ladies who shoot (cats and dogs)
I am sitting in the ladies loo in Fortnums. There are two places where I feel at home in London and this is one of them.
I’ll go and order an iced coffee in a bit. No rush. No doubt I’ll have to go and sit in the restaurant because they won’t let me bring it in here. I’d like to drink it in here. I’d prefer being on my own, sitting on this chair in this glittery light, watching myself in the looking glass, sip sweet iced coffee through a straw. Sometimes I sit in the loo and drink cocoa in the middle of the night. I read a dreadful story in the Times yesterday about a man who hid in the lavatory on long haul flights so he could spy on women. He was a yoga teacher. He was arrested after a lady noticed the flashlight from his camera in a peep hole above the cistern.
There is a small boy with a machine gun sitting at the table I am taken to. His eyes glint happily when I sit down. He is wearing royal blue long shorts and a red and cream stripy t-shirt and he has blonde curly hair and a pointy, freckly face. And a little pink tongue like a kitten.
My iced coffee arrives in a tall glass and as I slide it nearer me he points the gun at my heart and fires. ‘Atttcchhhhatttccchhhhaattttttcccchhhhh!’ The machine gun is very loud and very realistic. I clutch my chest, fall loosely off my chair and pretend to die.
After the security men have left our table the boy’s mother, who is called Cecilia, apologises yet again. Cecilia has confiscated the machine gun which is poking out of her Prada bag. Now, the little boy is eating ice-cream with a long, silver spoon.
“Please don’t worry. I am rather pleased that I can still do it,” I tell her.
The boy looks up from his ice-cream when he hears the word, ‘dead’.
“Oh yes, when I was little my brothers and I played Cowboys and Indians all summer long and I was always the Indian who got shot dead a thousand times a day.”
“Summer holidays can be very long,” says Cecilia looking at her son.
I nod. Every summer holidays my father used to take a formal photograph of the three of us and one year I wore a feather headress with my best party frock and the boys wore Stetsons with their Sunday linen suits.
A Shared Life
You were old, bearded, poor.
Nodding off to sleep
Soothed by the warmth of a lucky spring day.
In your hand a mobile phone
By your side a sleeping dog
I liked your vulnerability
And stored in on my smart phone
So that I could intrude some more.
I’m sorry I intruded
You never saw me though
You were fast asleep
Or were you drunk? Or dead?
An interesting shot, I thought
Laid out so well
You on the floor,
Close to a fountain
By the Modern Art Museum
A litterbin nearby
The shape of that shot really worked
I needed them to share it.
I blew you up
I hung you up
In my exhibition.
“Great shot” they said
“Was it posed?”
“That guy looks sort of dead!”
“No, I just set it up like that!”
But I never really knew.
I’m sorry if I intruded
You, sitting on your haunches
Selling ugly carvings I didn’t want to buy.
You stared at me with your impassive gaze
And then I stole your soul.
But I left your carving on the blanket
I sent the picture to my I-Mac
Enhanced the picture of your craggy face
I backed your image up to I-Cloud
Saved you to my back-up drive
I sent your face to Apple Mac
And put you in a book.
I’m sorry I intruded
You looked at me trustingly, your big blue eyes unblinking, the fine hair turning into tiny curls in the nape of your neck. I dressed you in a little pink dress, with an embroidered hem. It’s a special day today, I told you. I pulled down the chord of the mobile above your cot and the circus began to move. Tingling music. Brahams lullaby. Guten Abend, Gute Nacht. Good night, my darling, but not now.
A special day.
I looked at you again and you gave me a baby smile and gurgled your one-year-old-gurgle. I had to choose the moment, make it right. I put some soft pink pram shoes on your feet, and brushed your curls. I carried you to the sofa. You were just starting to walk, but I wanted to arrange you, to see it through. Your own moment. And then I shot you. You started to cry and I lost my rag. But it had to be. Birthdays have to be recorded.
A week went by and I collected you from the shop. One week and one year of your short life. She handed over the plastic wallet and I slid out your image and smiled at you again. Developed. Intact. Good night! I will tuck you up in that wallet now; the green plastic edge will be your blanket. It will be different next year.