Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Outside a convoy of Canadians was clogging the narrow lane immediately in front of Clare’s flat. Caught off guard, we were pressed against the flecked chimney red brick of a street facing facade as it passed, one dull green truck melting into the next, the canvas coverings stiffly flapping across metal crossbeams. I pulled Clare close to the wall to protect her. I pushed her, her gray felt coat responding to the pressure of my hand.
“Careful Lang, you’re constricting my air a little,” she screamed above the engines.
“Sorry,” I screamed back.
The vehicle section of the convey ended; then a long row of troops, four abreast, followed; they kept us pinned to the wall as well, their fatigues were a dark olive green and their faces blacked out with dull black grease, while their helmets, wreathed with twigs and branches, gave them the appearance of so many forest dwelling Mercuries.
Down the alley a truck backfired. The noise reverberated in the street, rattling the windows as if a cannon had fired, a herald to announce some ill-tiding.
Clare leaned close, her peppermint essence enveloped me.
“I know your secret!”
“What is it?” I said, dangling my ear over her round, animated mouth.
Another backfire, and her words and the concussion meshed. But I heard them; I could see the form of what she said like a light outline etched in white on a black backround.
She broke free from my embrace. Her pale yellow eyes reflected the dull twilight of the blank London sky. I saw the sickly recognition of bifurcation in her pupils. The backfiring continued. I grasped her but she broke free from my arms again and smiled. The black-faced soldiers enveloped her; she disappeared in their ranks; row after row continued down the lane as one an endless stream. A single plane, its low hum merely a rattle in the sky, was the audible coda to my next stage.