Sunday, April 30, 2006


Flat One

The mother takes the odd trip to the family car and that is all, there is no need to venture further, the home is where the heart is after all. I once glimpsed her taking a trip to the post-box across the road, moving along on her heavy haunches making those tiny strides, one by one, up the gradual incline of the pathway. Once there, then the trip back, maybe a sit down and a rest, turn the TV on. Who knows what the reasoning is, I shall hold my tongue, my irreverent, unknowing tongue. I hear the second part of an Eastenders trilogy blurt out below the floorboards. Just then I angle my ear amongst the litter of dust and hairs, fading in, Dot is doing the ironing, father Ted is dead and I can hear the kids mumbling. Some rough Asbo children are vandalising the front door as Dot speaks so there is no other course of action! Dot reaches for the phone.

The father, a van driver, has a sitting job and depresses his seat more than the average vehicle maintenance officer, according to the statistics at the office that is. The daughter also, bears the signs of never going out, unless it is to sit in her new second hand car, waiting for the time when she can drive her dad around to the shops and back. She sits, hidden beneath the hood, turning the wheel and arranging her hanging teddy bears and rolling the windows up and down, turning the seat to various angles.

The car, it has been sitting there in the car park all year and has not moved. The tax disk has been replaced twice and it takes up a crutial parking space but nobody has mentioned it, the windows facing stare blankly down on the tarmac.

We have all observed the girl playing with the steering wheel, polishing the dash board; the father comes out and plays with her, opening the boot and putting things in; sometimes the whole family get in so that the daughter can gain experience; they talk about going on journeys and telling her to turn left, turn right, switch on the lights and try out the hooter, and does it need oil and how do you get the petrol cap off?"

The old man with the flowing white beard comes to take her away in his mini Datson, the wheels rolling around and out of the closed community of car spaces, with him leaning over to talk to her in soft tones, “now don’t worry the examiner is just going to sit here like this, and fold his papers like that, and hold his pen like so.”

They wash it and polish it. The father, after the mother has had one of their familiar rows with her daughters: Don’t swear at me; treat me with a bit of fucking respect!” (southern accent as if she is at the same time trying to eat a pair of heavy walking boots), he takes the girl out for a trip in the car, opening and shutting the doors, talking to her in the driving seat while she turns the steering wheel, it is on auto-lock. She fiddles with the gear lever, shakes her body in frustration as if riding a horse and the car shakes in return, she taps it or slaps the dash in order to get the right car response.

“Don’t get upset now, it’s only your second test, your mother took it five times”. Puts more things in the boot from her bedroom, there are now several dinky toys hanging from the inside of the windows and it’s like a second bedroom with blankets and clothes on the back window ledge. One day she will move out of the flat and into the car. If only she could pass her test then the whole thing could get moving. As it is they stay, moored in the corner of the car park, the odd hooter sound echoes around the flats, putting off the time when they have to go back inside and face the mother, give her some more respect.

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