Wednesday July 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Little Dean Buckley is awake, his small tight eyes like dark knots unravelling in the cool shadow of his pram, which is arrested in its forward motion by a brick and a length of spoiled timber beneath each of the wheels, that live on the neat patio that runs onto the back of the house. Its crooked paving stones are alternately biscuit and peach in colour, hot underfoot. Sticky sunshine suffuses the garden. The baize lawn seems luminous.

He yawns. The first eyes he meets are Cathy’s. She is tiny against the empty afternoon sky, leaning in under the hood of his pram. When she lifts him out -a clammy hand under each arm, and a hesitant action, so that she seems to bring him out in stages – he feels his skin smacked with the heat of the day, and he gulps, like a diver falling into the deep swell of an ocean.

The other children are playing. Mary, older, too old for playing, is sunbathing with her friend Alice Tanner on the lawn, lying on towels that Hilly has let them have, pretending to read paperbacks that for the most part lie open against their midriffs, while Betty, nearly five now, wanders up and down the garden naked from the waist up, filling a bucket with water at the outside tap, which she uses to water the lawn in one corner.

Cathy walks with the baby to the end of the garden. Here, beyond the chain link fence the ground slopes away along a grassy verge, until it meets the train tracks that run alongside their estate to Ullerton Station, which may as well be Arabia to Cathy, so distant and inaccessible is that world, and what it represents.

Hilly, standing smoking in the frame of the backdoor, shouts something after them, or maybe it was to Betty, which Cathy ignores, and Dean has closed his eyes again anyway, and a train can be heard approaching from Ullerton, heading away from town towards Derby, or Burton. The two carriages, bottle-green and fringed with pale dust and mud that has dried and caked against the paintwork, slow to pass the row of houses that comprise their street.

Dean cries, but out of sympathy for his world, feeling keenly the consoling pressures of its treacly immersion.

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