by john ravenscroft
(Winner of Word Smitten's
2003 Storycove Flash Fiction Award)
my dreams, the good ones,
Mary Iris McCormack - Mim for short - is forever doing handstands,
her knees bent, her feet planted flat against the redbrick playground
wall. The skirt of her school uniform hangs like a soft green bell
about the half-hidden clapper of her head, and when she turns to
face me I see strange, knowing, upside-down eyes peering from beneath
the inverted hem. She looks away and a quick flick of blond hair
sweeps a swirl of dust from the asphalt.
half-aware of the fact, I wonder how long it's been since that hot
yellow-blue, small-town afternoon in her sister's tent. Thirty-nine
years? Forty? Can that be true? Has it really been so long since
she left me, moved to the city, the bright lights, London?
the skirt-bell's apex two flawless legs rise into the air, a matched
pair of flying buttresses kissing the wall to keep it in its place.
Suddenly straightened, oh-so-carefully parted, they become a walking
V as Mim inches towards me, poised, balanced, her hands sharp-angled
on strong, supple wrists. Spectacular. V for victory.
hear high-pitched peals of laughter coming from the bell's interior,
and at the dark forbidden fork - a place my eyes have no legitimate
business - I see her navy-blue knickers.
times in the past week I've woken at this point and looked towards
the pool of light where the night-nurses sit. I know one of them
well - nurse Mary O'Connor, redheaded with a lovely Irish lilt on
her. Her father used to be my postman, delivering my letters, collecting
my replies, bringing me dry paper and disappointment. Big city news
- too big for a small town Freiston boy like me.
she moves in a certain way, laughs just so, Nurse Mary O'Connor
reminds me of you.
like to imagine her standing, yawning, unhitching herself from her
station and her little pool of sensible light. I like to picture
her upended, walking silently through the sleeping ward on her hands,
her crisp white uniform too tight to do the bell thing, but her
no-nonsense cap dropping off and her red hair tumbling free.
see her stop at my bed, grin, execute a slow turn, and head back
towards her desk. Yes. Even without a bell, even without a glimpse
of navy-blue underwear, that would be something worth waking for.
close my eyes and think about you, Mim - still doing handstands
in my dreams, still showing me your knickers, still getting me into
trouble after all these years.