Wednesday, 26 February 2020

The Typography of Tears

*Extract from longer piece*

There was a small pile of beetroot accumulating behind a pot plant which Alex was adding to daily. What he intended to do once that hiding place was no longer tenable hadn’t occurred to him yet. He was dealing with this day-by-day. What was the alternative? Tell the truth? That would mean disappointing his mother. He hadn’t analysed his rationale but he felt he couldn’t let her down. She thought he loved beetroot. She thought she was making him happy by bringing him his little salad with beetroot. In fact, it wasn’t bringing him happiness. It was bringing him revulsion.

     She was always telling the story about how she believed he had come to love it so much. When his mother was in hospital having him she had been fed almost exclusively on beetroot. Beetroot soup, beetroot stew, beetroot stroganoff, beetroof pilaf, roast beetroot… but she had been in hospital for a long time because of her blood pressure. At least one week overdue, she had taken it upon herself to avoid the nagging and fussing of family and medical professionals and go travelling into the mountains. Whether she intended to deliver the baby herself was uncertain.

     Not wanting to cross the forest themselves it had been several days before anyone reached her. Finding her missing from her small cottage her family had reluctantly appealed to a massaman they found at the edge of the forest. In turn he passed on the message to his band who were gathered for nightly fire meeting. Word had been sent via the massamen, one of whom had located her at a small cabin in the foothills of the massacurya, in the early phase of labour. She was calmly breathing through the contractions when the massaman appeared. Knocking five times in rapid succession before he entered, Alex’s mother exhaled into a deep growl at the silhouette as he stepped into the doorway. His wide brimmed hat and heavily cloaked silhouette shifted slowly into the room and then he stepped forward one pace. She growled louder and gripped the blankets underneath her into tight bunches in her fists. Alex was on his way and Tay had no intention of leaving the cabin until he was safely with her. 

     The massaman pulled up a chair and waited. As the growling dissipated into steady panting he moved the chair forwards a few inches and waited again. “Tay,” he whispered. Her attempt at a growl was exhaled as a whimper. “Water,” he said as he left the cabin. He proceeded to deftly light a fire, using kindling he kept in his cloak pockets. He had given no affirmation to the family that he would bring her back and it seemed to him, without any discussion, that he would respect her wishes, as were obvious to him, to allow her to give birth here, a place she felt an affinity with. The door to the cabin was ajar and he listened to her breathing as she progressed steadily through darkness and light, riding the waves of pain and euphoria. The air was perfectly cool. There was a breeze that carried sparks from the fire up towards the star dimpled sky, floating higher and merging with the up and away. A small window and a crack where the door had been left open also filled with dull light. Tay was still working hard inside and the massaman yold himself that sitting there was where he should be, just far enough for her to call him if he was needed, but not too far to intrude. A circle of trees protected the cabin which was only infrequently, used by the massamen. The others wouldn’t come looking for him here until the morning when they might send one or two fellows if he had not returned. The night was more than young; it was being born.

     The remains of a fire made by this massaman had lain expectantly for some months, waiting for some wanderers to return in need of shelter. It was just passing that time of year when the seasons trick you. Warm in the day but cool in the night which falls more quickly than you expect it to. This part of the forest held only the buzzing of birds and insects. They were too far from any camps to hear the barking of dogs.  Tay made a noise; a low grumble that could have been a name, and he turned to the door. Now she needed him. He took the pot of hot water from the fire and carried it to the cabin.

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