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Just another summer's day
Del watched the house before he even entertained the thought of what it might mean to him. Was it a slice of urbanised hope, over varnished and left in a toy cupboard to ripen with a layer of fusty dust? Or would it be his home for the next week or so? In short, would it do him?
A slender lady, who had to be well over six foot tall, patted her dark bubbly hair as she slipped out of the house's reach, directing herself towards the shining fields of corn that formed a hazy gauntlet for the grey curve of the road. She had barely glanced her eyes at him but he felt he already knew her musical tastes, her appetites for food and her sexual history.
Del felt obliged to check his assumptions.
"It's ok Rodney, this will do for us, lovely-jubbly. Where's Uncle Albert got to, the saucy git?"
Rodney wormed his fleshless face out through the cars tiny window and slipped his tongue out to speak. Then he realised he was alone. Alone. Alone. In the car.
"Del? Have you fallen off the curb again?"
He pulled himself out of the tiny three wheeler and stood up, knocking three black apples off a branch. They fell, and fell and then gradually splashed open on the cars dirty yellow roof, revealing to Rodney a mass of writhing things.
"Writhing things, Del Boy. Writhing like your dinners eh Del hahah?"
Del climbed up onto the pavement, and began his journey to the garden of the house, watched by Rodney through the twisting, bending platters of the leaves. He didn't like the look of the house at all; it reminded him of his years spent squatting by the docks, catching fish that tasted of mud and oil, dressing like a docker so he could sneak into the canteen and laugh at the posters on the corkboard walls.
He couldn't thank Del enough for getting him out of there.
"Del, I'll look for Unc eh? Unc? UNCLE ALBERT?"
He waded through the blazing emeraldine slapping of the tree branches, picking up tiny blue bugs on his boney forehead as he went. He could see a vague area of black and puce that might have been another house, but it seemed to be protected by somekind of insane knee barrier. He peered down, pulling an angular face, to see a garden fence. It resembled a park railing; being constructed from red iron loops, welded together.
He stepped over its authority and was out in the open again. No house at all, just an open field.
No old codgers in sight, just a few standing stones.
They jutted this way and that against the dark green landscape, as if frozen in mid guffaw, hugging their aching sides. How pale they were, he decided. Were they chalk perhaps? He saw no reason to stop himself finding out. They danced as he encircled them, swirled and exchanged partners. That's how he saw it anyway.
"That's how I see it eh?"
Then he dragged his clawed fingers down the back of the tallest stone. His long nails sank into the soft stone and raked out five perfect furrows. The detritus released clambered to the spikey grass below, bouncing off and powdering Rodney's pink trainers; the ones Del had fished out of a washing machine for him. They only cost him a tenner, each.
"Bloody Hell, eh? Piggin' chalk all over me trainers...like snow on a pair of flayed, bloodless...trainers. Yeah, nice one Byron."
He fished his note pad from his army jacket pocket and scribbled his new poem down. He would send it off to Ted Hughes next week.
"Yeah, Ted Hughes eh."
But where was Uncle Albert? Probably scampering around in that old farmers field, chasing rats and saying things. Saying them things that he had to say. Them things.
He put his notebook to sleep in its khaki bed and strode over the standing stone circle, feeling the weight of his poetry pat him on the chest.
"Haha, writhing like Dels dinners, Hahah, nice one Rodders my son, haha. Worms. Hahah. Dinners."
How black the ditch by the old barn looked as it stepped out from behind a fence post.
Like a slimy black wound, gleaming with stars and reaching from horizon to horizon. It reminded him of the time he lost his rubik cube in a dirty puddle. All the stickers had come up for air, and floated off down the drain, leaving the cube a perfect black solution of loss and...
"UNCLE ALBERT! you silly old duffer!"
He might be in the lopsided barn, strutting around, thinking things. Thinking those thoughts.
Rodney stepped over the sorrow of the ditch and saw just a thin beam of white water racing through the black mud. Someone had tossed a pair of wellies in to the ditch, but the string of water had merely eroded a tunnel through them, and gone on its way.
"Hahh, Wellies. Hahha HAHAAHAH!"
Then for no reason he could think of he was imagining a lovely christmas dinner; fat amber balloon of a Turkey, white tiled christmas cake splattered with droplets of blood red berries, bowls of pink stuff that fizzed and lit up when the lights were put out, those edible pastry mittens that you had to eat off your hands before they burnt you. The endless blue salads that made your throat ache for days.
