It starts where I sit at the kitchen table looking at people across the road. There’s a small group of them, and they move the afternoon light because the light is loaded with flakes of heat, gum leaf, and dust, and every outline is livid with it.
The people are leaning over a car, bonnet up.
There are dishes and cups here, and one yellow pot at the window, level with the heads over the car outside. Inside, there is also a coffee mug, a tea towel, a phone charging.
There are books on the floor, and a wooden train set with some missing. A bottle of perfume, a set of weights, clean washing (some of it folded).
A bowl of nashi pears, heavy with yellow.
I have a low table with a glass roof. Under the sliding panel of glass there are square cavities, each one containing something really good. Polished stone in silky chunks, fossils, a giant leaf that’s not actually that big, carved wooden spoons, pieces of shell, clay, a feather, all those things that have no value but have great value. The glass is scratched now. On top, a wooden petrol station put together and painted by hand, and inside this a plastic elephant and giraffe from a game that strayed into another game. On the top of the petrol station, copies of Hairy McClary and Asterix and the Golden Sickle.
The nashi pears are heavy with yellow. Someone should eat them.
There’s no power here. The internet says they’ll fix it by 9.30pm, and that I’m likely affected. I am. Found candles and two torches with no intestines. But the candles are nice. I am trying to heat my shepherd’s pie without a microwave.
My library looks like a dungeon full of deep dark works from the days of dragons, steeds of smoke with diamonds for eyes and muscular haunches that scrape at the moon and allow gold to fall on the poor.
The house is no longer a cube of blue light from screens that are sharp and shined and give useful facts and information.
The house is a caramel. I’m sitting in it trying to heat my shepherd’s pie, imagining that I’m poor, and my mother’s voice saying, ‘But you’re not’.
When the cousins talk about Finn, they always say he is too something. The cousins are three, Finn is one. He doesn’t have much authority yet.
‘He’s too small.’
‘He can’t talk.’
‘Finn can’t come because he’s at home in she’s cot because he’s not big.’
‘He’s not strong.’
‘Finn’s lost him’s shoes.’
‘Do him want to come with us?’
‘He’s too loud.’
‘He’s in she’s highchair.’
At the table, Finn eats steadily, bangs a spoon and watches the roof. Noah and Max look on, thinking about it.
They ask me, ‘Is that bread dead?’ Do dogs eat water? Where’s Pa?’
They eat broadly, expansively, and watch each other swallow. They have not finished but they are finished.
‘Can we play trucks now? Not Finn.’ Finn, hearing his name, makes eye contact, unhurried and joyful enough to make them pause.
And say, ‘Look at Finny, he’s looking at us… him can have the train.’
Noah sighs, ‘Yeah.’
The mulberry tree arrived as an infant. We planted it in the centre of the orchard. It placed its toes in some source of life that we couldn’t see. It grew.
It towered over the cousins from the time they were born. They ate its soft red ideas all through their first two summers and presented themselves, stained and fat at the back steps for cleaning up.
Now they have found it. They climbed it. It has branches placed at cooperative intervals which allows small muscles and hands to leave the ground behind and discover a whole new interval. They become monkeys. They scream a newly minted monkey sound. They hang over a branch, speechless.
They are full of mud and welts. They refuse to come down. They say there is a tiger. There is a good branch close by. They grasp it. They are birds, they are not birds, they are new. They stare at each other. They stretch their mouths open and make no sound. There is no sound sufficient.
I went for a run on the roads out of town. I have the time.
On one side of me, cold. Behind me, quiet.
On the other side, a hill scratched all over with thousands of crickets that I can hear but can’t see; the crickets all repeat the same idea.
Up ahead, nothing at all.
This morning there are two magpies. They cast their sounds out and up, haul them back and throw them again. Then they stop, and other birds take over. Then they all stop; someone is hammering in a shed nearby. The hammering stops. The birds begin again at once, lashing the morning with too much news. My cat is on the step and I am packing books to take to the shop. My cat is crouched down with eyes like hairpins, hating the bird noise.
The magpies drop a couple of final calls, stripes of sound that float and rise, split quietly and bow, ironic, over the rest of the screamers, who sit with beaks open and feathers dazed.
The birds are quiet. My cat sits up, and I go to work.