LEFT FOOT (2)
When I came downstairs in the middle of the night or – as it turned out – very early in the morning, I discovered Susan in the living-room, squatting on the couch in her nightie, intently watching News 24 on the TV. I had not previously noticed her going down the stairs from her room at such an ungodly hour – but, thinking back, it probably was that movement in itself having caused me to wake and feel the need for a leak.
It felt as if I were entering a Science Fiction film scenario because the wide screen of our TV was showing flashing lights over London which the commentators could not explain. There was a hushed feel to the broadcast. Although live, it was taking its time to piece through the awakening awe. A documentary in real time. And I gazed out of our window to see the same slow lights and glints of metal in the sky above our house, coming and going through a shimmeringly numinous blanket of what I assumed to be cloud. A milky grey, filled with a pulsing glow, that contrasted with the blackness of the sky behind it.
Susan did not speak nor even slightly acknowledge my arrival in the room, having presumably been infected by the hushed whispers of the TV commentators as they exchanged observations with the equally hushed anchor man in the studio. Obviously most of their reporters were still asleep or were already on their way to new reporting positions, rudely awoken by their mobiles. One disembodied female voice was even now discussing the huge slanting shaft of cathedral light (words that I’m sure she actually used to describe it) and the voice’s face appeared on the screen as if to coin the description as hers. One could see the vast beacon or spotlight stretching from sky to earth behind her. She did not look scared. She did not look anything but business-like. I admired her. She fingered her ear as if the sound-plug had worked loose in the pent-up excitement of the occasion. It was whistling in her ear, I guessed.
It’s trite to say this now, but it all seemed like a dream. Susan and me in the living-room staring at the TV screen which soon turned to its own form of lambent glow without the faces or voices to map the usual geography of news. Just the gradually emerging further images of the night sky’s light show that was duplicated through our window.
It was then I noticed the obvious. One sensed that it was as obvious as the original need for a leak but had taken its time to make itself known. My left foot was missing. I was amazed how I took this information as coolly as I did. There was a stump but only a vague pink seepage was present … and I must have used this leg – without any sense of pain – to walk down the stairs. Using it like a fixed walking-stick or crutch. A thick knee-knotted branch from a Canterbury Oak. I now saw Susan was hugging a foot as if she was the legendary log lady. But <i>her</i> dislocated appendage was as tall as the knee. Or the knee had become the foot itself. It must have been her own left leg as I could see only the single right one coming from the bottom of her nightie. At the point where the bent left knee should have been a part of the ridge of her lap was evidence of pink seepage from the thigh stump. Whatever had caused these injuries had been gentle enough to prevent major blood loss. But if Susan had her leg to nurse like a log (with St Elmo’s Fire playing along its bony rigging), where was my left foot? Back to the studio…
Thank you. Reports are coming in of a dream sickness affecting the whole population. A whining whistle that makes each ear as big as a balloon. Bloated with a fine scrimshaw of veins like low-key rivers flowing with hushed currents towards a sea of white noise which, in turn, shafts like heavenly light from the dream to the very edge of reality which the dream fails to contain. Or fails so far.
Susan smiled. She had caught me in her dream. Or she in mine. If we’d been sharing the same bed, this may never have happened. This would punish us for spending the night in separate rooms. All loving couples should make up before the night begins. One should not go to sleep with the sound of cruel, squabbling words still in your ears. Arguments should not be carried on beyond sleep. However, we had made up to some extent. A desultory forgiving. Symbolised by the hushed whispers. The mere seepage of faded blood. The cowed glances from the dream reporters with not much to say despite the world-shattering events going on around them. The lambent glows. Even the limp excuses for not making things up indicating that we were about to make up. The earwhistles which were inferred as so high-pitched that silence was their only sign of existence.
Yet my missing foot nagged me. But there it was on the sideboard next to the real world’s bowl of fruit, each toenail freshly lipsticked. It was slowly turning to soft wax threaded with a tracery of thin earth-wires which Susan limped over to light. Go gently into that good light.
We kissed. Without tongues. And smiled wistfully at the renewal of our love. Turning a deaf ear to the slow leakage into reality of increasingly numinous dream. I prayed that the reports – when made up – would not be as confusing as the real things they were reporting. Susan would be going to work soon when the light was fully up. Her next shift on News 24.
THE LAST PENNY
The penny finally dropped.
The sunhatted lady pushed the plunger and the freed ball bearing lodged itself upon the sprung trigger. One single flick of the lever and the silver shot rattled round the vertical display like a frantic whippersnapper trying at all costs to avoid not only the many “lose” slots but the few “win” ones, too. It managed, against all the odds, to succeed this time and fell back automatically upon the trigger.
It was a pity the last customer at the seaside that season had already disappeared on her high heels into the tugging gusts of early evening.
The change-giver peering round the teetering towers of unused coppers in his booth looked at his watch, clucked his tongue irritably and recrossed his legs.
He’d want to spend a penny, too, before long.
(written today – 16 March 2006)