Mustard Sky

Isla is, apparently, supposed to have an over-riding desire for something - anything - to power this narrative. The problem is that Isla insists on being more complicated than that.
She has many desires.
None of them are as simple as a glass of water.


2. Marbelled-grey

In my shower is a paedophilic spider/

Isla thought whenever she washed. It hung from the mould in the tiling where the neck of the shower attached to the wall. She didn’t mind spiders really; there were too many in their house for there to be any purpose in avoiding them and she kind of felt sorry for them. They were the scapegoats for everyone’s unfounded fears.

It never seemed to move but Isla half appreciated that. It perved on her with a level of consistency that humans seemed to have lost their capability of. Mum could not be trusted to remember that she preferred her sandwiches unbuttered or to take her to her flute lesson on Wednesdays. Jesse could not be trusted to sit still without fidgeting or to withhold whatever information was imparted to him. But the spider would always be there, testing out its legs and perpetually teetering on the beginnings of spinning a web.

She decided that the spider ought to have a name but put too much effort into matching him to one to decide on anything. She wanted to give him – she had decided long ago on his gender although there was probably some sort of scientific rule that only female spiders spun webs – a long one purely because she liked the idea of small things being granted big names.

The water ran cold which meant that Mum had probably decided that she would do the washing up on the off-chance that this act might clean her track-record of forgetting. Isla swore inside her head – because she never swore out loud – and let the water dribble out altogether. She had, she decided as she trailed out of the mouldy bathroom, spent far too long thinking about the anonymous paedophilic spider in her shower.

“You think too much” Teagan had told her about a year ago and Isla supposed it was true because she had the annoying sort of brain that insisted on thinking ceaselessly. It never allowed her to take a lunch break; it was an outdoor swimming pool that never got its autumn leaves sifted from it. Her mind stirred, rippled, teased and then settled again in unquiet and fickle slumber. It injected either superciliousness or profoundness into everything and, short of having anything to process into reluctant poetry, it would automatically begin translating each thought into colours and memories and French so that they could be filed.

She collected lots of things – words and concepts mostly – and she would spout them whenever she had the courage, without being certain of whether they were litter she’d dropped or items that others had discarded. 

“You’re always so quiet,” Jesse, complained. “You didn’t used to be, did you?”

“Maybe you’re just always so loud so you don’t hear me,” Isla muttered and then she stirred her pasta. It had been cooked for too long and so it was struggling to retain its shape and flavour; the sauce pooled upon it sadly.

Sad pasta/ Is an affliction I suffer from/ Because really/ My pasta isn’t so sad/ I just imprint myself upon it/

“How many Christmas cards do you get, Isla?” Jesse asked her. He had sloshed his drink around his mouth and he smiled through a moustache of milk.

“We don’t really send Christmas cards anymore,” she tried to explain that Christmas cards were an old convention that fifteen-year-olds wouldn’t dare to sustain for fear of feeling too old or too young. The words dried thickly on her tongue.

“I got twenty-three now. That’s nearly everyone in my class. Kat wrote kisses in mine.”

Isla pondered whether the fact that her ten year old brother was closer to a love affair than she was ought to bother her.

“Cool,” she wondered why she always felt so awkward talking to her own brother. They exchanged conversation like mismatched strangers at a bus stop; painful small talk that never seemed to convey anything of great value.

“Granddad’ll send one this year, won’t he? Isla?”


“I know,” Jesse grouched, “I know he’s not in the Wendy house. You don’t have to tell me. I found a note saying he’d gone to the Maldives for a gap year.”

“A gap between what? Purgatory and heaven or whatever?” Isla asked dryly, glad that Mum was working late and therefore unable to start jumping all over the place at the blasphemous mentions of her father. Sometimes Isla could not understand why she religiously avoided curse words when Mum would have been far more troubled by her referencing Granddad.

“What’s purgatory, Isla?”

“It’s a somewhere you go. Only I think we made it up.”

For some reason they both turned to look out of the window. December had wrapped itself tightly around the house so that the only lights in the eight-thirty sky were Christmas trees in other windows and an ethereal moonlight making shadow puppets with the clouds. They watched the marbled-grey of the clouds for a moment; wondering whether Granddad might let a Christmas card slip between them.

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