Bag Lady

My writing process is messy. I generate a blizzard of notes, scenes and chapters over many months, then carry my stack of scribbles away somewhere quiet, listen to the birds and try to work out what it’s all about. I’m looking for those brave, instinctive written moments to flock into shape. And then, when the magic happens, begin to fly.

Sifting papers over the past few days I found this short piece, written a while ago after re-reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. It’s unrelated to the current work in progress but felt kind of timely about staying true.

Bag Lady

Of all the prisoners I saw shot against the wall it was Mrs Grey Dress, in her dusty dignity, who affected me most. She stood like a storm-tilted tree, roots cracking, holding tight to the handles of her big yellow hand bag which rested on the ground at her feet. She wouldn’t let go of that bag, no matter how much the nasty piece of work in the over-designed head gear bawled at her to drop it – presumably he wanted it for his wife or his mistress as his own mother must surely have shot herself years ago.

Head Gear seemed to decide not to force it. Maybe even he was getting jaded. Two swift shots. Head and heart. She fell onto the bag, the yellow turning orange as she drained white.

The boss went off to drink whisky out of the hot blue heat and it was half an hour or so before Private Green & Homesick said:

‘It’s moving.’

I sent him to fetch it. I give the orders when Head Gear is killing time.

I could see Green didn’t want to.

He carried the bag towards me at arm’s length. It moved as though filled with heavy jelly.

‘Open it,’ I commanded.

His face was fearful. He had come to mistrust surprises.

The baby was tinged with orange, but otherwise unharmed.

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