Monthly Archives: December 2014

THE ART OF BEAUTY

She gazes down with half closed eyes and a knowing look, suggestive of a secret shared between us alone. Her titian beauty captivates me all over again. Every day I come, and every day I return her hungry look with one of longing. She whispers words of love in the silence between the clicking heels and murmered comments of other visitors.

And now I sense someone beside me. I turn to see a beautiful woman, looking up at the painting.

”It flatters me, don’t you think?” she says.

”It certainly does,” I reply.

I walk away, never to return.

© Jane Paterson Basil

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LIVING SPACE

“If you take that space,” said Pebble, “I will crush you. That space is mine.”
“If you try to crush me,” said Grass, “I will dig my roots deeply, grow strong, and engulf you. That space is mine.”
Pebble rushed towarde the space, but Grass was quicker. He was peeping  through the ground long before Pebble had hoisted his unwieldy body over it.
But pebble made it in the end.
They fought and quarrelled. Time passed.
One day, pebble said “Your blades keep me warm, and I protect you from the jaws of hungry cows.
From then on, they lived in harmony.

© Jane Paterson Basil

QUID PRO QUO

At the checkout counter of my local supermarket this morning, I reached into my bag to pay for my shopping, and pulled out a pack of ‘Bronco, The Deluxe Toilet paper’, unopened since it was manufactured more than 40 years ago. I placed it on the checkout counter, and delved back into my bag. There’s so much in there it’s always hard to find what I’m looking for.

My hand brushed against something purse-like. It turned out to be the leather bound note pad which I bought, a couple of years ago, for my shopping lists. I flicked through it. Only the first page had been written on. It said ‘Next time, remember to write a list.’

What was this? A 2007 copy of plastic spoon collectors weekly. That, too, went onto the counter, while I searched deeper. Out came a half empty tin of Vinyl Matt Emulsion. The colour was called Mort, and I had painted the whole house with it, just before my husband ran out, screaming. He never returned. It’s a difficult colour to live with, but it did the trick.

This was followed by an old box of box of hair curlers. I bought them when I was still easily swayed by the power of advertising. It said in the advert that they would give my hair beautiful wavy curls, and the subliminal message seemed to be that they would make me irresistible to men. I wore them out once, but the result was disappointing, to say the least.
I never wore them again.

The shop assistant stood, waiting patiently. I added a 1950’s cotton apron with a pattern of sewing machines, gas ovens and vacuum cleaners on it – only slightly stained down one side, a battered old clockwork car, a carpet tile, a bag of ball bearings (handy on the garden path when you don’t feel like receiving visitors), and a chipped bakelite door handle. As I piled each item up, I glanced at the shop assistant. His eyes flickered impassively towards the growing mountain.

I pulled out a cutting from an old magazine, offering a free trial pack of disposable nose hair clippers.

The till rang up. It opened. He swept the toilet roll, the magazine, the paint, the curlers, the apron, the car, the carpet tile, the ball bearings and the door handle into the dispenser. I saw him sneakily slip the magazine cutting into his pocket.

”Here’s your change, madam,” he said, handing me a pair of boxing gloves and a set of 4 lace-edged antimacassars.

I was sure that wasn’t right!

I took the receipt, and marched quickly out of the shop, before he had time to realise that he had over-changed me by two antimacassars.

© Jane Paterson Basil

POSSESSION

My mother was on the rant again. I suppose I shouldn’t have been baiting her, but any conversation we had ended up this way, so I thought I may as well get some entertainment out of it.

”You can’t put a fun head on old shoulders,” I had said to her, twisting around the old adage she had just slung at me.

Her fingers bent and straightened as she wrapped and re-wrapped the yarn around knitting needles which click-clacked furiously. The scarf was growing at an alarming rate. Already it was so long that it would probably wrap around the house. She knitted when she was mad about something. She was often mad. Almost anything could incite her ire:

The neighbours cat, sitting on the wall, looking at her. ”It’s staring at me again.” she would say.

Conversations between characters in Eastenders. ”What did he have to go and say that for. He’s really hurt her feelings,” she would say, as if it was real, as if she was somebody who cared about the feelings of others.

Puddles in the street. ”They should do something about it,” she would say.

The whir of the cooling fan in the corner shop. ”It’s so loud I can’t think,” she would say.

The sound of my father’s voice. ”That horrible man is on the phone for you,” she would say.

Yes, many things made her angry, but most of all, I made her angry. My presence and my absence, everything I said and everything I didn’t say, everything I did and didn’t do, everything I was and everything I wasn’t.

Which made life a little tricky, as I lived with her.

Now she stopped knitting, and pointed her needle at me.

”Fun?” she spat. ”Fun? You talk about fun? I had fun once. And what do you think the result was? You! Planting yourself inside me, stealing my nourishment, taking my space, growing and making me fat and ugly. Pushing on my spine and my bladder. Scrabbling through my tubes, pushing your way out of my body. Expecting to be fed and clothed! Screaming and shitting all the time. Don’t talk to me about fun.”

I yawned, and looked out of the window at the sky. A dark cloud was forming overhead, signalling an upcoming storm.

The phone rang.

”Well, answer it!” she said.

The voice at the other end asked for her by name. Irritably, she slapped her knitting on the arm of the chair.

I watched impassively while she held the receiver.

”Speaking,” she said, curtly. ”Yes, that was me.” Then ”Is this a joke?”

A long silence as she listened. Finally she said ”This is ridiculous, but yes, I can make it tomorrow.”

She put the phone down. She put her knitting away. She was subdued for the rest of the day.

The following day, she went out. When she came back, she hugged me tearfully. I took in the hitherto unexplored fragrance of her hair, surprised by the smell of flowers and musk, of disinfectant and human being.

She told me about the woman who had given birth on the same day that I was born, and had always claimed that she was given the wrong baby to take home. babyAfter years of being ignored, a doctor had finally carried out DNA tests, and had found that she was right. An enquiry had been opened. My mother had gone in today for a DNA test, but it was considered more a formality than anything else. They were pretty sure that I was the other woman’s child.

”They can’t have you. You’re mine,” she wept. ” I wanted you. I fed and clothed you. I wiped your tears away. I watched your first tentative steps, and I urged you forward. I encouraged you. I taught you right from wrong. I loved you, and I will always love you. You are mine!”

I disentangled myself from the woman. I looked out of the window. Yesterday’s rain had left everything clean and sparkling. The world looked new and fresh.

© Jane Paterson Basil