August 6th 2015 – East Belfast
By the time it reached the age of five the child had been talking for thirty five thousand consecutive hours and showed no sign of stopping. It favoured questions. No switch or button could be found upon the child’s person with which to turn off, or briefly pause, its tongue. Even when placed in a locked room with no stimuli the child continued to make observations about its current situation and the situation immediately preceding and what it might have for supper, thereafter. This, combined with the knowledge that the child talked constantly during deep sleep, seemed to suggest some sort of design fault: a nervous energy peculiar to the subject in question. However, when the scientists placed their results next to those of fellow scientist who were also observing five year old children, they could only conclude that this same design fault –the propensity to chatter- ran like a hairline crack, through the entire species.
August 7th 2015 – East Belfast
Normally, by lunchtime I have forgotten my dream but today was different. I was opening the curtains in the living room and remembered the way you’d appeared from behind my curtains last night with a loaf of bread in one hand, and your daughter tucked behind you like a tiny chicken. You were anxious to eat bread and talk of Flannery O’Connor but all my teeth came out and collected like broken mints in the cup of my hand.
“Not tonight,” I said, and even then understood that this was a dream and tomorrow night you would not be behind my curtains with bread. It was not the teeth which gave this away, or even your presence in my room when we both know you are a hundred miles away in a tower. It was all your talk of Flannery O’Connor when I am certain you do not know who she is.
August 8th 2015 – East Belfast
The smell of dish cloths bleaching in the basin is making her think of swimming pools. When she is thinking of swimming pools she is not thinking in the present tense. She is considering those deep blue swimming pools of her past: the Continental holiday pools, the one with the wave machine in North Wales, the neighbour’s pool which was somewhere between a paddler and a proper thing with walls, the pool she learnt to swim in with its damp talc tiles and its propensity for verrucaes, the swim floats with the corners chewed off and the drunken sound of hearing Elton John singing his songs underwater. The two dot holes in her swimsuit, like a vampire bite, where her locker key hooked on and the after swim hunger, spooning around her belly. She swishes the dish cloths round the basin and carries the smell of swimming pools into the next room, and the next.
August 9th 2015 – East Belfast
I became a policeman because of Taggart and Poirot and Inspector Morse. I wanted to solve mysteries and put clues together. I was particularly good at jigsaw puzzles. After two days on the force I realized this was not something I should say in the staff room. There were no mysteries to solve, to clues to pin on white boards and join together with string. Instead, there were drunk drivers and football fights and burglaries where there was no point brushing for fingerprints. I did jigsaws in my spare time and hoped this would be enough. I was not enough. I wanted it to be like on television.
During my tenth year there was a murder. Though there were not clues as Poirot would see clues, there was the distinct possibility of an incident room. I saw myself with a notebook, in a down lit interview room, drinking bad coffee with an assistant. This was not to be. A specialist team arrived from London. There were forensics. I began to consider other careers.
August 10th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
After the bodybuilders leave the building the place smells like the Costa del Sol for a week: fake tan, rubbing oil and the piss thin smell of stale beer on carpet. In the bathroom there is an orange sheet on the toilet seats from where the bodybuilders have hovered and quit hovering and then sat, smudging their mahogany tan all over the white plastic. Also on the taps there are fingerprints. The walls and floors have faired better. In preparation for the tanning, (which is done with spray hoses like sheep being doused against lice), we have covered everything with plastic sheets. The sight of the bodybuilders –both men and women- lumbering from one end of the building to the other with arms and legs and taut faces tanned the mottled colour of Jacob’s Twiglets sticks with us long after the smell has dispersed. It is like watching ET emerge from his cellophane tunnel over and over again.
August 11th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
There are feral children living inside the Dublin Road Cinema; three of them. They do not have names as such and, having learnt all their language from the movies, have come to call themselves Disney and Pixar and Bat Man, (Bat Man being the smallest of the three and the only male). They cannot remember how they arrived here at the Dublin Road Cinema but they do not want to leave. They scuttle from screen to screen when the lights are down, avoiding the ushers and eating popcorn in handfuls, straight from the floor. During the day they sleep, curled like pretzels, beneath the folding seats. Their skin is like milk or paper from never having been outside. When they see themselves in the bathroom mirrors, wild-haired and white, they touch their faces, and touch the faces of their siblings, and they do not pass right through each other. It is a relief to know they are not yet ghosts. Ghosts are thing which end badly in every movie they have ever seen.
August 12th 2015 – East Belfast
The sister came out of my mother fist first, like Superman taking off. Only she could not fly and she was not wearing a costume of any kind. In the sister’s closed hand was a tiny egg; a bird’s we presumed. The Midwife had never seen anything like this before. It was unclear how the egg had come to be inside my mother or how the sister had found it and grabbed for it, without a torch to see.
“Perhaps, it will hatch,” said the Midwife.
We wrapped it in towels and placed it under a desk lamp and sat vigil with it every night for a week. Perhaps, we were expecting it to contain a tiny, tiny child like a smaller version of the sister. It did not hatch and eventually began to smell. My father threw it in the bin and we all went back to watching the sister. She was a week old by this stage and we were all still wondering about her.