Saturday, 26 June 2021

'Reckless' by Kim Murdock

They stand alongside the canal, hand in hand, the mother's low heels pressed against the curb of the asphalt roadway, the boy's knees poking out above wellington boots like two pale eggs caught in first light. The mother wears a moss green wool coat with an oval brooch of painted flowers and grips a thin black clutch in her other hand. The coat is too heavy for this time of year, but it brings comfort.

Behind them, the canal lies dark and still. So still in fact that this east/west ribbon could be mistaken for a rain-slicked roadway. Behind that, a tangle of scrub presses against a concrete wall that cuts the horizon. They are on their way to the kindergarten, or maybe the grocery store. She is unsure.

Behind the concrete wall lies a factory, a perfect study in greys and nubs of manufactured texture. Steel structures crawl skyward while inverted funnels yawn indistinct powders that weave through the fog. All but the loudest emergency sounds are trapped and reduced to a low hum. Sometimes she catches the workers changing shifts. They call out to her Elise! Elise!, and she waves and waves and waves back.

Behind the factory lies the sea, where black depths and crested swells push like an open hand on the small of the back to another coast, jagged and wild, heath scraping her ankles, swaths of pine, her name the wind and flowers shoved recklessly into pockets. Where a laugh caught in the throat rises to the clouds.

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