"Giraffe" by Jo Derrick
He was tall enough to reach the juiciest, lush leaves at the top of the tree. His camouflage protecting him from predators. His long legs were perfect for dancing. His hooves delicate enough to point and flick.
As a child he’d been raised on bread and dripping. There was never any money and he’d been teased for being as thin as a lathe. He’d been called Twiggy, Beanpole and Sticks, amongst other things. He was a gangly, clumsy teenager and had lost count of the clips round the ear from his gran for breaking various pieces of her best china.
But it was different now. People paid to watch him dance with beautiful women, who whispered in his ear about running their fingers across his smooth, hard chest. The fact that his skin was the colour of treacle toffee only made them want him more.
Terry never knew his mother, but she’d been as pale as a snowdrop, his gran told him. He had never known his father, and Gran never mentioned the colour of his skin. She didn’t have to. His dad was a sailor and his mother had met him in a dockside pub after her shift at the biscuit factory.
The day he decided he was a giraffe was when the heat shimmered across the landscape, waiting to pounce like a hungry beast. The sun ate up the lush green grass and replaced it with yellow stalks. No water came out of the taps and there was a standpipe on The Green. Oh, the irony in the name given to the one patch of grass in the middle of the village. Even his gran wore a sleeveless dress, which she ran up on her old black and gold treadle machine. Terry wore shorts and the other kids had pointed and laughed at his impossibly long legs decorated with bizarre pigmented patches that no one could ever explain.
Laura wasn’t the first woman to comment on his unique markings.
“Ee, ya look like a bleedin’ khaki patchwork quilt!”
He should have joined the army. Ideally suited for duty in Iraq, blending in superbly with the terrain. But Terry was too clever for the army - and too delicate and by then probably too old. They didn’t recruit dancers. Terry was too graceful. If someone had given him a tenner for the amount of times he’d been called gay. But the women knew better. They continued to flock around him like dancing flies on the desert sand. Yes, giraffes could take their pick from the tastiest vegetation.
As he’d placed the gold ring on Laura’s finger, Terry had the urge to stick out his long tongue, swish his tassled tail and bat his impossibly long lashes. If only those kids in the playground could see him now. He’d give them a run for their money. Lolloping over African plains with a Marilyn Monroe look-a-like on his back.