Saturday, 27 June 2015

Playing Out by Christina Taylor

            Mum called us in over an hour ago but our dissection of the worms is going too well to stop. I’m not supposed to be playing out today; I should be on my best behaviour for Grandpa’s funeral. But the silence in the house drains all the energy out of it like a black hole, so I can’t remember him any more. I escape through the back window, running free with Kirsty to the fields beyond the railway tracks where Gramps and I used to walk.
            At first my worm is alive and kicking despite its decapitation. It wriggles between my thumb and forefinger, but its battle is futile. A twinge of sympathy passes over me; many times I’ve been caught in Liv’s vice like grip, twisting and turning until my wrists are raw. My older sister is an expert torturer; now I’m practising those same arts.  I harden my heart and continue, jabbing a stick into the worm again and again.
            Kirsty pokes her worm with a twig as if that will bring it back to life, but the last wound is final. Water pools in her big blue eyes.  Bowing her head, her ponytails droop onto her heaving chest.  Guilt twists inside me; I forced her to it, threatening to tell the class that she still wet her knickers every night.  Fizzing on Monster Munch and Space Dust, she couldn’t refuse. I clamp my hand over her hot, sticky mouth, stifling her wails. Clinging to me like a limpet, her tears soak my dress. After an interminable time she stops, wrenching away. Sticking her fingers in the mud, she launches the first shot.
            Mid brawl, two strong hands pull me away.  I struggle, resisting like the worm. Mum looks at me, shame lining her face. Now it’s my turn for tears. I’ve tarnished Grandpa’s day; he never hurt a fly.  His house was full of waifs and strays most people had given up on.  Picking up another dead worm, I rub it between my fingers, blowing on it as if it will bring Gramps back too. But it’s no use; he's gone. That's when the rain starts, washing away the dead bodies, washing away the last memory.

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