That was when it came. After he twitched.
The sky was that turquoise arc. More like a bubble than an arc. Small, as if distant and rising. Rising away.
Grass silhouettes dangled over the edge, in. The roots exposed in places tasted sweet. They crunched a little.
It was after he flinched.
As if sensing what was to come, as animals sense the rain. As if light not only comes before sound, but another sense comes before light. As if the sense of dying is quicker than the word. Perhaps he solved a conundrum then, about thought before words, ideas before language. Philosophers say they are conjoint. I don’t think Berry thought that any more. Where he was going. Perhaps they’d ask him when he got there. The dead philosophers, I mean.
The sky had been that turquoise bubble, rising away as if floating, when the spray of earth sped across.
Someone had targeted our spot. Do I blame someone?
That’s what I wrote to his Belinda. Don’t blame someone. We were doing our jobs, he his. We were doing the same thing.
It’s a nice name, Belinda. I sent her the ring.
And are all the edges of the world thus guarded, by men surmising in little holes, and finding out?
In the market last week Berry and I traded for beans. The children laughing around skirts. We spent half an hour arguing. We left and returned three times. Got them in the end. We gave them next to nothing, when you think of it. Then the Governor’s helicopter’s shadow passed across smiling children.
“If it were a plane the exhaust would be a plume of opiate,” says Berry.
Berry says the Colonel is pushing a mule up a mountain when he haggles with them to stop growing poppy.
We gave them cigarette papers, a badge and three batteries.
It was because the Colonel couldn’t haggle that we were there, in our hole, under the turquoise bubble. Perhaps the face of God is thus, so transparent it cannot be seen. That was the colour of the sky.
If I’m honest, he was flinching a lot. Perhaps it was just a fever.
When the sound died I acted dead. Eventually the feet came, and they were ours. They lifted us out.
Some stuff you remember, some stuff you forget. Some you remember a long time. I remember my Dad standing proud before the new car, opening the door. I remember a swallow that flew clean through a window in the abandoned church. Josie’s ribbons. Clairmont’s half-severed finger, his sister laughing. She didn’t mean to, it had got to her. All the wheat fields.
I don’t remember much that day. Just the turquoise bubble, and the fringe of grass, the speeding earth, the twitch, the sound, the ring.
I am cautious about relying on “big” events, because they can easily outweigh the writing. But I tried to keep the focus here quite small, private, in the hope of evading that danger. Otherwise, big things end up not written about, which is perverse.