I have lots of words but don't know the right order for them.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

In The Dust

It’s the same every morning, hygiene then food, don’t bother to ask if I’m clean or hungry never mind anything else, not that it’d make any difference, she doesn’t listen whatever I say.  I’m just another thing to her.  I don’t live on the same planet.  I have to say, they do irritate me.  I mean, I know I’m just an old woman, probably lost most of her marbles, but I do still know a thing or two.  That one’s after me for definite.  I got up to turn the telly down, well it was too loud for me, even with the aid switched off, and they were all asleep anyway so they don’t care, but soon as I got up her with the claws was there grabbing the remote so I didn’t bother, but when I got back to my chair that one was hovering around and definitely had his eye on my slippers. 

Anyway, it was yesterday.  She comes in like she always does, trying to look like she cares, but this time it’s not the usual glass eye smile round the room, oh no, she’s after me. 

“Ruby!” she says.  “Ruby, we’ve got a lovely surprise for you.”  I suppose I have to do something, because it’s the first time anyone called me Ruby, aside from nurses and such, since Jack died, never mind twice.  So I smile.  “There’s an old friend of yours just come in here, and she wants to see you, isn’t that nice?”    I can’t make any sense of this, so I just smile again.  “It’s Miss Smith.”  Well, that narrows it down.  “Esme Smith!” 

Esme?  Oh my giddy aunt!  Her of the bus shelter in Kirkstall?  It can’t be.  And then the door opens and little Rosie, my favourite little darling, is leading someone in, well I say leading, more like being led.  I know her at once of course, hatchet face.  Skinny as a rake, still.  She makes a beeline for me then stops short.  Draws back and peers like she’s judging me.  “Ruby!” she says.  Well, I already knew that.  She leans over and pecks my cheek, just the left one.  She seems to have been granted a chair, which she sits on.  Took me weeks.  One reason I stay in the room a lot of the time. 

“They decided I had to come – ” She looks around, mostly at the ceiling and the floor, “ – here.  I was quite upset, because I can – well, except for the odd thing.  But when I learnt that my oldest friend …  I’m counting on you to show me the ropes.”  Voice like a hatchet too.  She actually sniffs.  “I can see I’m going to have to Look into Things.”  She says it in capitals.  Best just to smile again.  I don’t talk much these days, well, not much to say and no one to say it to.  But my memory’s still  good.   Those shoes.  When we both worked Saturdays, Freeman Hardy and Willis.  Mornings and afternoons, but we overlapped.  Same size, five, only the one pair left.  Red, they were.  They say something like to kill for on the telly now, don’t they?  Vic, his name was.  Or Sid.  Whoever got the red shoes got Vic. 

“I’ll show you the ropes, course I will, Esme,”  I make myself say.  “Lovely to see you.  We must catch up.”
She frowns, slowly.  Is it me, or does she smell, just a little bit?  They’ll sort that out.
“We were such friends.”  She leans in closer.  Definitely a slight whiff.  I try to catch Rosie’s eye, but she’s off propping up the slipper man.  “We must catch up.”
Rosie comes to the rescue.  “Cup of tea.  You two need a nice cup of tea.”

“I stay in the room,” I say.  “When they’ll let me.  This lot get up my tom thumb.  Leave the door open, though, rolling coins is fun.  You wait till you hear someone coming, cos the floor’s quite clacky in the corridor, then you roll a penny out.  Or probably a ten pee these days.  And you can look out of the window.  There were fireworks the other night.”
She does her frown, then her sniff.  “I don’t think so.  I intend to integrate.”
You’ll be lucky.  Come to think of it though, you were, weren’t you?  Lucky.  You certainly integrated with that Vic, or Sid, in the bus shelter after school.  Took me ages to get over it, and then by the time I’d got over it you’d moved on, at least that’s what I think, dropped him like a hot potato, like your sort does, and I had to settle for next in line.  And then of course there was the stuff about the hockey sticks, and the knickers.  I’ll never forget the shame in the showers. 

Little Rosie brings our tea.
“I put some biscuits on.”
Esme has noticed that, and switches on her big smile.  Oh, how I remember that.
“Thank you so much, my sweet.”
“I’ll be mother.”
We have our tea.  Well, we have to, don’t we?  She does her frown.
“We lost touch.  We – ”
“Have to catch up.”
“You married that – Jim, wasn’t it.”  I can smell her breath now.  “Anyway.  I never had any children.”  It’s a question, but she hastens past an answer.  “I was very successful though.  Radiotherapy.  Guys, in the end.  But I lived in Chiswick, and we used to go to this place.  Ruby In The Dust, isn’t that funny?” 
“Jack,” I say, though it’s hard to.  “Three.  You’ll meet Jake tomorrow or Wednesday, he comes every fortnight, regular as clockwork.  Other two, off and married, they phone when they remember.  But they’ll turn up too, if you wait long enough.”
Esme straightens up.  “I doubt very much that anybody will phone me, fortnightly or otherwise!”
She freezes her face and stares at the television.  If I pricked her she’d crumble into dust.  That one with the claws finds the remote and turns the volume up.  It’s gone quiet.

Today I let them get me up for breakfast and guess what, they sit me at a table with Esme.  I have porridge, which is something different.  Him of the slippers keeps glancing across.  Fat chance.
“You know,” Esme says, out of nowhere.  “I always regretted those shoes.”
“In the bus shelter?”   
“Yes.  Waste of energy.  I wasn’t that interested in boys.”
I think about this.  She’s looking at the floor and the ceiling again.
“Oh,” I say.  “What a shame.  What a waste.”
I reach out and draw a little mark in the dust on the table.

1 comment:

  1. Lifetimes. How interesting. Good for Ruby; enough spunk left to put a notch in her cane. Or the table, as it was handier.