Wednesday 16 May 2012

'Walking Upside Down' by John Ravenscroft

In my dreams, the good ones, Mary Iris McCormack - Mim for short - is
forever doing handstands, her knees bent, her feet planted flat
against the redbrick playground wall. The skirt of her school uniform
hangs like a soft green bell about the half-hidden clapper of her
head, and when she turns to face me I see strange, knowing,
upside-down eyes peering from beneath the inverted hem. She looks away
and a quick flick of blond hair sweeps a swirl of dust from the
Dreaming, half-aware of the fact, I wonder how long it's been since
that hot yellow-blue, small-town afternoon in her sister's tent.
Thirty-nine years? Forty? Can that be true? Has it really been so long
since she left me, moved to the city, the bright lights, London?
From the skirt-bell's apex two flawless legs rise into the air, a
matched pair of flying buttresses kissing the wall to keep it in its
place. Suddenly straightened, oh-so-carefully parted, they become a
walking V as Mim inches towards me, poised, balanced, her hands
sharp-angled on strong, supple wrists. Spectacular. V for victory.
I hear high-pitched peals of laughter coming from the bell's interior,
and at the dark forbidden fork - a place my eyes have no legitimate
business - I see her navy-blue knickers.
Three times in the past week I've woken at this point and looked
towards the pool of light where the night-nurses sit. I know one of
them well - nurse Mary O'Connor, redheaded with a lovely Irish lilt on
her. Her father used to be my postman, delivering my letters,
collecting my replies, bringing me dry paper and disappointment. Big
city news - too big for a small town Freiston boy like me.
Oh, Mim.
When she moves in a certain way, laughs just so, Nurse Mary O'Connor
reminds me of you.
I like to imagine her standing, yawning, unhitching herself from her
station and her little pool of sensible light. I like to picture her
upended, walking silently through the sleeping ward on her hands, her
crisp white uniform too tight to do the bell thing, but her
no-nonsense cap dropping off and her red hair tumbling free.
I see her stop at my bed, grin, execute a slow turn, and head back
towards her desk. Yes. Even without a bell, even without a glimpse of
navy-blue underwear, that would be something worth waking for.
I close my eyes and think about you, Mim - still doing handstands in
my dreams, still showing me your knickers, still getting me into
trouble after all these years.

(Winner of Word Smitten's 2003 Storycove Flash Fiction Award -

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