Yellow Breast

Her wallpaper is floral. Forget-me-nots… I think, in blue. She has a birdcage in the corner, but no bird. I once thought I saw one – but it was just a trick of the light.

She doesn’t eat much, or maybe she does but she doesn’t cook much. Occasionally she’ll eat a piece of toast by the window, slowly, looking out and staring as though waiting for something to rise up, or fall down.

I eat a lot… but you can probably tell.

She could be pretty. Long hair and then one day short – I watched her cutting it over the sink. She stuffed a jar with the hair, left it in the middle of the table. An ornament. Then would avoid looking at it each time she came into her kitchen.

I know you’re wondering how I know this.

One night, under a wet sky, a man appeared. He was clean-shaven and pushed her down onto the table. He removed her stockings – each one in its own time. I moved to turn off the light but then that jar broke and she screamed and he jumped up with blood coming from his ear. Once he’d left she didn’t move or put on her stockings. The next morning she was still on the table. It was raining, with an open window.

I’m new to this town which is why I stay in this room. Back home I had friends, and liked math, and a boy called Tom kissed me after we’d watched this movie about a woman who gets carried away by a big bear. But then Tom kissed another girl who lived in a large house and knew how to ride and knew she was pretty.

Only when she put her hair into a new jar did it stop raining.

Her window is like my kitchen’s mirror because we’re exactly opposite… do you see, my table (makes a mirroring gesture with the opposite hand) and her table.

A mother. Her mother, but she didn’t take off her coat or let go of her bag as her daughter made her tea. The mother didn’t comment on the jar of hair. Then she left and came back with a small box, inside was a bird with a yellow breast. The mother put it in the cage, gave it some food and water, kissed her daughter, left. The girl took the whole day staring at the bird.

When that girl kissed Tom I’d wanted to do something to the two of them. Something to draw blood.


One day when there was a light wind she threw her hair out the window. It floated away, not down.


I don’t really eat a lot. That was a lie. But you can probably tell.


I did it because I ran out of coffee, and the flowers were too blue. As I came to the window and lifted the glass I saw that she was already there. Smiling at me like she’d been waiting all this time for me to wave. The wood was cold through my stockings and legs stark white stuck out into the night. The bird was warm and hiccupped in my hands. She laughed as I let it go, it twisted up, away. Then we stopped laughing and stared, each in the same mirror. She looked down to the paving stones. I felt yellow and heavy and empty. But she looked light – born with wings. I stretched by legs out further, lifted myself by my arms and felt the wind through me.


            I was there – tips to the night, but then a light went on in the flat opposite and a man appeared in the window. He had white hair and was wearing a duffle coat. I was distracted by watching him opening his window because he did it so desperately, then his arms started wailing and he was calling. I don’t know why I stopped, I don’t know. (beat) I haven’t done it.

Now that man comes to the window most nights and smiles at me. But sometimes, when all his lights are off, I see the girl. I see that she wants to fly, and when it rains I come to the ledge. (She holds out her hand) Let the rain run through my hands. (pulls her hand to her mouth and smiles with a little hiccup).



Summer Leaves

Sometimes you need a dad and sometimes you need a mum. Like dad is good at spaghetti but mum was better at brownies. Dad’s not good at brownies and when I told him to make them like mum he threw the plate out the window and said they were bad for us anyway. Mum used to say they were bad for us, but then she’d wink and eat one. When dad says things are bad for us they go out the window or into bin bags. Dad is good with geography because he knows the name of every river in England. Mum was good at maths. Dad scrunches his eyes and uses the calculator on his phone, and looks up sums on google and then explains. Mum knew it all from her head. Mum was good at singing in the kitchen and making shadows with a torch and wearing soft jumpers. Mum was good at kissing bruises better. I liked it when she gave me a hug when dad shouted. Dad gets very tired but he plays football with me on Saturdays. He also lets me have the big popcorn at the cinema and sometimes I’m allowed to sleep in his bed even though I’m too old for that now. Dad used to tell mum jokes that made her laugh like a pig, and then I would laugh but not at dad’s joke at mum’s laughing because it was silly. That was nice. I miss mum.

It’s like, it’s like I… I don’t know how to drive. But I’m out in a car and made to drive around, everywhere, everyday but I don’t know what I’m doing and everyone thinks I do, everyone thinks I know how to drive but I don’t. I don’t know how the gears work or the lights and I’m shit at parking and I just can’t, can’t do it, don’t understand it. People see me in the car and think it’s fine because why would I be in it if I didn’t know what I was doing. 

