Monday, 18 February 2013

Auld Shakey Challenge

'Tis the eye of childhood
That fears a painted Devil'

We called her Lorna Nextdoor even though we had never met another Lorna. I don’t remember her being small because I was even smaller. She started trying to be a woman and sometimes my sisters would flirt with the image to make it reflect back on them. My brother seemed indifferent. It frightened me. The red gash of lipstick across her face, clumping on her long mouth, the dry flakes of beige cracking on her skin and the blur of colours bruising the edge of her eyes, one day purple, one day green, one day silver, one eye more smudged than the other though her drawn eyebrows hung, a perfect mute match, precise and grotesque. It started to make me feel sick, to make me afraid to see her face in all its colours or that unnatural walk in her shoes that tried to raise her up and up and push her forward to fall, just fall on that awful face. I could scare her too. She used to make fun of my wooden cat. What point is a cat without fur? She asked me once and didn’t want an answer so I didn’t say if you just wanted fur, you could just have a fur, if you want a cat you need to have bones that can fold on themselves and hate you. My wooden cat is painted grey with green, green eyes and splotched black nose. He doesn’t have a mouth and she didn’t like that, I knew, she didn’t like that. I used to hide the cat around her house when I played there. At first she laughed and threw it to me and I made sure not to ask any questions but not to admit anything, not to say a thing. I kept hiding it. I did it even when she stopped laughing, even when she frowned. I would let her find the cat, pleading silently in her sock drawer, in the medicine cabinet, behind the toaster, in her shoe. She started to leave it where it was and so I kept moving it to and fro so she would always find it somewhere new. She yelled at me once, trying not to be angry, to take the cat home but I pretended I didn’t know what she meant. I hid it and moved it and once I heard her cry when she found it in her pencil case. I could hear through her bedroom door, no one else was nearby and I tried not to laugh. She threw it in the bin that time but I got it back and I cleaned it and kept it for a while, a few weeks and then it turned up again under her pillow. It was a courtship, forcing her to look at the thing, the silent thing with no mouth, to make her frightened and I was less afraid of her painted womanhood though the colours would still catch me once or twice and the thrill would make me feel sick with fear and joy and I wanted to peel my arms off. I could make the mascara bleed right out of her eyes and she didn’t say a word to me about it anymore, I think she knew, she knew the fear moved on its own and my hands weren’t responsible for a painted cat.

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