Sunday 25 June 2023

'Stepmother Hedge-trimmer' by Emily Macdonald

I carry the hedge-trimmer with its safety sheath on. I’m longing to expose the biting teeth, to hear the grinding whinge and split, cracking the tender bones, the expectant shoots.  

 I skate the blade, slicing eager leafy twigs, annoyed by their thrusting growth. I want a level, closely cropped hedge. 

My husband expects me to mother his two children. To step in, filling the gap where their mother once was. I have no children of my own and step is too small a word to justify the leap, the jump, the pole-vaulting flight.

The children titter, with hands held over their mouths. They mither and needle. I tell them to sit on the step, keep well away while I’m busy with dangerous tools.

Sometimes I long to put them away in the attic along with the other detritus of life. Tucked out of sight, pushed up the retractable stairs into the dark, not seen and not heard.   

Instead of the attic, later I will take them for a walk in the woods. We’ll pick berries and nuts, feed crumbs to the ducks on the pond. We might hear the woodpecker knocking its beak, an axe in the tree.

I’ll secrete sweets in my pockets. Lollipops they must eat without running in case of a fall and the stick jams, stuck tight, in their small throats.  

I strim errant fronds into uniform shape. I climb the ladder, stretch for a rogue shoot. I cry out in the moment of wobble under my feet. Before I fall and let go, I give prayerful thanks for the safety device, silencing the grinding, tidying teeth.

 The children rush towards me. They fuss, fluster and shout. They clutch me as if they don’t want to let go, and I wonder. I wonder, was I pushed?

No comments:

Post a Comment