Long while since he had seen anything familiar. Though Everything should be familiar. Driven to and from work, how many times had he looked out a window on that same scenery? Twice a day for over a year, excluding holidays. That’d be six hundred at a minimum, you’d say. Not for one moment had he doubted himself, back there at the bus stop. No, he knew his way. Would take longer, of course, on foot than by car or bus. No matter. If speed had been his concern he’d have waited. Timetable said another’d be along in fifteen minutes. Even taking into account unexpected delays you’d imagine that bus to have arrived within half an hour. He’d been walking for over sixty minutes already. Time, like his feet, kept on. Yet, while his surroundings remained unfamiliar he’d no idea how near or far he was from his destination. Could be further away than ever, could be nowhere at all. The road, however, was straight. No chance, then, that he’d taken a wrong turn or run off on another path. Could be almost upon home, as much as anything. Would be easy, of course, to get lost. You’d have to want to, though. Fields either side of the road, mostly. Longer he walked, less beautiful they became. More menacing. Monstrous. Not lost though, no. Cars passed, infrequently. None stopping. He was alone, and not alone. Most brutal kind of alone is being unrecognized. Family of four in Ford Fiesta, kids looking out as he’d looked at least six hundred times. Perhaps seeing more than he’d ever seen, seeing confronting naming knowing. He’d been here before, when he was their age or a little older maybe. Here, but not here. He and a brother caught out in snow like many were caught, that day. Intense snow, soft and heavy like a pile of old blankets. Too hazardous for transport, all were warned by radio and tv to stay indoors. Except those already out, unable now to heed it. Almost equidistant from their father’s and mother’s houses, they had a choice. One or other, and walk. They chose mother, like they’d chosen once before. Felt like they mashed through that snow forever. Bodies forward, into wind and falling flakes. Edging along beside another road, in line with those also stranded. Sometimes he’d shout motivation into snow, to a brother fallen down. Of course they made it, in their own time. After dark, mother meeting them outside their home. Hot tea and sloppy affection, inside. Sloppy tea and hot affection. Later, a story to speak on with everyone except brother. Ashamed, perhaps. He couldn’t explain it, was almost as though they’d shared a bed not some snowy hours. Bad enough sharing a room, boys to men. Fighting over ownership of nonsense things, in an effort to establish themselves. Or he did, anyway. Fighting was down to him, really. Only one brother ever raised his fists, ever needled and bullied. Other one fell down, that was his part. Till, after some time, he’d mastered it. Could quote his lines at will, could slip into character in seconds. Mother’s favourite mummy’s boy. Pretty, kind and sensitive, is how she’d called it. One day sitting them down to administer to each their fate. Or to pass judgement. He’d never been her son, had simply taken leave of her womb. Had done so same stoic way he’d left a legion of lovers, you could say. Same way he walked the road, you could say. Ever on. No thought of turning around, of going back. To go back would signal defeat, if things like that are important. To him, no. Forward was his only option, only way he knew how to move. Though it’d cost him, certainly. Sometimes best to wait, to give yourself time to consider your options. Pause for thought, so it goes. What could’ve been. Mother now was old. Too old, too sad. New teeth. Illusion of health. Sadder, still. Teeth out of place, in that face. Unwelcome, almost. Like a lump, like a vibrantly red tumour. Old mother with a collection of cats. Gave her something to survive. Her cats, like canaries. In that deadly house. One, shot by boy. One, taken apart by dog. Two, found by morning: unmoving. Then, three. Fat, Neurotic, and Scared. Like her, like his brother. He’d wished for God, all his life. Prayed for Him, not at Him. With fierce desire wanted God, like an ex-lover, so he’d need not be always alone. Playing hide and seek with himself. How could mother live without Him, you’d ask. Raised by her hair, marrying to marry, bearing children to serve them. What did Bella say, we are degradingly poor, offensively poor, beastly poor.


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