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The Magical Pool

For my goddaughter Lara. A beautiful ray of sunshine. It was very early in the morning and Otto the Octopus was still sound a...

Friday, 15 October 2010

Take that away and there’s nothing left.

           Up to a couple of months ago she was sixty-six, looked fifty-five, and when asked, not a day older than fifty. Raised a Catholic by very strict and pious parents, she was well aware that Vanity was one of the seven mortal sins. However, her career had forced her into believing that looking younger was the key to success. And God knows that despite her good appearance she hadn’t been able to get as many gigs as before, not half, not a third, at times hardly enough to allow her to live these later and wiser years in comfort. Instead, of late she would find herself counting her pennies, checking that if she had someone come round to repair the leak in the kitchen or anything else round the house that seemed to be needing the nowadays hard-to-find honest handyman’s care and attention, she would also have enough money to pay the weekly rent.
           Why is it that when one machine stops working all the others in the house also seem to need repairing or replacing? She didn’t like throwing her old machines away. Not having married, they were the only things that had grown old with her. Not that she minded not ever having had any children. No, the maternal side of her had never been that acute. However, she wouldn’t have minded marrying Shawn Barry, that pig-headed Irishman who broke her heart sooner than she would ever have given him credit for. Then again, would he have accepted her and her career? Would she have been forced to choose between the two? At least in that case, this big fat bitch of a Life had relieved her from having to make such a no-win choice.
           She had never fallen in love again. Of course she had had her occasional affairs, which had disappeared as magically as they had started. Perhaps the ruler of Chaos had never meant her to share her heart with any other than Mr. J Mr. A-Z-Z.
           Why is it that when she most needs comfort and the company of friends, they all seem to have inconsiderately kicked the bucket or, for you, the more sensitive reader, who prefers a more flowery style, have long started pushing up daisies?
           Loneliness kills more softly but more painfully than any other death.
           The war had taken Shawn.
           Death by silence.
           ‘Do you understand me Ms Cartwright?’
           Did she understand him? No, she didn’t want to understand him. She wouldn’t understand him. Words were throbbing inside her head…they used to be music to her ears.
           ‘Ms Cartwright, are you all right? You understand we must remove it as soon as possible. It’s a safe operation nowadays. You’d soon be back home.’
           One only listens to what one wants to hear. That was what the doctor had done from the start. He didn’t want to hear or understand her refusal.
           There were six of them, five with dark hair and one ginger. She knew everyone commented on the difference. She felt that her father treated her differently, like he held a grudge against her. She’d often catch him looking at her with a deep furrowed brow.
           Once she asked her mother if she had been adopted but her mother had only laughed and said she was silly. She was a Cartwright from head to toe.
           She was fifteen when her mother became very ill. She once overheard a neighbour saying that she had a crab in her windpipe. Why didn’t they just fish it out? It couldn’t be that difficult. She and her brothers and sisters used to catch so many of them when their parents took them to the river on Sundays.
           It had been the same neighbour whom she had once heard saying that the ginger head one - herself, she’d gathered - was the offspring of shame.

           Dear Shawn,
           I regret I couldn’t visit you at Xmas this year as I’ve been in a state of deep depression since September 5th when I was told there had been a further deterioration in my brain. They put me on strong tranquillisers (supposed to help me sleep), but regrettably until the first week in December I not only still hadn’t been able to sleep nights, but then couldn’t stay awake during the day. Life was a complete haze until the first week in December. I wasn’t even bothering to wash or comb my hair, bath or do anything else except put on three stone in weight. I still only go out when it is dark to do my shopping, as I can’t be bothered to put on make-up. I’m just never well and have had a terrible cough for eight months, which my G.P. chooses to ignore, so I insisted he refer me to an E.N.T. consultant. Having waited since August, I finally saw him two weeks ago and on Friday I’m to be assessed as to my suitability to be given a general anaesthetic (that’s because my general health being so poor it could be dangerous). He has found a swelling to the right side of the larynx, which must be investigated but says he is more concerned about the voice-box. It is obvious he suspects throat cancer which has terrified me and if they want to remove the v. box I shall definitely refuse as I will not talk through a machine and have a hole in my throat. Can you imagine what it is like for a singer?
           Darling, I’m sorry I’ve talked about nothing but myself but one lives alone and hardly even sees other people; you come to be rather obsessive.
           I wish I could visit you again, but my neurologist (who deals with the stroke side of me) says I’m not to go alone in case I have another stroke; all of which does not help ease my depression.
           Hope someone’s been taking you flowers.
           I send you lots of love and I think of you all the time.

           The doctor had told them there was nothing that could be done. The priest had already been to see the dying woman. He was now in the kitchen talking to the children about the unquestionable acceptance of God’s will.
           The house had become dark all of a sudden and the walls started closing in on her. She couldn’t breathe properly. She could no longer stay in the same room as that eerie-looking man in black.
           Her father was sitting at her mother’s bedside, holding her hand. Every time she had eavesdropped on other people’s conversations, she’d been haunted by what she had heard. She should know better than to stay a moment longer in that place.
           ‘You know I’ve always loved you, don’t you? But now that you’re leaving, I’d like to ask you something that has troubled me for a long time. Sally isn’t really my daughter, is she? She’s different from all our other kids. I know that everyone in town comments on that behind my back, our backs. You can tell me, I forgave you long ago.’
           Followed by something that sounded like a feeble attempt at laughter, she heard what thereafter would be remembered as her mother’s last words.
           ‘You are really pathetic, Cartwright, of the six Sally is the only one that’s yours.’
           Not a second later, her father’s piercing howl tore through the mournful silence of the night. She could never tell whether it was due to what his wife had said or because she had passed away as soon as she had made those revelations.


- COPYRIGHT/Registado no IGAC


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