I knew George when he was a small boy. He was kept out of harm's way in his father's study, the window barred by the diffused but still articulate rays of the summer sun, a sun which always seemed to shine, probably because George was not allowed into the orchard garden to enjoy it. The glinting spines of the ranked books became a prison wall, insulating the boy from his god-given right to fresh air with the intellectual headiness of poetry and frowsty learning.
How did I know him? I was imported from a family of miscegenate second cousins to play ludo, snakes & ladders and, later, monopoly and whist. My role was the archetype boyhood chum. Pity I was a girl. But they put trousers on me and smarmed my hair down, dividing it with a ruler a third of the way across the hump of my skull.
I fell in with their designs. I pretended to like rugby and cricket, whilst sympathising openly with George's lameness which prevented him from enjoying such formative activities. He had three legs. I cannot describe him properly, my selective memory having dulled the effect. My love for him I had to conceal, you see. It did something terrible to me ... and, inevitably, to him.
He showed me some of his father's books. George's favourites were on the subject of female gods, for whom wars were no longer fought. Each time that he slowly extracted a volume from the shelf, he fleetingly placed his lips to the spine-top’s open slit to suck whatever was released by the mustiness. Then, returning to the desk scattered with board-game counters, he'd open the covers with an audible crack. One special book contained diagrams of the female form, which he'd try to explain. He was old for his age. I didn't tell him I knew half of it already. But it opened my eyes. Many of the pages bore heavy foxing.
One day, George wasn't there. Why they had transported me all the way to play with him, I cannot now remember. There was a bit of him left though - a lungful slice of stale breath where that special book had once sat in the shelf between two others.
I peered through the window to see a woman pegging out dirty clothes on the washing-line in the orchard garden. I could not see clearly enough (or I could then, but not now) to determine the anatomical nature of the skid-marked underwear blowing with the fitful sunless winds.
(published 'Dark Fantasy Newsletter' 1998)