FICTION: Little Box of Light

By Gemma Symons | BA English and Creative Writing, Stage 2

Waking up in the cool grey light of a winter morning, I look back on the promise I made to myself the night before. Today would be a new beginning, as it was always meant to be. Whatever kind of day it is outside, somehow it always manages to mould how I feel on the inside – I’m putty in the hands of nature. I am a materialisation of whatever the hell is going on outside, and today, like most days, I am dulled and sluggish, much like today’s grey sky smudged with the occasional plume of chimney smoke, a textured tapestry of charcoal. But I try and stay true to my word. Today I will tidy the garden. I say it as I flop out of bed. It’s my mantra for the morning, and I ignore the foreboding slate shade of the sky that’s pressing close the window. Today I will tidy the garden.

I make it as far as out the kitchen door, and I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself. The air has a mineral freshness to it, and I’m surprised, having half expected the sky to have stained the air with the smells of bonfires and petrol – those grey smells – but it doesn’t. Perhaps this gardening lark will be okay. I now feel less like a slug, and more like something a little livelier. It’s an improvement. Slightly uplifted, and standing in my garden, bin bag in one hand, a brush minus the dustpan in the other, I look beyond my patchwork fence, a Frankenstein’s monster, created from offcuts of numerous deceased fences, to observe life beyond my small slice of suburbia. Do a little sightseeing. There is little to see, other than the bare khaki branches of the trees that separate me from the humming of the A38, stripped of their leaves by the winter, left completely in the nude, their sinewy limbs exposed and raw. They remind me of when I was a child and my mother would say “skin a rabbit” as she’d peel my jumper off of me. If you stare hard enough, you can see the branches trying to support a few fat pigeons, swaying in the whooshing wind of the not-so-far-off motorway. I half wonder if one big swoosh of air will suddenly propel them into the air. I then wonder if that’s what the pigeons want; they’re too lazy to fly.

Dragging my eyes slowly over to the corner of the garden, gaffer tape flapping around from the broken roof of the outhouse creeping into my line of vision, I can see our Christmas tree, accordingly named Norman the Nordman fir, lying on the path, stuck like a turtle on its back. His bright red pot, much like the houses encapsulating our little garden, has its own covering of green slime, with the occasional fingerprint, looking like red dots of blood – evidence from previous rescue attempts. I convince myself that we’ll plant him soon, stop him from falling over, and give him chance to stretch his roots. I imagine them in there, all bound up, like a wet mop of silvery hair in a bucket. He must be getting claustrophobic. One day we’ll plant him, but for now he is a drunk, fallen over, his head almost in the outside toilet. How embarrassing for him. I kneel down to pick him up, and I notice the light rain beading on the ivy that is slowly creeping up the walls of the outside loo, serpentine and creepy, slowly strangling my toilet. Not that It’s really a toilet anymore, it’s more of a plant pot, an earthworm hotel. It certainly smells like one anyway, like the kind of metallic earthiness when you overturn a stone.

Except I can’t put this stone back down, and I suddenly I feel like an earthworm myself. Feeling very claustrophobic, I stand up, the damp denim of my jeans sticking to my knees. Wiping the earth from my fingers, like wet cake crumbs, I think to myself – Perhaps I’ll leave the gardening until next year.

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