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A wasp in a suction pipe you hear it buzzing. Not that it’s close yet, there are fifteen minutes to go but already you feel the humming of tunnel walls, the heaving of tracks, the guillotine slash of metal on sliders. You rock on the soles of your feet.
He hears nothing of this. Pacing, smudged trainers. It’s his first day off in weeks. His arms are a knot of tattoo. Someone asks him the way to the fish shop. “Can’t help you there, I’m from Stratford”
“I’m sick of Shakespeare.”
A train slides by like an aquarium. Blue tinted people gape, unashamed.
This morning, his world was slurred and unmoving. Trees bobbed mute in time with his bedroom clock. He had cleaned the flat. Green detergent. Open windows. Filled up the pond by the hosepipe. Goldfish unfastened their fins like light yellow curtains. By now its four o’clock and the day begins to quicken. Hours shorten. Shops are shutting early. Something is tightening.
A pigeon is caught in the tunnel. A girl points. “Bird!” Her parents ignore her.
“I couldn’t find the apples”
“You couldn’t find the apples?”
“Forty minutes, up and down the aisles, couldn’t find them.”
Here a Metro is drawn onto the tracks. Unreal faces grin.
“Surely in the fruit and veg-”
“They switched the aisles around for the Christmas Sale. It’s as if there’d been a landslide.”
“How can we make apple tart with no apples?”
A sudden gust scatters pigeon and paper, for a moment the two are indistinguishable. Outside, plastic bags circle like jellyfish. He wraps his jacket closer, goldfish pellets pressing from inside his pocket. He thinks of his kids in France. Their mother sent a letter. He’ll have them for a week in April. He checks his watch.
Three minutes. It must be past Edgware by now. You imagine it speeding. Tunnels. Electric sparks. You catch his eye accidently. Looking away, you pretend you didn’t notice. A rat darts along the tracks. People begin to press. Swathes of afternoon breath. Lardened limbs. Clutched bags. Eyes unfocused. Tube maps. Papers. Books.
Then, out of the greyscale, two pale yellow orbs. Widen, whiten. To sweep away deadlines and people like leaves. Something is slackening. Something is loosening. Mothlike, toes over the white line.
You step on. He stays. The doors slide shut.
He’ll be home soon. The heron’s already been. Fish oil furls through the burr reed. How should he have known that, within an hour, their full blue world could dissipate? He had known them all by name.
Katharina Dixon-Ward will begin her first term studying English Literature at Oxford this autumn. She has been published in The Cadaverine and Hark Magazine. She has also been a winner of various competitions including the Buxton, Enfield, Red House and Ilkley and was long-listed for the Tower Poetry Competition.