I recall the summer of 2003 as being exceptionally hot. I moved houses on one of those hot days, when removal men sweated buckets. As the day progressed their t-shirts began to sag with moisture, and one man looked like he would explode.
During August there was a week long course at an IT company close to Bank station: it was an easy week, and I even managed to slip in a party at London Zoo on Thursday night. Back in the days of prosperity, my employer had an annual summer party; it was a thank you to the workers, and it actually did make a difference.
On Friday people needed to get to other parts of the country, so we packed-up early. I was able to pick-up my daughter from school that day; she stayed weekends with me, and weekdays with her mother. She has just turned four, a wonderful age.
There were dates with women, work, and occasional carousing. My life was a mixture of light and shade; with no extremes of happiness or sadness. It rolled on, unexceptionally. After a ten year hiatus, I began writing again.
Right back there. September, 2003
There’s no future here; nuthin left to farm. All my kids have rickets and Ma ain’t got no milk. Jimmy’s drinkin powder from the government; the rest just go without.
Out there in California, I hear they have jobs. Food for my kids and decent places to live. They can sell us a lie, but not the same lie twice. For all our sakes I hope this new one is true.
When the well ran dry last week; I took down the crucifix above our bed. I said to Ma:
“If he’s done with us, then he might as well make us some firewood.”
I burnt the blessing from the bishop too.
“The warmest the old bastards been all his life,” said Ma.
She covered her mouth and gave heaven a glance. But I’ve heard her say worse.
The night Jimmy was born, she swore and she screamed:
“Whore, child of Satan,” at Mrs Weir.
The baby’s head was stuck and she needed to cut, to save both their lives.
Mrs Weir, the pharmacist’s wife, shouted:
“Make yourself useful man and hold your wife down.”
So I did.
She spat in my face, when the blade cut her flesh. Called me a pig and things I’d like to forget. All those words made me angry, but I held on to her just the same. I could feel her life force ebbing away. Like all those animals that have died at my hands: I waited for the final spasm, when her soul would jump away.
Then a miracle happened. Mrs Weir handed me Jimmy, covered in blood.
“Now make yourself useful and clean up your son, while I deal with your wife.”
“I love you Ma”, but her eyes were closed, so I suppose she didn’t hear.
A push from Mrs Weir got me out of the room. I don’t know what she did, but she saved my wife’s life.
A year ago, I was sayin:
“Thank you lord,” for sparing Ma and Jimmy.
And now I’m beggin; that he doesn’t take them both away.