Saturday 24 June 2023

'The Nine Lives of Kenneth Armstrong' by Iqbal Hussain

Late 1940s: Placenta around throat. Intervention from midwife. Slap! Blue skin turned pink. “Screaming your lungs out, you were” (Mother).

1950s: Chasing Cousin Joan around the house. Glass door. Tears, blood, bandages, nicknamed “The Mummy” by the rest of the form – “but no real harm done, there’s a brave soldier” (Father).

1960s: School trip to Greece. Pitching ferry. Boy overboard! Rough waves and insufficient swimming lessons. Rescued by lifeguard. Pride dented, but “lucky to be alive, Johnson, what ho?” (Headmaster Staniforth).

1970s: Lewisham, bovver-booted thugs on one side, a wall of police on other. Bricks, bottles, shouts, yells. The thunder of horse hooves. “Behind you, Kenneth!” (Josephine).

1980s: Picnic in the garden. Strawberries. Potted shrimp. Scones. A tiny wasp. A major reaction. “Mummy, Daddy’s not moving!” (Cora).

1990s: Late for work. Missed train. Took car. Got to the office just five minutes late. Evening news dominated by one story: “Worst rail tragedy for a decade” (Huw Edwards).

2000s: Momentary loss of focus while texting, busy junction, traffic lights broken. Took the corner without due attention. A window cleaner’s ladders straight through the windscreen. “An inch to the right and …” (Dr Sharma).

2010s: Pain in the chest. Agony. Doubling over. A heavy fall. Josephine screaming into the phone. An ambulance’s siren, footsteps up the stairs, then darkness. Awoke to bright lights and cold beeps. “Never ignore the warning signs – especially with your cholesterol” (Consultant Rogers).

Early 2020s: A stiff, crackling sheet lit from behind, covered with innocuous-looking children’s daubs. A blot on the page, black on white – blink and you’d miss it. Josephine and Cora crying. Vision blurring. A clearing of throat, a hug, a kiss to each. More tears, including my own. “I’ve had a long life. I can’t complain” (me).

No comments:

Post a Comment

FlashFlood is OPEN for submissions until 27 April 2024!

FlashFlood is OPEN for submissions from 12:01 a.m. BST on Sunday, 21 April to 23:59 BST on Saturday, 27 April 2024. You can read our submi...