Saturday 24 June 2023

'The Value of Stilt Walking' by Catherine Ogston

I can hear Marla’s voice now, demanding our turn, over and over until it became the whinny of a marsh hen. But Ed was never in the mood to descend from his new lofty position and only laughed and stalked off. No one knew where the pair of stilts had even come from but Ed spent every second possible teetering on them, wobbling like a baby giraffe at first, falling into the dry  grass until he got the knack of it. The way he spent days like that, walking about like an alien with long probing legs, drove Marla crazy.

Mu camera was always around my neck that summer and so I took a photograph of my two cousins, Marla standing there, her weight shifted onto one hip and her blonde hair falling down her tanned shoulders, like she was a movie star and not thirteen years old, Ed in the background on his impossibly long legs. She was smoking a cigarette, taken out of his pocket in a useless attempt to vex him into jumping off those stilts. She had lit it right in front of him and smoked it without coughing once, while he only laughed and quickened his giant strides, gambolling down the farm track and back again.

I guess Marla would be surprised to see herself from all those years ago, now that she looks after seven children and often a black eye. Ed’s gone, one bar fight too many left him six feet under instead of six feet in the air, mastering those gigantic steps that never took him anywhere in the end. I’m glad he got a taste of it that summer; the clean air, the view from up high, the stars an arm’s length away.


First published in Return to Factory Settings: Bath Flash Fiction Anthology, 2000.

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