It’s a few feet from the verge, looking slow and disoriented in our approaching headlights. Ben slows down to a crawl, fearful of hitting it.
“It makes me so angry!” says Karen. “No, we can’t leave it like that. Myxy is such a terrible death – they’re suffering so much!”
“D’you want me to run it over, love?”
I can feel Enya tense up beside me, gripping my hand, as Ben reverses the car a hundred yards, halts, then engages first and floors the accelerator.
“Get a clean shot!”
The rabbit wavers, and Ben swerves slightly.
My body whole body spasms, spine tensing and tingling.
The car stops, and they look back in the darkness.
“Not sure. Did I get it properly?”
Ben seems ready to get out and take a look.
“Honestly. That was a clean hit. It’s dead.”
The good deed’s done.
Yellow and pink feathers sneeze around my face on the end of a dangly wooden pole. As I teeter on the chair in my socks, I can reach the ceiling corner cobwebs and twist them into a candy-floss chaos. Spider scuttles, stumbles and descends on an abseiling wire.
When I’m done, I don’t want to touch that sticky mass. Clicking the grimy dustpan brush out of dustpan’s grip, and swatting the duster clean into the fish-smelling kitchen bin. Picking the last remnants off the bristles by hand. Job done.
I feel bad about the spiders, and yet also ruthless. Sometimes, the long-extended pipe of vacuum cleaner pops them away. Do they live on in the hoover bag? I guess that’s barely conscious, thoughtless cruelty from me. If told as a human story, rather than arachnid, it would be news of horror and murderous violence.
Visiting friends at the weekend – even the solitary weevil on their kitchen drainer was a being to be rescued and cherished. What a contrasting world view. And yet, the taste of bacon is fresh on my tongue, and was on theirs too then. Just a confusion of inconsistent caring.
Chiselled wooden face has angular highlights painted flushed red. Punch is an angry man. I’m cross-legged on the grass, dodging the higher heads of the girls in front.
“Where’s the baby? Where’s the baby?”
Punch jerks mischievously, manically across the stage. A policeman enters and bludgeons him blackly with truncheon, bell-shaped hat’s innocent air betrayed.
I can smell hot dogs from the neighbouring stall. They’re so straight and shiny, lying in their white, boat-like split rolls. I want to squeeze big worms of red ketchup and mustard, and hope it doesn’t all dribble on my hands with the first bite.
“Sausages! Who ate the sausages?”
Judy is irate. The dog is nowhere to be seen. Wait,
“He’s behind you!”
“No, over there!”
She looks again, but he’s gone.
“You’re having a laugh. You naughty, naughty girls and boys!”
“No!!! He’s there again! Look!”
My bum’s getting damp with the grass.
I’ve got a metre length of loo roll wrapped around my wrist, and the near end is soaked in snot. The hissing of my neighbours’ nasal breath is chaotic, and I periodically have to pause and snort into the tissue. My arms flap and head jerks from side to side. I try to vary the rhythm – some times deep and from the belly, others chesty and quick. I love the rapid, loud drumming underpinning it all on the chunky sound system in the carpeted studio’s corner.
The second gong sounds, reverberates. Keep moving! Sounds, not sure what yet, but keep moving! Gibberish. Annoyance.
Yah! La! Yah! Ga!
People are thrashing around, and a cushion or two thumping, though my eyes are closed. Someone’s shouting:
Fuck off! Fuck off! Bastard!
Wait, that’s me, actually. I’m rolling on the ground, flailing at the carpet, clenching fists, almost spitting with rage. I stuff the crumpled tissue in my pocket, tear off my T-shirt and sling it to the side of the room.
I don’t know what this is, or who it is, or what I’m caring about, but I know it’s annoyance, tension, frustration, and I can taste it bitter in my snarling mouth.