Here is a story I wrote after a night of drunk-sleep followed by an disorientating early morning drive out of the city on a dazzling February morning…. please let me know what you think
In an indeterminate decade, in an indeterminate country, it could have been any given day of the week- the dream gave no indication- but it was definitely early morning and definitely spring. The air was crisp but already warm on your face in the patches of sun between the buildings. The top part of the main street, the flat bit before it slid away down the hill to the sea, was waking up, the market traders setting out their wares, chatting, swearing good-naturedly, grasping hot drinks with fingerless gloves, the morning rays glancing off the scales of fish, glinting in the bric a brac and further ahead dazzling off the open ocean. The street was cobbled and lined with shops whose edges were blurred as the focus of the dream’s vision narrowed and swung down between the buildings to alight on the girl. She was walking, not quickly, not idly, between the stalls, sometimes caught by some item which she picked up, turned over, smelt or simply smiled at. Her smile. It was distant and had a depth to it. It spread like a sigh to her eyes and on through her body. When she smiled it was as if her whole being expanded, swelled. Whether it was at a trinket among the antiques or at the view of the sea, which seemed to hold her attention the closest. She was moving not without purpose, walking steadily towards the brow of the hill. Past the apparel stall, pausing in a great freestanding mirror, and now, and only now because it is a dream, you see that she is dressed only in a long shabby grey buttoned up cardigan which reaches her knees, her feet are bare and her scarlet hair blazes in the morning haze.
The stallholders watched her for different reasons, the grocer and fishmonger wrinkled their noses at her scruffiness, the painter engaged her with some watercolours of the harbour and felt his heart quicken when she turned her smile on him, as if it couldn’t handle the radiance of it or the depth and sparkle of her green green eyes. The book seller’s little daughter decided the girl was a princess from a far off land, run away from an evil stepmother- she had never seen hair in such a shade or cheekbones with such a slant.
The girl continued inexorably on her path, gliding, oblivious of the whispers and raised eyebrows, as if propelled by her own smile. From a side street lower on the hill came a bustling pair, puffing up the hill, blustering about important sounding meetings. The taller, a robust lady wearing an ostentatious gold necklace around her shoulders, stopped mid instruction- the smaller, a sniffler of a fellow had been feverishly scribbling notes. Her eyes narrowed in disapproval and she cleared her throat
‘young lady, whatever do you mean, walking around barefoot like a vagrant?’
The girl, turned, looking politely puzzled, ‘hmm?’ she said sleepily
‘Where are your shoes? Did you not think to dress properly this morning?’
‘Madame Mayor, I’m not sure she’s from the village, I’ve never seen her before,’ sniffled the sniffler.
The girl, during this exchange, had allowed her gaze to travel beyond her interceptors and once more out to sea. The Mayor coughed more loudly,
‘Excuse me, my girl but you will have to put some shoes on, this the secretary of health and safety and I am sure he will agree, this sort of flagrant disdain for proper behaviour in public simply isn’t acceptable, neither is it safe!’
‘Mmm?’ The girl wrenched her attention back to the pair, the mayor now very red, her secretary nodding and scribbling
‘Shoes! Where are your shoes?’ The mayor nearly squawked, gesturing at the bare-footed abomination
The girl, looked down at her feet, wriggled her toes, looked up, shrugged, curtseyed and smiled her smile. At once she was off, beckoning the pair to follow, down the hill. The mayor huffed in indignation,
‘What do you mean by this? Where do you live? I’ve a mind to have my secretary write a strongly worded letter to your mother.’
The girl, looked over her shoulder and beckoned again. The mayor and her secretary struggled to keep up as the girl skipped and skidded down the street to the harbour, humming a high flutey tune.
‘She’s a lunatic, Madame, wants checking out. As I say, I’ve never seen her before, she looks…different,’ panted Secretary Sniffles, the mayor looked very grim.
Down at the waterfront, the girl was absently rolling up the sleeves of her cardigan, gazing dreamily across the bay, still humming. On reaching her the mayor pulled the girl around roughly by the shoulder, stuck her face right up under the girl’s crimson fringe and spat ‘Right! That’s enough of your silliness; you’ll tell my secretary your address and the names of your parents immediately and you’ll go home and get dressed! I have important things to do and decide.’ The girl looked down at the hand on her shoulder and back up at the mayor with a new smile, a sad, droopy smile. For a moment, as the mayor looked into the sadness, her bluster vanished, she seemed to deflate. Then the girl placed her own hand gently on the mayor’s. The mayor pulled away instantly and turned to her faithful secretary. She drew herself up and barked instructions on what should be done about this wanton little nuisance and then rattled off more orders about some important decisions and meetings. She was so wrapped up in her tirade that she didn’t notice the girl hopping over the railing and onto the rocks. She had merrily skipped across them and swung herself neatly up the mast of one of the fishing boats before the secretary had timidly drawn the mayor’s attention to the antics of their quarry. They rushed around the railings, down the steps and onto the pebble strewn beach, the mayor shouting all the while about health and safety and flouting rules. The girl was now standing on the bar that crossed the mast, staring not out at the water but up, up, up into the clear sky, now a brilliant forget-me-not blue. Suddenly she dropped, her knees hooked around the bar and she dangled, upside down, facing the pair who stopped mid-rant and gasped.
She looked at them with her sad smile and said
‘you should take your shoes off, you’ll get stones in them’.
Then she swung herself back upright, her bare feet gripping the bar, swayed for a moment, bent her knees and leapt into the sky, her arms flung wide to embrace it. She swooped, allowed her feet to trail in the water and then soared upwards. She twirled in midair and faced the gathering crowd, she said nothing, only smiled. And her very soul glowed, as red as her hair against the azure sky, the bliss in her eyes was so warm you could feel it on your skin. The painter felt like his heart would burst and the bookseller’s little girl nodded with the unassailable wisdom of children, ‘I knew it’, she thought.
And the flying girl sighed the most perfectly contented sigh and fell backwards into the sky, down and down, only it was up and up, far off into the heavenly blue.