Saturday, 19 May 2007


I was watching as my father shovelled snow, watching my mother as she, in turn watched him, her face, the cruellest lips, blue in their tightness, the eyes fixed, but he would do it.

I saw them, beleaguered, padlocked, married. Saw them up through the weight of infliction, their horrendous mutual flagellation, such good Catholics, together until a death did them asunder. By Father Maloney's Glass Eye, or she would swing!

My father shovels snow and would shovel snow forever. I think about the shovelling, think that the third oldest profession is shovelling shit.

For we do never covet. Not my neighbour's wife, not her breasts, not her warm tongue, for Thine is and this fucking isn't, and though shalt shovel.

I try to imagine her, that neighbour. She does not even bother to undress properly, they do not, instead released in a glory of wanting, human rather than machine they rage into each other but it is pure love. They seem so pleased with themselves over there. He is shovelling but I am hard with the thrill of my father's pleasure when he stops, brings a hand to his head, collapses. And I notice the pause in my mother, the satisfaction, before, the wife, she reacts: "Your father!" A heart attack. It was the first gift he ever gave her.

Afterwards, after the hole dug through the frozen earth, after the dark fell and there was never, I left. I walked in the cold, a filthy cold, found a café and sat with a cup of hot soup, steam on the windows, a faint smell of rancid margarine somewhere.

Behind the counter, she was pretty, working for her father. Her name-tag said Juliet and when I spoke to her she laughed and mentioned balconies, but no Romeo. I must have said something for she said, "Julie's on the balcony, Romeo's gone clubbing," but I understood her smile. She did not know it, but she was thinking of shovels.

My mother, widow, will design isolated beaches for men to lie in the sun for fifteen minutes, fully-dressed in city suits and bowlers. As a special concession they may put down their umbrellas and close their eyes.

The husband negotiates love routines with a wielded Black & Decker. Inside he is a primitive but he has forgotten that some trees echo of forests, and the silent valleys ache with ancients walking. They walk in him.

Here a husband puts up shelves, but there he cracks, hisses, spins and jumps, drills into a skull. Now I am cold again. I sit on this ledge, people who were me pass underneath. Julie is on her balcony waiting. I am not coming.

449 Words

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