“I’ll eat out of a bowl,” I say. “I like bowls; they have
She looks up at me, smiling so sadly I would prefer her to cry.
“I’ll pick the bits up.” I say.
She nods and returns to her rocking. Forwards and backagain. Forwards and back.
The ceramic is sharper than I thought and I cut my fingertips more than once picking the bits up and carrying them over to the bin. I don’t complain, because she is still rocking and I can’t stand to see her blank expression as she stares at the wall.
Outside: Leo has gone off and taken the truck with him. The rain has stopped and the clouds are streaking away like grey birds. I didn’t know my brother knew how to drive, but Leo’s good at doing things he can’t do properly. That’s his problem – Ma says – he’ll come unstuck in the end.
I never really got that: who'd rather be stuck?
I decide to wait for my brother because he deserves to have someone waiting for him. So I sit in the dust with my legs tucked under my skirt, gazing up into the sky and watching it blot a dark and brilliant blue.
It’s starry when Leo returns, nearly running me over with the truck that he can’t drive properly in the light let alone the pitch darkness. I have to leap out of his way like one of the mice you see with glowing eyes scuttling out of the road.
“Alrigh’?” He says when he sees me. I know he’s been at the beer, his voice slurs like a slow video and he staggers slightly when he climbs out of his seat. I tried beer once, it tasted like ash so I poured it away when he wasn’t looking. “Wotcha’ doin’ ow’?”
Pleased he’s safe, I say nothing and skip up into my bedroom to read. Swift tried to ban fiction one time, he said it tainted our grip on reality, that it fed the beast in our minds. Leo said the beast is our only hope. I feed it the rest of the night. It’s been easier to be awake than asleep lately.
Morning comes and Leo is nowhere in sight. It’s a hot day again and I can hear Ma singing in the garden. She’s been growing all sorts to sell; mangos, oranges, papaya. We’re not allowed to work under this law, so selling is Ma’s only way of earning a little on top of father’s ever decreasing pay. The women, she says, are the first to lose out under any government, them and the old people. Leo and I used to sneak into the garden early in the mornings, pluck the ripest fruit from the trees and feast before school. So much has changed since then; we don’t dare take the most propitious produce and I no longer go to school.
I like to help Ma in the garden, so I dress and step through the door into the sunlight. The birds are chirping in the trees and so is Ma as she wobbles cheerfully astride the rickety ladder that’s been propped against the back wall for as long as I can remember. In several wicker baskets, plump fruits piled high; a stroke of fortune amongst the chaos.
She catches my eye and smiles the truest smile I have seen in years. We are thinking the same; these are the moments Samuel Swift can’t take. They feed the beast and my beast is fed.