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Chapter 2

and Father Leigh must have been burning books again, he’s been out probably, down water to the hills and picked his way through some water poking houses for old books, anything that isn’t a bible will go on the fire and any bible he happened to find will go in his shed, get cut up, carefully, cut open, he’s a surgeon with his bibles, he likes to take his knife to them and tease out words from sentences and he places the cut out words into his new bible, pieces together the whys and hows of all of this, of the water and all the other crap that’s happened but if you ask me he’s long gone nuts, I mean okay he saved me and dad and yes he was sort of like a dad to me for a while, for a few years at least when I was a baby because dad went a bit crazy too then when they reached the cottage because he knew he’d never see mum again and knowing something like that must wreck your head mustn’t it, losing love or whatever, losing a wife, a mother, and being stuck here in this place and all the world wet and drowning but he couldn’t have been proper mad because he came to and yes, okay, he’s cold and distant and all that now but what else do I know, this has been my life, nothing else, just this, just my dad locked away in grief, lingering grief for my mum and a mad priest trying to find prophecies in cut up bibles, Father Leigh locked away the same in his shed, the mustiness of books, of damp, and Father Leigh always hunting rats  because he says there’s bound to be rats though I’ve hardly seen any and he hardly eats with us anymore, it’s just me and dad most nights with our fish, but then at least that’s something, at least we can both catch fish, Father Leigh won’t eat fish because he says God took the true world from him, from us, and he won’t eat meat or fish while the world is false even though he loves meat and fish and whenever I go down to his shed he won’t stop talking about what bacon sandwiches were like, how he has dreams just about bacon sandwiches and whenever he tells me about what they were like I want one just as bad as he does even though I’ve never tasted bacon, the fat and all that, how he likes the fat being slippery, I can almost feel it slipping down my throat the way he describes it, even dad listens when Father Leigh talks about bacon and all the grease and butter and bread and the crispy bacon and something called brown sauce and how Father Leigh says his mum would always cook bacon whenever he went home, maybe that’s it, maybe it’s not the bacon really, maybe it’s memories like that, like his mum cooking bacon like how when we came here, when Father Leigh came to the window of our flat and dad passed me down to him, how dad must have gone back into the bedroom then and he got one of mum’s dresses and took it with him, he didn’t take anything else, not even a picture, just the dress and it’s hanging in dad’s room still, that’s weird isn’t it, it feels weird anyway, it feels like a ghost dress, an empty dress, and I don’t like going in dad’s room much and seeing it hanging there, it’s a nice dress but it looks like mum was in it when she died or something, like it’s a shrine to her, the hollow of her, her shell, and as I walk up to our cottage from my boat, mud sloshing up my legs, spattering my jeans and boots and socks and going under my socks, I try not to think of mum, of where she was when the rain started, of what might have happened to her, of what if she isn’t gone, what if she still is, still exists somewhere, alone, forgotten, and instead I turn and just check the darkening horizon, the long line of water, scan it for any sign of the Wavers and their boat, but I know even as I scan the horizon that they’re well gone, there’s just the hills, low and grey, breaking the surface and the occasional tree or water poking spire or something else that I don’t know, can’t make out, breaking free of the water and I stand there, the cottage up behind me, and I watch the water and the rain isn’t as heavy now and the water is so still and the only sound now is the crackle of Father Leigh’s dying fire, the stench of it and he must have been burning something other than books, plastic maybe, so after a while when the smell of burning plastic gets too much I turn away from the horizon and forget about the Wavers and I remember when I was younger there wasn’t any such thing as Wavers, not even the word Wavers, just the occasional rumour and one day Rick Penny, Sarah’s dad, said that some lone rower had warned him about Wavers, how they were meant to be rowing down from the north or how they came from over the real water, the Old Sea, but then quickly there’d be other rumours like London wasn’t flooded anymore though we all knew that was a lie and that the Wavers came from there, from London, or that they spoke strangely, not English even, but it’s only lately really that people have started seeing them, I mean dad and Rick Penny too and all the loners and loonies out there on the water by themselves, it’s only be a year or two that we’ve all been watching out for Wavers, that dad has been warning me to watch out for them but I always wonder what could they want with me and dad and Father Leigh anyway, we’re not women, it’s women that Wavers are meant to take, I always think that if the Wavers found out cottage they’d just row on, row on, row on and forget us like I try to forget them as I open the door to our cottage, push it hard with my shoulder because it swells after rain and sticks and Father Leigh’s old cat, Jelly, sits on the oven that doesn’t work and blinks with it’s near blind green eyes, eyes that are filmy and can hardly see me but still have some remnant of how green they were when Father Leigh brought her home years ago, when he found her on one of his fishing trips, his book fishing trips and he never told us where he found her, just that he found her and she needed a home, it’s probably just the draught as I open the door that makes her blink not any recognition that I’m home, just the sudden cold breeze and Jelly doesn’t move when I come in because I never give her anything, honestly I never have anything to give her, really she’s so skinny and tiny that’s she’s as much a rat as the ones Father Leigh worries about but he loves her and dad loves and honestly I never have, not since she scratched my lip and now we just blink at each other and I’m about to call dad when I notice there’s no pan hanging over the stove in the hearth and that the stove isn’t even lit, that it’s cold even when I shut the door and there’s no smell of boiled greens like there usually is, nothing to lob the fish into and I call him, call dad and there’s no reply and then I see the table, how it’s still strewn with bits of radio, that he’s been working on it again and I walk over to the table and notice that most of the pieces have been smashed, that they’re properly broken now and I’m trying to remember if dad’s boat was at our jetty and even though I’m sure it was the thought gnaws at me, was it, was it, and I can’t picture it being there because I was in such a rush to get up here and the rain was so heavy so I call out for him a couple more times before I notice the piece of paper on the table, neatly folded in half, just there among the wrecked radio and picking it up I know something’s not right and take the paper, the note, open it and read it and it’s written so neatly, so calmly, but it’s all madness because it says this, it says Ark, I’m going to find your mother, she spoke to me and I have to find her, love dad and how can someone write so neatly when they’re so full of madness and crap

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About michaeleganpoetry

Liverpool based poet and editor. I have had four pamphlets of poetry published, most recently After Stikklestad (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2010). Penned in the Margins published my first collection, Steak & Stations, in 2010.

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