
But it’s not what she drank or how she dressed that was sugary, it was her voice and words. Her vowels were syrupy and consonants like a crumble crust.
I’ve seen him at the end of the bar more often in the last couple of months. He perches on the end of the leather stool like he is only stopping for one. Something dark always in his glass, ice cubes swimming trying to survive as he turns the tumbler on its edge.
Today I saw him smirk. Dimples appeared on his cheek.
It was either something funny he had remembered or he had overheard me asking what the sugar content was in apple sours. Not that I was conscious of my weight but I always find sugar gets to be quicker than the alcohol.
The boy appeared after her 3rd drink, greeted her with a wink; stealing the spare stool.
Her smile quick and forced with a hint at the corners of her lips that maybe he wasn’t welcome; that there was no point even trying.
Their conversation was low, making it hard to know exactly what the narrative was; made me wish i’d mastered the skill of lip reading like my sister.
I ordered another drink, it was only 6pm. Partly because I wanted to get home after Julie had left for her shift and I was intrigued how the interaction a few bar stools down was going to end.
Can’t a girl drink in piece these days. He’d refused to move for the last 20 minutes, ignoring my short replies and fed up sighs. This Cheshire cat was not giving up, he signaled the bartender for another drink; pushing his glass right to the edge and letting it partly go over the edge so she moved towards him a bit quicker.
As he was flirting with the blonde, I noticed the seat and glass further down were now empty. Slightly disappointed as watching him had become quick interesting.
Pain in the ass sat back down, pulling a curtain over where the man had left stage right. That’s when it happened, his face changed to aggravation.
I’d had enough and downed my drink while the loser without a clue was looking down the bar tenders top, getting a right eye full. Time to step in, cause anyone that wore crocodile shoes under the age of 45 in my book was a bit of a nob.
I walked out the back exit and went in through the front, walking quickly with a look of stress on my face.
“Sorry i’m late honey, work was crazy” I said slipping my arm around her shoulders.
It started when I was 6.
Following my fathers footsteps through the marshy grass. 6:30am on the first Sunday morning of Spring. The sun was still hiding, wanting to stay under it’s starry duvet, much like I wanted to do. My thoughts drifted back to the warmth of the cosy little room. My feet had started to go numb through my frog wellies even with the double layer of panda socks.
Dad wouldn’t even give her a hint of what they were doing; he just said “today is the day, I can smell it in the air my little bear”
Little bear, a name that had always been around. Not that I was hairy or feral , it just suited my freckled round face framed and the short brown curls begged for something other than grandma Gilda’s middle name. Mary.
A canvas backpack was slung over dad’s shoulder. It made a chinking sound with each giant stride; reminding me of mum’s 40th birthday last year.
“almost there” he called behind, slowing his pace to let me catch up. Once we got to the gate at the end of the field he placed his backpack on the other side of the wooden posts and proceeded to climb over. It looked unsteady with his weight but there was no opening it, the majority of the main supports were a foot in to the mud.
I hated climbing gates. My sister on the other hand had mastered the art of gate gymnastics last summer. She was constantly trying to come up with creative ways to make from one side to the other.
After an unsteady climb and dad aided jump, we trudged following the stream up to the man made lake created for irrigation. Not sure there was a point of staying a few metres from the water; my feet were drenched.
What if I got trench foot?
We had been learning about that in history; Mrs Kemal said that it was caused by soldiers feet being in wet boots and socks for long amounts of time.
There was a bench up ahead. I wanted these wellies and sodden socks off, now!
There was no way I was having anything cut off, being the least stable on two let alone one leg… I’d be a shit flamingo.
Hoisting myself on to the bench, sliding slightly on the wet moss. A couple of attempts, I was up fighting against the suction the water has created in my wellies. Dad appeared with a bemused look on his face, again I was reminded of Mum’s 40th.
“you don’t want to be taking those off yet bear cub… you’ll need them when we go in” He said signalling with a slight movement of his head.
In front of us was a gathering of trees, their branches dropping like cousin Louis’s hair. I imagined that the trunks were teenagers, trying to hide their faces from the world. The tips hoovered over a small pond, covered in a green slim… looked like pesto.
Dad crouched down and pulled out a glass jar from his backpack, that explains the clinking. He steadily walked over to the pond and began to wade in. Standing shin deep, he bends down to scoop water in to the jar and rises with a knowing smile, while he turns the jar in his hands.
“Grab a jar Little Bear, we have work to do” he announced, placing the jar on the bench next to me. It looked like bubble wrap inside, each pod holding a tiny black dot.
The sun had just started to weave it’s way through trees; beams of light were hitting the glass and making it’s contents sparkle. They looked like glow worms from a book I read last winter, about a girl from Australia and her dog Jonty.
We filled 5 jars that morning while the rest of the village was sleeping or getting ready for church. The thing is it’s not the adventure my dad took me on that morning that stuck in my mind, it’s what happened that evening that was rather extraordinary.
You see as I watched the sun go down from my windowsill, I noticed that one of the jars that had been put in my possession was glowing. Each watery bubble pulsing with a golden energy. Leaning forward, letting my duvet slip away I touched the glass, it was warm and smooth like recently used light bulb.
When I told my family the next morning they didn’t believe me, why would they my imagination normally got the better of me. I was hoping to show them that evening, but when I got back from school my dad had already moved them all to the pond.
They didn’t glow that evening, I watched as the sun set but the water remained dark, not even a glisten.
