Andromeda

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I dreamed you
came to me
and wanted to tattoo the night sky
on my body

Starting small, you
cut into me
and marked the constellations
across my skin

Pegasus on my pinkie
Cassiopeia on my collarbone
Lyra on my lip
Hydra on my heart

After that, you
swept across me –
mapped the nebulae until
I was full

Bored suddenly, you
peered over me
hid your inks and left
the open wounds

unfinished and incomplete:
a partial galaxy

 

Sharon

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Sharon was on the telly the other day. At first, it was just a quick mention – her age, where she’s from, all that nonsense – and then another channel threw her picture up. I made her sit in front of the screen to watch, but she was shy and kept quiet, just sat there, all stiff. That’s you, that is! I pointed to the blurry old photograph they’d scavenged from somewhere. Not many people get to be on TV! She didn’t look too impressed.

Later that week, at the dinner table, she didn’t touch her food. What’s the matter? I asked, but she wouldn’t say. Just sat sort of slumped in her chair. She’d been in bed most of the day, and I could tell she hadn’t even bothered to shower – she was starting to smell bad.

The same broadcast flashed up that evening on the screen in the advert break for Emmerdale Farm, but they’d found a new picture this time – her parents had sent it in. There she was, grinning in a bathing suit, holding a shiny swimming medal up for everyone to see. Recent school photo. They’d cropped it, so you didn’t see below her shoulders. Hey, Sharon, don’t be shy! I shook her arm. You should be proud. Now everyone knows who you are. I nudged the tin of Quality Street her way, but she only looked down, and rolled her head into the sofa cushion. Tired, maybe. Awfully quiet.

The next day, we saw her again, in the paper this time – different picture – mummy and daddy very proud, and want her to know they love her. I laid the news out in front of her. Her cuppa had gone cold, though I’d probably just forgotten the sugar, is all. She gaped down at the headline, as I pulled her hair into a loose ponytail and tied it. Moved my hands to her shoulders, and rested them there. Might get a knock at the door soon, do you reckon? I smiled. Local TV might want to get in touch.

And wouldn’t you know it, the following day there was a rat-a-tat-tat at the front door. Sharon! Look who’s come to see you! I propped her up in the hallway, only, she smelled particularly bad at that moment, and hadn’t changed out of that school dress in days. The blue lights coming through the window made her look a right state, so before I answered the knock, I nipped over to straighten her up a bit. One sock had slipped down, and her collar was ripped. There were wet marks. Sharon, you don’t half look a sight! Just as I was dashing to get a tissue or two, the door came flying open and they came barging in. In the kerfuffle I could still see her little face, coy as ever, as they took photos. One of the fellas kept saying her name. You’ll not get a word out of her! I laughed. He looked up at me with an open mouth. Mustn’t have heard. I said, you wont get a word of out her. She’s shy, that one. Sharon’s face tipped my way as they readied her. I grinned back, and thought about what I’d fix us for tea once they all cleared off. She needed a good meal, did Sharon. Soon she’d be nowt but skin and bone, if she weren’t careful, and I knew for a fact that she wasn’t. 

Boilerman

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The Boilerman is tinkering in the other room. That’s not the proper name for the job, is it? Is it electrician? I want to say thermal electrician. Thermal engineer? Heating specialist. Hot water professional. I should have checked his pin badge, when he knocked. Coffee, milk, and one.

He’s battering away at something, throwing noise down the hall; every few seconds I can hear flushing sounds and scratching sounds, and the sounds of a drill. We didn’t have proper milk, only soy. Prentendy milk. I imagine him waiting for me to leave the room and then tipping it down the sink.

From the next room, I hear him opening something. Every new sound is different from the last. I imagine him levering the lid off a special biscuit tin full of various objet d’art, taking each curious item in his hands and creating new and different sounds with them, to bemuse and confuse the anxious listener in the next room: milk bottle brush, cloth sack of wrenches, welly boot, a cylindrical musical instrument that mimics the sound of thunder, wooden door stop, baby’s rattle, squeaky hinge. Every now and again, he churns out a grunt or wheezes a little, indicating the severity of the problem at hand. It sounds a complex routine.

He probably thinks that milk’s gone off. Came in, saw the mess, assumed the milk was a no-go. Did he even try it? I can’t remember seeing him try it. Air bubbles move through the pipes in the ceiling, like ropes of dirty pearls, and now I can hear him on the phone to Colin, It’s Andy. Motorised valve. Dodgy. Downcomer. Drum.

Anyway, I’m down the hall, wanting to kill myself again. I toy with the idea of not waiting for him to leave, imagining him shouting up the hallway, getting no response. Hello? Plodding down the hallway carpet, unsure of how far to explore before he’s out of acceptable territory. Yer there? Would he open the bedroom door? What about the bathroom door? Which would be least invasive? A rogue image flickers through my mind, of his red, hairy hands pulling a mealy limb from the bathtub before letting it fall, smacking the still and unmoving surface of the water. Perhaps he’d talk about it later that night, two pints deep in the pub, remarking about the temperature of the bathwater, or the way you never can tell about people.

Milk was off, he’d say.