4.3.2013 Journal Prompt

Photo by Mary Ellen Mark
Photo by Mary Ellen Mark

April 3, 2013: Little girls.

One Reply to “4.3.2013 Journal Prompt”

  1. (Another one I am visiting late, but which I so wanted to write something for… the picture haunts me!)

    Time is a trick, say grandma Bickerstaff. Like Robbie ‘one eye’, and he jacked the cigarette machine in the community centre and he filled his pocket with silver shillings and half crowns – only, there was a hole and his stuffed and jangling pocket was empty before he got home. Time is a trick, says grandma Bickerstaff, a cruel trick and it’s all gone a lot sooner than you expect.

    She spits in the gutter and curses against the cold and the rain that’s coming. And she rubs at an ache in her back and calls to her dog to hurry after her.

    ‘One minute you’re stumbling to find your feet and the world is tall about you; next minute you need a stick to walk to the end of the street and it still takes most of the morning and you then have to walk back.’

    And thinking about what grandma Bickerstaff said, I remember Chrissie. I look back only as far as the flung salt over my shoulder, thrown to blind the devil, and I remember wee Chrissie turning rope to ‘Frere Jacques’ and other girls singing the song, faster and faster, and Chrissie could skip to a hundred on a good day, skip to a thousand; and I remember her skirt tucked into her knickers so she could do handstands against the shut church door, or bouncing threadbare tennis balls off a red brick wall and ‘one two three O’Leary, I spied Mrs Creery, sitting on her bumbaleery, early in the morning.’

    Then I turned my back, I must have. For just an instant it seems. Long enough to start smoking and drinking, and there’s a lass works at the post office and she steps out with me to the pictures on Saturday nights and she smells of flowers and her kisses taste of Crest toothpaste.

    And Chrissie, the same wee girl who stole her mam’s red satin high heels and clack clack clacked from one end of the road to the other pretending she was older than her years, and she wore a bra when there was nothing to fill it, and her hair all backcombed and lacquered; and when I next see her, when I next bother to look, well she’s got a kid of her own and she can’t be above fifteen herself, and I think it must be her mam’s at first, only she sets me right on that.

    I don’t ask who the father is and she doesn’t tell me. She’s called the baby Connie, after an American singer her dad liked, and she holds the baby like she once held dolls, and she says she doesn’t go to school no more and the only teacher she misses is Mrs Williams and she says the wee cardigan her baby is wearing was knitted by Mrs Williams.

    And time is surely a trick, as Grandma Bickerstaff says, for I am certain I once saw Chrissie wearing a wee knitted cardigan the same, and it was not so long ago either, or it was an age away.

    I fold a half crown into the baby’s closed pink fist, just for luck, and a ten bob note into Chrissie’s hand. She thanks me and she asks if I have a cigarette to spare and I give her the pack.

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