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Monday, 15 June 2009

Evidence that even road markings can be inspiring

I wrote this for a local competition recently run by my county's Library service, and was highly commended. (There wasn't a category called 'mediumly commended' or 'fairly-okayly-commended', so you went straight from 'got nowhere, you loser', for which you received nada, to 'highly commended', for which I won lots of books and other interesting booky things like bookmarks and magazines about books and a bag to put books in and had to have my photo taken carrying all my booky things. I looked like a storeperson who just got accidentally involved in the photo shoot.)

What you had to do for the competition was look at a picture of some double yellow lines (in England, meaning no stopping/parking etc) on the road and write something inspired by them. Here it is.

By the way, if you're looking for laughs, give me a miss today and go make faces at yourself in the mirror. This is what my kids would call 'another of your depressing pieces, Mother'. (Despite the title.)

I'll shut up now. I seem to have written a whole blog post without including the actual content already.

Here it is.

It's just here.

I've put it below.

Here.

Ready?

Set?

Go.

Joy

She looked away from his eyes and down at the double yellow lines making their statement, unashamed, along the road’s inside edge. They held her gaze for a few seconds.
“They’re weird this close up,” she said.

“What?” he yelled, over the rattle of a passing truck.

He was always telling her, ‘enunciate your words properly’ or ‘speak up’. That was one thing she hated about being with him; he reminded her of her father in the way he commented on her speech, repeating her own words back, exaggerating the mistakes.

She shook her head as if to say, ‘doesn’t matter’.

He rubbed his chin stubble with his thumb in the irritated gesture she’d grown used to. “Look,” he said, still raising his voice despite a lull in traffic. “Can’t we go somewhere else to talk? We’re just – standing around on a freezing bloody street corner, and then you start saying you’re not happy. I don’t get you. Let’s go to the pub.”

She knew what would happen. They would meet friends of his. He would forget that she’d wanted to talk.

They’d had three years together, and some of those times had been good. She couldn’t deny that. And yet, as she glanced again at those bold yellow lines – the colour of audacious early daffodils or thick, hot, Sunday-afternoon custard - they gave her a new resolve. This was the colour of tangible joy, not the second-rate feelings of vague contentment she’d tried so hard to see as happiness.

“I don’t want to go to the pub,” she said, thrusting her hands into her coat pockets against the whip of the breeze. The day was bitter. A weak sun struggled gallantly against unfriendly clouds.

She saw his chest rise and fall under his duffle coat as he took a deep, long breath and then let it out slowly. “You’re probably just run down after that cold,” he said, eventually. Reaching out a hand, he laid it on her shoulder.

“Don’t patronise me,” she said, dodging his touch. “I’m not run down. I just – I just don’t want to be with you any more. You don’t listen to me. You make me feel bad about myself.” The words surged out and again he reached for her, stepping nearer, but when she flinched, he dropped his arm. His eyes were dark.

He understands me now, she thought.

Then he swivelled away. She knew he couldn’t bear being watched when he was hurt. The fractious wind lifted up his hair; it needed cutting, but he’d hate her to point it out, just as he’d hated her pointing anything out.

He still had his back to her when he said, “So, is that all you’ve got to say?” and when she answered, yes, it was, he began to stride away from her in the direction of the town, his body stiff and proud.

She watched him until he merged into the grey of the distance.

5 comments:

  1. That's a one-two punch, Fran: you make me laugh, then you hit me in the groin. In other words, BRAVO! I think that's worth a pile of books, at least.

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  2. You are such a wonderful writer Fran. I felt as if I was actually there with them (I'm glad I wasn't because I don't care for tense situations or dreary weather)

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  3. Thanks, Mark. Sorry about the groin injury, which I assure you was accidental, but I'm glad you enjoyed the piece!

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  4. A, how nice of you to say that. It's always really gratifying when people say 'I felt as if I was there' when that's exactly what you're aiming for. Yay!

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  5. I love the idea of the yellow lines being the colour of "thick, hot, Sunday-afternoon custard", and the "colour of tangible joy". That will stay in my memory a long time and makes me think of road markings in a very different way - not so much a "stop, don't do this" image as a "hey, what are you doing" sign.

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