For years after that I hoped each time we went on that Spring adventure that would be the year I could prove it happened. Sadly it never did and life went on.
Well until a few weeks ago…….
I was sat in my car on Monday morning, trying to find a radio station that didn’t have some overly chirpy DJ presenting the breakfast show… No luck.
The close was empty at 5am, peaceful and free of family morning mayhem; i’m going to miss it when school starts next week.
There is a door slam, i look up and see a small figure outlined by a street lamp glow. Mrs Dorset, the 57 year old spinster. I’ve never really spoken to her but she always throws a smile when you walk passed her rainforest of a garden; Lucy my cousin used to say she lived in the garden most of the time, slept under the over grown plants.
Not sure how much I believe that but she is always going somewhere in her car, an old renault clio that was now more a redy orange than white with all the rust.
On her childlike back was a hesian bag bulging with something, no what she could be trying to shift at almost the crack of day. Well actually my mind did wander with a few ideas, the conversation about Fred West came to mind.
She struggles as the weight drops off her back and swiftly to the ground.
It was left to rest by the back passenger door as she climbed in to the drivers for something; her one foot placed on the edge of the car by the foot well, the other in the air, hovering for balance. The rain has made the bottom of her converse damp a causing her grounded foot to slip and the other kicked the side of the bag. The disturbance makes the move sideways and it’s contents starts to drop out on to the pavement.
Amazing, they say that a butterflies wings in New Mexico can start a hurricane in China, it seems Mrs Dorset’s foot can cause an avalanche of glass jars to roll down the pavement towards my car.
Thankfully the majority are halted by the barrier my the Lessens house; they are having there sewage tank sorted, their 5 year old keeps flushing electronics down the toilet.
I spot one rogue tumbling further and grab it, she’s obviously collecting these for the glass bank on west wimble street; created to make the people in the area to recycle more. Each glass item is worth a certain amount of money depending on it’s weight; think it is something that has been done in America.
“One wanted to escape over the border” I said as I handed her the old Hartleys strawberry jam jar. Haven’t had jam for ages, might get some on the way home.
“Oh thank you dear, this ones passport would be quite out of date, 1984” she points to the expiry date etched on to the bottom.
“You’ve been storing these up for a while then, i’m sure the jar bank will be thankful for them.” I say, helping her lift the bag in to the back seat, it was heavier than I thought.
“I’m not taking them there my dear, no no no, don’t need the money and I have a better use for them… would you like to come with me and find out?” She asked, the words whistling through the gap in her false tooth. Part of me was intrigued and wished I didn’t have work, the other part of me went back to the thoughts I had about Fred West earlier, what if she jars parts of her victims. Trying my best not to let my thoughts show, I smile and make sure my voice is steady enough not to launch the 800 volts of fear out my mouth.
” I’d loved to but the office is calling” the one day i’m glad the office knows how to pick up a phone.
“Shame, maybe another time” she says looking in to the distance “i’ll let you get off, the sun is almost rising and need to beat it” strange, why would she need to… never mind, I told myself to just leave it.
That day at work all I could think about was what Mrs Dorset’s day consisted of.
I pondered what the jars were for on my lunch break and all the way through the afternoon, staring at spreadsheets I tried to figure out what beating the sun meant, whether i’d heard it in a song, poem, book or film… nothing. Well apart from that song by the wanted and Adele chasing pavements.
Like anything Mrs Dorset and these thoughts like the sun got less and less, I no longer saw her before I went to work and hoped she was keeping well. It’s ridiculous, she only lives 5 doors down, not a world away.
I had also developed quite a fondness for jam as the nights drew in, so much so our collection of glass jars had filled two storage boxes under the stairs.
“Why haven’t you taken those to the glass bank?” Josh asked one evening when he was under the stairs trying to find the set of Christmas lights that actually worked.
“I don’t know, keep forgetting” I answered
“Well there is definitely better places than here for them to be, i’ll take them down tomorrow” as he said it I thought about a place they would be better suited.
“No i’ll do it” and I did. The next morning, crisp and dry thankfully. I put the boxes on a box trolley we’d acquired from mum when Josh moved in, and walked to Mrs Dorset’s front door. The rainforest had sunk to the ground, probably battered by rain, wind and the hail we had in November.
The bell rung, the door was knocked on but no answer, maybe she’s still out….the sun is shining, why did I think she would be in, not evening yet. Not wanting to wait in the cold anymore I Left the boxes on the front step and made my way back to the blueberry jam Josh had brought home from his trade show.
Weeks later, while watching Love Actually for the last time before it became unacceptable to do so, the porch light sprung to life, set off by a sensor on the corner of the house.
Curious I made my way to open the door. No one was there, just the faint sound of tv’s and families in the cold night air.
I stepped outside just a few steps down the path, just to double check no one was lurking around.. I know kind of stupid when all I have to protect myself is my cookie monster slippers.
Still nothing so I start walk back towards the house, that little kid is about to sing ‘All I Want For Christmas’ and not to brag or anything but my routine to it is pretty on point, even the backup vocals are nailed.
On the step by the door I see a little brown box. It’s got red and white striped string and a festive tag.
‘Collect your moments of sunshine, for in the dark times is when you’ll need that warmth and glow’
I sat on the sofa and opened the box, inside was a jar, small and curved but it wasn’t the jar I was awe of. Inside something was glowing, no beaming. Turning the jar in my hands, feeling the warmth from inside there was something etched in the bottom, 1984.
She was actually chasing the sun, harvesting it.