Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"Weeping For Julie"

This is Canaletto's painting of Venice, showing the Piazzetta San Marco. It's relevant to the enclosed story, which I wrote on a rainy day last year. The boy in my story lived with this painting for years; a print of it hung over his sideboard in his terraced home in a small northern town. The boy imbibed the moods of the painting, the muted colours of Venice .
The story is set in the early 60's. It's called:" Weeping For Julie"

"A boy runs out of woods. He hurls a packet of Woodbines high in the air. His fists clench. His heart hammers. The rain falls, fierce as his anger. And then he remembers the taste of her smile.

“ Sod it,” His shriek is an animal bellow. His feet splatter in puddles. The puddles are endless pools along the pavement; they stretch before him lagoon-like. He thinks of the picture of Venice over the sideboard at home, its lagoons. He’s gazed at that picture for years, as he’s clustered round the table with his silent family, savouring his chips, or watching custard drip slowly from the spout of a jug.

His mind whirls. He thinks of those gondoliers, their grey Venetian days, and the rain, just like today. He’s often imagined the dampness, the smell of all those centuries. Then he thinks of the scent of the girl, her sweetness, of Tizer and chocolate and peppermint. He pictures the narrowness of her hips in grey flannel shorts as she lay in the wood, the raindrops clinging like diamonds to grass; he pictures them glittering. He remembers the coolness of her skin.
And then he sees his mother’s face; he sees how her eyes will certainly be. And there’s the rain and his tears and he’s running, he’s running…

The boy reaches home. The rain flutters against his eyes. He crosses the yard beneath clothes on the line. They cluster in his face like birds. The clothes flap in the breeze, shrivel in the rain.

The backdoor is open; the boy’s mother stands ironing in the scullery. There’s moistness in the air; sadness lingers with rain. The boy drags off his jacket, runs his fingers under the tap in the sink, scrubs each finger, holds each finger beneath flowing water. He curses, rubs the fat slab of soap hard into his skin. His mother turns and frowns, shakes out the shirt she’s pressing.
“ Hush” she whispers.
She wears a flowered overall and her hair is pinned with a dozen clips. She is flushed, powder less; her lips are slashed with crimson. The boy sees smudges of lipstick on her cheeks; he sees buttons loosened in her overall. He smells lilies in her perfume, roses. He guesses her hair is soft with kisses. He guesses she feels still the stroke of those fingers. The boy knows the man has been.

The mother pauses in her ironing; her eyes beg for secrecy. They are blue eyes; the colour of cornflowers and often the boy has thought them the loveliest eyes in the world. She grabs his arm as he passes; he feels the grasp of her fingers, winces at her passion.
“ Hush,” she whispers, “ I need your father but I need them both”
The boy shrugs her hand away. He sees the Venetian lagoon stretching into greyness above the sideboard. He hears rain splashing in the yard outside.

In the hallway his father’s bike leans against the coat stand. He kicks it violently. The pedals spin, the mudguards shake. He sees his own reflection in the coat stand mirror. He imagines behind him the face of the girl, her perfect mouth; he sees her eyes in the baby soft face.

The boy runs up stairs. They are steep and narrow. There is dust on the staircase. In his room, he falls on his bed among magazines, jumpers and his window swings wide and the panes shiver and his curtains twist together in the rain. And clouds heavy as porpoises move across sky and the beat of the rain is ceaseless.

And Alan weeps for Julie, remembers her cornflower blue eyes."


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