Figure XIV

July 7, 2006

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Between heat and thunder, the progression slower than those on foot, Rupert’s van draws forward in the commuter hour cortège. Behind the dull throb of the motor, growling like an animal caged before his feet, he imagines himself with purpose amid the hurly and din of the quivering city, still waking, still falling into place.

Outside a florists, galvanised steel buckets are arranged for the display of flowers. The unfurling eyes of Westminster, a thousand metal shutters rolled skywards in this thunderous dawn of cars, and buses, and the burrowing trains beneath the pavements; it wakes him also, stirs him from his stately passage through the world.

In the back of the van sit twenty disembodied heads, twenty blank and expressionless polystyrene faces, each with perfectly coiffured, unstirring hair. He catches sight of them in the rear view mirror, the face of his mother amongst them, nodding in that way she had, that way that simply said: That’s what I thought. That’s how I expected things to turn out. Quivering with the vibrations of the engine, trembling just as it had all those years she spent in bed, balding and thinning at the cheeks, simply nodding at the wallpaper when the acknowledged silence had become too much. But he was the one who had stayed home for her. He was the one who knew when she struggled for the words:
“Da bnt… Da bnt…”

“Do you want me to find you the pink one?”

No answer. No smile even; but the slow sedate nodding would return as if equilibrium had been restored to her, and he would go to the dresser and draw her out the pink cardigan, the exact one she had been meaning, and he would help her on with it and he would tidy up her hair.

And yet that look was always there. He could see it in her dying face once all others had gone from her repertoire. That look, not of gratitude but of admission: I knew it would be you. I knew you would be the one left with me.

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8 Responses to “Figure XIV”

  1. bloglily said

    Just lovely. Of the many things I liked, here are just a few: the shock of the heads in the back of the van, the mother’s italicized words, and the narrator’s beautiful, unsentimental handling of the son/mother relationship. Thank you L.

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