Then he was stabbing his eyes into the twitching shadows of the barn. There was Uncle Albert, amongst the charred and crumbling interior of the structure, squatting on a mass of black hay. He was the white flame at the centre of the dead conflagration. The admiral of fear and Gods ink blotter.
"Allo Rodney, I'm just forming a stark contrast betwixt the charcoal of this here barn and my wonderful winters day beard...I mean, I'm lost and I don't know who you are, Rodney. Where's Del?"
"DEL? DEL IS UP AT THE 'OUSE GETTING US TARTS A BED FOR THE WEEK!"
"Oh, Rodders, I have to tell you something, I've had another...adventure."
Rodney folded his arms, knocking over a scythe, that tumlbed, and tumbled and tumbled to the mud.
"Well, we'll clean you up at the 'ouse you old fart."
Uncle Albert climbed up onto his feet, and crouched towards Rodney, who leant down and opened his mouth wide.
"I haven't done my strides Rodney, not yet anyhow. I've had a real adventure, behind the barn."
Rodney was perplexed and he demonstrated his perplexed mind with a facial summary.
"Behind the barn? The barn? This barn? Behind the barn?"
"Yas Rodney. It made me sick at first, all that stuff in its hands. All that deadness and the cloths, and the bunting men all holding hands and flapping their skirts. It made me think of the war, and the time I was put in a Nazi concentration camp, just 'cos I were circumcised like. Rotten Krauts. I saw some things in there Rodders. Tasted a few too."
Rodney lowered his head and crawled into the barn, shoving Uncle Albert aside.
"I'm really, really interested Unc, tell me all about it."
"Oh, well. I saw some weird things going on. Weird German technology and that. I recall, one summers day, we were herded, naked into a dirty yard and being forced to sing a song about Hitler's greatness. I didn't mind so much really. I like singing. But anyway, we were on the seventh stanza, and who pops out of this corrugated shed but the Furer himself like; Hitler."
"Yas Rodney, that swine Hitler. But he wasn't dressed like Hitler, no. He was wearing the strangest clothes I had ever seen. At first I thought it were a clown or somethink, but then I realised it were him."
"Why was he dressed like a clown Unc, was he, you know, putting on a show or somethink?"
Uncle Albert scratched his pink bald head dome.
"Nah, Rodders. He weren't dressed as a clown...he was wearing a shell suit. A big flashy yellow and blue shellsuit, and Nike trainers."
"What? Geddaway. A shellsuit and Nike trainers?"
"Yas, and he was listening to a walkman, a Sony walkman. It was terrifying for us, we had never seen anything like it. He strutted up and down us naked, dirty singers and he just smirked, smirked like he knew somethink we didn't. I guess he was right. Then, as if that weren't enough Rodders, he started to do some of that, what's it called? Body Popping is it? Break dancing? Spinning on a crisp packet, electric-boogaloo, everything. He was quite good actually."
"When I saw people wearing shell suits years later, Rodney, and them fashinonable trainers, I was scared, scared all over again."
Rodney picked up his Uncle Albert and hugged him.
"Nevermind eh? It's all over now, the war has ended, Unc."
Uncle Albert looked into Rodney's eyes.
"Is it Rodders? Is it?"
They walked back across the farmer's field, hand in hand. Crows singing in the dungy air, cats screaming on the watery horizon. Wasps came up and challenged them to a race, but they weren't in the mood for a wasp race situation right now, thanks for asking, seeya later.
Rodney had a new feeling in his guts, and a new page in his poetry note book.
But questions he couldn't flush away. He pulled the chain, but after a roar of white water, they just bobbed back up to the surface, and peered at him.
"How did you escape that Nazi concentration camp? Did you dig a tunnel? Like in that film?"
"Nah Rodney, I just held me breath when they tried to gas me. This was the tail end of the war you see, they were low on supplies and had to use the bare minimum of gas. I just held me breath and went all floppy like. Loads of us did it. They would dump our naked bodies into holes to be filled in, and then they would go off to have a cup of tea, and we would all clamber out, naked as pigs. Easy life."
"But how did you go unnoticed, naked and dirty?"
"Oh, well, we went and lived in the woods, started eating the French peasents. We wore their skins and did things to each other with sticks."
Uncle Albert began to giggle. Then he began to chuckle. Eventually he was laughing so hard his eyes were bleeding.
As they passed the standing stones Uncle Albert was drenched in an apron of frothy blood.
By the time Rodney was carrying him over the park railings, he was a spluttering horror doll, spraying red fluids from every inch.
Rodney was laughing too.
"Haha, Writhing things, writhing like Del's dinners. HAHAHHA."
Get used to it? No, you never get used to it.