But you see, well, I… um… I see… motorbikes, and I understand them. I see how to ride them, I see how fun it would be, how happy I would be but then I’m stuck in this stupid car. And I keep crashing all the time because I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m scared in it, I’m not happy in it, I’m really not happy mum. 

Do you get it?

It’s like you want me to be blue but I’m pink. That’s all. Isn’t a big deal, it’s just being a dress over a suit it’s nothing. So you don’t need to worry or make a fuss or cry you just do nothing Okay? And I… then I can be me because I’m not me I’m this… I’m just, well I don’t know what I am, but I know who I am, just at the moment I’m not who I am I’m this other person who’s in me but trapped by this other image of me and do you get it? Do you understand because I’m walking around in a projection. And I’m lost. Okay, I need finding mum. I need…


the monologue


(He picks up a moss green scarf from a coffee table. Puts it down, picks it up, holds it limp.)

 You stare at me. The sky tilts, do you see it? Eight months. That means when I’d made you pancakes that Thursday when you were sad. When we’d sat all Sunday planning our trip. When you’d written in my card that I was, what, ‘the only man there’d ever been for you’. Eight months of me living in this life that was only being shored up by me not finding out about you.

I liked how you asked to meet on Brooklyn Bridge, oh very dramatic and I like how you we sure to tell me everything so I didn’t think I was being lied to. Did you learn your speech like a little monologue, practice it in your bathroom mirror. Rehearse it with him. No, the truth from you is like a still butterfly from the beast.

Eleven years, don’t think it means anything. Turn and they’ll be gone. But it’s fine because I can have everything – considerate. I can have the coffee machine, the pans, the sculpture I had made for you, the paintings you chose.

When she’d been talking this balloon had floated up behind her, in the shape of Micky Mouse.

And she’d stared at me. Like this fragment of my life that had never belonged to me. Like we’d never gone swimming that time in our clothes ‘cause the rain had made us so wet it didn’t matter. Like I didn’t know how your voice smoked when it yelled, giggled when it shouldn’t. A passing piece. Never mine. Never mind though eh when I can have everything, and you can go and get new things, and you can go and have your new boy with your new sentimental memories.

Oh you left your scarf, nice touch. A symbolic gesture ‘cause I’d bought it for you when you were cold, ‘cause god forbid you be choked my ‘kindness’ any more. I’ll burn it – think you’re the only one that can make gestures. I’ll burn this along with all your clothes and books and paintings, throw the flaming mass from the window so it rains down on the cars below and the sparks chase the shoppers.

(stares down at the dropped scarf)

 Why wouldn’t you give me the chance, to speak, to fight. All on you, but there was an us. Two people. Then three. Then one and two.

That balloon behind you: ethereal. Like it had never wanted to be anywhere but the sky.


She sits in her living room, amidst empty Pop Tart boxes.

It’s because if I feel confused, I go to the cans. The rows of the Spaghetti, Herb-Ox and Chilli. I’ll put them in my basket: three wide four across. Campbell’s tomato juice and Heinz beans. I don’t much like opening cans, fiddly with the sink and all, but I like having them in the cupboard. Like dad would always have them stocked.

But a shop assistant was staring at me. Harriett – I read off her label, which was caught on the lace of her bra as her top was buttoned low. Continue reading “Harriet”

Throw the Fish Back

A boy of twenty-five stands centre stage

throw fish.jpgthrow fish.jpg I just had an email through. My dad’s being buried tomorrow.


Don’t worry – I haven’t seen the man for eight years.

I had my last… ever… conversation with him out on the water. I’d planned that conversation for weeks. My every response. My every word.


The lake was empty but for our boat, our biscuits and us.


The sky felt like it hung in the balance.

My dad was wearing a baseball cap, we’d bought it in America the summer before.


That whole afternoon felt like a singular, repeating moment.


We said nothing for most of it. (beat) Sat around waiting for a fish. (beat) Ate a

custard cream.


It was uncomfortably still.


I could feel the energy of the water, of the trees and the sky, like everything was waiting to crack, just waiting for me to speak.

I can’t eat custard creams: they taste like sour words.


The moment buffered and replayed slowly.

Continue reading “Throw the Fish Back”