Monday, May 05, 2008

Ancient Ponds

(published 'Dementia 13')

The moment Doug entered the room, he knew something was eating under the table. It was the sound of chomping and licking of lips...

The flat had not been tenanted for long and, as far as he was aware, he was the first person to rent its newly furnished conversion. The fact that it was an old house was belied by the dogs' dinner appointments and Art Nouveau decor of his living area. From the window he could see that the garden remained peppered with the stagnant pools of an unusually wet summer. He had often thrown his used tea bags from his kitchenette - in his mind, scoring according to which pool he managed to hit. The waste disposal unit was not good enough for Doug.

He scowled. The lease said 'No Pets', well, in so many words... and here was something or other having found its way into the living quarters...presumably from some other part of the large rambling house. Perhaps, the new tenant in the converted attic, whose arrival was indicated by a removal van stationed outside when Doug had gone off to work, had smuggled in an unknown animal.

Various thoughts fleeted through Doug's mind, as he stooped to investigate: why the removal men left odd items on the pavement, such as a piano stool and a magazine rack (whilst they went off for breakfast?); the old woman waving from her front plot, one of those downward movements of the hand that expressed exasperation at the sort of things that go on these days and the calibre of people coming to live in the area; why she should strike up even a nodding acquaintance with Doug, seeing that he was a recent arrival in the area himself.

His hands rested like splayed spiders in front of his knees, as he bent his head beneath the tassels of the tablecloth.

Doug had been brought up by sunday schoolteacher parents in a peripheral area of London which only got into the A to Z by the skin of its teeth.

He never liked animals then. He had been under no illusions as to their parasitic ambitions, even as a small child...their wheedling, whiskered faces... filling laps like warm liquid, their tea-brown eyes raised in self-seeking pity.

If the grown-ups were not watching, Doug would sooner strangle than stroke their glossy pelts. Or boil them for stew. He imagined their upturned weltering faces rearing on shafts of seething gruel, mouthing a silent pain. Chile Con Carne often had bits in it that one could turn into tiny faces, just with a little effort of the imagination. He would often stare into his hymn-singing mother's cooking bowls, forming nightmares for his dreams.

He snapped out of it.

The past is just another dream.

He shook his head vigorously... trying to clear the brain of fuzziness. He blinked his eyes to clear them of the overlarge lashes. But they were attached to something other than moveable skin.

He looked down: a large bone conjured the tatterdemalion of residual he sank his jaws closer to the knuckle.

The old woman from across the way wandered over to fish the ancient ponds. Witnessed only by the new tenant in the attic, with tea-brown eyes.

The last thing Doug ate was his own tail.

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