Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Under a Mackerel Sky

Yet more finishing old stuff that I started but didn’t complete. I’m gradually getting their numbers down. I decided that I was going to start all projects in and Unfinished pieces folder and only move them after I've finished them. That way they gang up and glare at me balefully. So instead of skipping merrily off with a new project, I need to slink off shamefacedly, suffering the accusing stares of things that need just a few hundred more words, or a couple more paragraphs.

This challenge was was go to an online dictionary and pick a word or phrase you liked. I chose Mackerel Sky, thinking back of a photo of mine (which it seems I have lost due to my erratic system of backups... damn). My picture wasn’t exactly a mackerel sky - but a rainbow effect in the clouds that I’ve seen twice in Vietnam... without an overly abnormal amount of booze in my system.

To give you an idea of what a mackerel sky looks like here you go:
Obviously not my picture. Tho says I am a rank amateur with a camera. Picture taken from here

Under a Mackerel Sky
Old Man Johnson looked to the horizon. “Gonna be a damn fine sunset,” he said, and spat. The gobbet of tobacco and phlegm spattered on the wooden boards, causing him to smile. Lukey grabbed a twig, and started poking it - and that made him smile. Being only seven, Lukey was easily amused. He could find endless entertainment in this activity, at least until dragged away. Rita let him have his fun for the time being. The moment he began reaching out an inquisitive finger, she grabbed him by the shoulder and took him in back to “help” her get a top-up for the old-timer. When they returned, the stick and the sputum were forgotten. Old Man Johnson smacked his gummy lips appreciatively. As his rheumy eyes swung back to the clouds, the mug made frequent trips to his mouth, barely causing a pause in his rambling monologue. Rita, too, returned to what she had been doing - peeling potatoes. There were always potatoes to be peeled, and the repetitive action went well with the mindless background noise of Old Man Johnson’s slurps and mutters. “Keep where I can see you,” she said to Lukey. But just as she was only barely aware of her customers’ conversation, so too was the boy’s focus elsewhere.

Lukey loved the bar at this time of day - the lengthening shadows and random piles of scrap were adequate fuel for all sorts of adventures to his fertile imagination. Currently, he was hopping excitedly from stone to stone in the garden, tracking an early cricket that had started tuning up before the performance of the evening’s symphony. In his mind, he was stealthy - like a ninja creeping towards an unsuspecting target. His footsteps were hardly silent, and even if they were, his giggles would have given him away. Before long though his noble opponent had conquered his attention span. Here, by one of the paving stones, was the last wildflower of the season, small and blue but so easy to overlook. Reaching out, he plucked it from the stem carefully, to give to Rita later.

“Git yerself up here boy! Quick now, afore it goes!” yelled Old Man Johnson from the porch. Turning, Lukey ran, hopping and jiggering up their stairs on alternate legs his arms pin-wheeling for balance. Patting the stool next to him, Old Man Johnson had ceased his continuous ruminations to look up at the clouds. Lukey sat down, eyes nearly as wide as his open mouth. “That’s what I’m talking about boy. You remember that sort of beauty for the rest of your life. It’ll get you through some scrapes and scares that will.”

The heavy folder of the Antwerp account thunked into Lucas’s desk, derailing his happy daydreaming. “Report due Thursday,” his supervisor sneered, walking off. Shaking himself from the heady combination of nostalgia infused with daydreaming, Lucas tried to bring himself back to the world of spreadsheets, cubicles and grey dividers. Dragging some printouts towards him he reached for a pencil and tried to focus. He swivelled morosely on his chair, looking to exorcise joyful thoughts with numbers and order forms, before realising that he had things back-to-front. “After work I’m going to go visit Old Man Johnson,” he muttered to himself “and I’m going to walk in the park afterwards!” The guys across the walkway from him looked up at the sound of his voice but Lucas just smiled, happy with his new direction in life.

1 comment:

  1. This is beautifully written. Your characters and scenes come to life. I like the unfinished folder thing you've started and hope you keep on going with your novel because you have such a distinct style and voice.