Nathan, I’m going back to the car

A man put his head in the door of the shop and called, ‘Nathan, I’m going back to the car.’

But there was nobody in here. I didn’t get time to tell him though. He backed out and got into his car and waited in the driver’s seat. Soon he got out and rang someone on his phone. He moved against my window to talk, ‘Well, where are you then? And where’s the ladder?’

Outside, the air is gold, with splits of light and leaves moving all through it. It’s warm. Visitors say, ‘It’s glorious outside.’ I sit and look out at it.

There’s a baby in a pram in here, singing, and the mother is looking at the books, tapping a water bottle. She has brown hair and so does the baby. Can she hear her baby singing? It lays there, making soft noises all on different notes, looking at the mother, one foot hooked over the edge of the pram.

Over the road a bus driver is helping a lady in a wheelchair onto the bus, and someone has reversed has into a rubbish bin in the car park behind the bus stop. Doesn’t matter; it’s glorious out there. A young woman is crossing the road slowly, despite the traffic, and the light is all over her clothes.

Painting by Diane Leonard

When Max came to dinner

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Tonight Max came to the dinner table.

It is the first time and he is a little bird perched and watching everything. We are eating noodles and vegetables, prepared by the youngest aunt who is glum and disappointed. Max watches everything. It is loud and hot inside, the fire is roaring and there are sticks and gum leaves scattered across the floor.

The table is chaotic. Max looks carefully across and though glass and plate, noodles and vegetables, baby bottles, pencils, bowls, envelopes, the shining cutlery, a water jug, school papers and disagreements.

He watches his mother eat, he watches, in love, her mouth, he reaches and reaches for the fork, but he mustn’t have it. He reaches for noodles, his mouth moves, he imitates his mother, he allows saliva to fall. He is entangled in eating and voices and gestures.

The youngest aunts have begun an argument; they accuse each other of being freaks and of life wrecking. Max watches calmly, he is impressed by voices and the rainbows of dispute.

Max’s grandfather eats at an alarming rate; he is going back out to the shed to bring back a beer, a home brew that is disgusting.

I am watching Max absorb the evening, I wonder what he wonders. A glass of water is overturned, a fork drops, conversation falls and lifts and falls.

He is lifted onto his mother’s shoulder and is moving away to bed, he is still looking at all of us and he is smiling,  he has one triumphant fist raised in the air.