Thursday, 31 October 2013

If Ghosts Walked Abroad In The Daylight

Sound of water in the wheels as the car glides through the ford. Drive too fast going down the hill. Two white shapes. Check my speed – the rumps of two white donkeys ambling down the road. Annoying in-between rain. Don't know whether to leave the wipers on or off. The arc of a porch growing out of a white cottage wall. Further out still, lamps in windows.

Reach town. Leaves piled up on a street corner. They make the shape of a sleeping man who might rise at any moment to terrify some passer-by.

The Big Issue seller plants himself in the brightly lit portal of the supermarket. No way for anyone to get past him without being drawn in to some slice of human trade. The cover of the magazine is a sickly green. I tell him no thanks. He tells me to have a nice night.

A lot of anger, out here tonight. I'm driving again. The driver behind seems to be doing his best to vanish up my exhaust pipe. I indicate, turn off, but he's still there: his cold lights filling the interior of this, my private space. I pull over. The car swerves around me, the hooded driver hunched down at the wheel as if he's scoring an all-time new high score in a computer game. That there might be real flesh and blood, people travelling on their own legitimate and troubling business hasn't computed with this driver as he speeds down the built up street.

I'm about to pull out when I see a man in my wing mirror. He's shaking his head. I'd like to think that he's as appalled by the tail-gating driver as I am. He has this long beard and a leather motorcycle jacket on. A heavy rucksack on his back. He has the choice of waiting two seconds for me to pull out or to walk round. He decides on this last option. As he draws level with me, he turns and gives me the finger. For a split second I contemplate leaping out and seeing how brave he is without the armour of the car between us.

Home again, I've almost forgotten him.

Everything feels cold. The keys under my fingers. The bed I lie on. Most of all, the air I breath. The cold air gets between my fingers. Lingers over the keys.

Staccato laughter. A tele­phone conversation. The pauses in-between...

The furnace-like energy of the boiler. The rumble and clang of a truck heading out of town. The laughter, peeling again. The words, muffled by the floorboards.

A break in the conversation – one sided, of course.

Unbidden, distant memory. Don't want to, refuse to go there...

Another wave of car sound. The faint turning of pages.

The doorbell rings.

I stand at the top of the stairs. Through the distortion of the crushed glass I see an orange shape. It's that time of year again. I open the door and carry it in. I walk through to the kitchen, the pumpkin held under my arm as if I was rehearsing for a part in Hamlet. 

Back upstairs again, the TV hangs in the window like a black flag. The old TV, relegated to the bedroom. I suppose we envisioned cosy evenings watching late night films in bed. It has a little red stand-by light in the bottom right corner. It burns at night like a demon's eye once all the lights are out. I swear I've had more entertainment from this stand-by light than from anything we ever saw on the TV. Just me in the dark, the night stretching out like a Viking ship ahead of us. Each thought an oar carrying us across the surface until we go our separate ways into dream or oblivion.

The TV has a logo that looks like a silver face forever smiling.

It was just yesterday that we walked through the graveyard. The wind was fierce and the hurricane predictions seemed all too likely to come true. A Saxon church with the original timbers below a mullioned window. The glass in the window was an impenetrable black. A sundial, of all things, set on the wall. If ever ghosts walked abroad in the daylight, then this would be the place...

The silver smiles on until I get the feeling that I could almost fill in the missing spaces and silver, once again, flashes on the water broken by the tail of some leviathan rising up from the deep.


  1. "I swear I've had more entertainment from this stand-by light than from anything we ever saw on the TV."

    That's lovely.

    And it puts us in mind of what was the matter with Hamlet -- he'd never have settled for that. He'd have expected a Home Box Office stand-by light, at the least. Always wanting what he had not got, and wondering exactly what it was, at that.

    Happy Halloween, dear Yorick!



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