Some October fiction for you
“The Quality of Murky”
Her young nose was squashed against her mobile phone screen like a dead bug on a windscreen. No wonder she didn’t notice when she dropped first a sweetie wrapper, then a bit of white crust, on the path.
The path in my park. Not mine in the sense of ‘I am Lady Snooty of Snootsworth Hall, and this is vast domain is my deer park’. It’s just the park nearest home: trees; flowers; squirrels, teenagers. The one I walk through most days.
She probably does, too, this lass in a school uniform, with legs some would liken to a foal’s, but which I would compare to the ones which used to be mine: before fat, before age. Those blighted lands in which I now wander, angrily, and which she will, too. Sooner, probably, than later, if she doesn’t start eating wholemeal instead of that cheap white shit.
Oy, I said. You lost something. Two somethings, in fact.
Honest, I swear on my mother’s non existent grave, she said just that: “u” not “y-o-u”, and “w-o-t”, not that celebrated multi-syllabled word, “what”.
At least, I think that’s what she said. I don’t speak text speak. If ever I’m mugged – say, in the park – and my phone’s stolen by someone who wants to pretend that it’s me sending a message, it will be easy to spot. Simply leave out the apostrophes.
These, I said to her. You dropped them. I assume that’s because it’s your guide dog’s day off? Because the bin’s just over there.
Yes, I was off on one again. No, I hadn’t forgotten the time a friend showed me a newspaper article about a middle-aged woman who was beat up after she asked a young bloke to please pick up his fish and chip papers from the pavement.
That’s you, that is, said my friend. He spelled it out, of course: including the proper use of the contraction of “that is”. I have literate friends.
But not necessarily neighbours, or neighbours’ offspring.
I think she swore. As I said, I don’t speak text, but I do recognise multiple “fs” and “ings” when I hear them.
I’m so sorry, I said. Judging from your mass-produced, colour-coordinated blue skirt, blazer and tie, you have someplace to go. And, whilst my own ensemble is much less colour or indeed in any way coordinated, I do, too. Thus I do not have time just now to dip into my own, more extensive, highly personalised, and often downright blasphemous collection of colourful expletives. I understand if you’re disappointed, if not saddened, by this news.
Wot the fk? she replied. At least, I believe that’s what she said. She was chewing gum. At least she didn’t spit it out. That might have tipped things in the direction of what my old gran used to call “unpleasantness”.
That’s rather rude, and tiresomely unoriginal, I said.
U cant tlk 2 me like that, she said. im a child. U could get inna lotta trble. Just wt til i tell my dad.
It was on the tip of my tongue to ask, “Which one?” But I didn’t, as I rather suspected it would be the bigger, meaner one.
Aloud, I said, If I wanted a guilt trip, I’d be at Rose Hill, trying to reconstitute my mum’s ashes.
She blinked, in a way that reminded me of a domesticated animal. Less foal now, than calf. Perhaps it was the gum.
U r a fkin weirdo, she said.
Undoubtedly, I replied. But at least I recognise a litter bin, and an apostrophe, when I see one.
And that’s when she punched me. Honestly, I never saw it coming. I was still waiting for one of her dads to turn up.