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Friday, 20 February 2009

all I really want

“I’ve decided what I’m going to be when I grow up,” T12 said.
“Oh yes?” I said.
“Yes. An actor. Or an architect. Or a lawyer. Or a prostitute.”

F10 lay on his back, in his dark glasses and dressing gown, an elephant glove puppet slowly stroking Catty’s head. Catty looked understandably alarmed. I forbore to ask F10’s plans for his future, his present is weird enough.

“We’ll talk about it tomorrow,” I said, scuttling downstairs awash with anxiety. Careers' guidance seems not to be what it used to be.

When I worked full time (clothes firmly on), I was always baffled at how busy everyone else appeared to be. I worked at a number of Big Places people have heard of, which was considered a good thing amongst the parents of friends. Nowhere is safe anymore. Maybe prostitution is the only reliable answer. I was tip top at my job, perhaps because I had virtually nothing to do, or nothing I couldn’t polish off in a couple of hours and then swan off for coffee. Those were the days, no question of tasking really, let alone multi-tasking. Heady promotion meant that I rota’d others, so I knew full well the extent of their under-employment, too, but, blow me down, there they were strutting about all stressed. So, unless I was neglecting whole swathes of my job (possible), or was just naturally brilliant (unlikely), or the others were virtually remedial (moot), or better at faking than me (unthinkable), then something was seriously awry. I never got it.

Suffice it to say that the bin was my friend in those days, filing being the biggest F word of all. I had a jacket pressed into action on my chair, there to imply that I was in, or in-ish, and not just chatting in the canteen. Meanwhile I stared, puzzled, at the rest of them, striding by, Busy Busy Busy, muttering under their breath; or chained to their desk in an unfathomable frenzy of activity and bluster. Perhaps they were doing all my work as well as their own?

Yesterday at the supermarket, the till boy had been glummer than usual. He swung on his chair, too large for it and restless. They have to wear big idiot badges now, with their name, what they do, when they joined and an Amusing or salient point as an optional extra. This lad had joined last year. There was no frivolous bon mot, his normal shtick was, I read, Assistant Trolley Liaison Assistant. Or something like that.

“Is this a promotion, then,” I said, gesturing the checkout.
“Supposed to be,” he said. “Don’t like it, though.”
“No, I like it out there.”

I stared into the snarling gloom of the car park, following his wistful gaze.
Greasy fish and chip paper danced round unfortunate ankles, more grim slime than American Beauty.
Hoodies were circling the litter bins on tiny beat-up bikes (age appropriate to younger, presumably bereft, siblings or strangers). Their hands darted, oafish, primitive grapplings with pramface wannabes - their lips stubble-burnt, smelly hands in dyed WAG-straight hair. “Gerrroff”s and “Fuckoff”s and delighted outraged squeals tore the air. Kisses tasting of shandy, and cheese and onion crisps.
Mothers, tugging reluctant offspring from staring at this Hogarthian stew, steering them by the hoods of pastel bright coats, trotted sharpish in away and out of the cold.
Cars edging round like sharks hunting the prey of the freed-up space.
Another sullen lad, having lasso’d the strays from trundled-into corners, leant into a chain of trolleys, forcing them uphill. His hi-vis-jkt flapped in the wind, his hands blue-cold. He unleashed the trolleys and sent them clattering, loud enough to shock, obedient into their bay. Ranch work for small town cowboys.
It’s got to be said, it didn’t look a Must Have spot, no obvious centre of the universe that. Nothing Utopian.
Ambition, eh.

“Yeah,” he said with love in his grunt, “you can disappear. Take your time. Know what I mean?”
“Be in charge of what you do?” I was beginning to get his drift.
“Yeah.” He nodded. “Not like in here. Gotta chat and that.”
“Ah.” I finished my packing in silence. I've never needed to be told twice.
There’s not many jokes begin, “There were these 3 trolleys…” and I can’t see the canon of such being swelled anytime soon.

The dog bounced out when I got in, wrong way traffic against my struggle with the carriers. She sniffed the air, seeking freedom but frightened to find it. Age has lowered her horizons. She could take the back wall in one bound like she used to, and fly off into the field. Could, but no longer does, though E continues to nurse vain hopes - fly, dog, fly; run, run, and don't look back, let the wind be in your fur. Perhaps she senses the barbed wire lurking the other side: Trouble in Paradise. Always some bloody fly in the ointment.
She doesn’t escape much anymore to the nearby building site either which is sort of sad.
Just the Olds continue to be favoured. I fear for the smell in their airing cupboard when the door's next open, when the stench released from her rank pelt, weaving itself about the dangling contents of their triangular clothes’ drier, has matured. Items left out with good intent which it would have been better to let rot and spare encounter with dread dog. I ducked to watch Mrs Old, a mirthless smile creased into her static face, unwittingly folding her sullied blue towels with a depressing, erroneous confidence.

Mulling corrupted youth prospects and despairing of elderly innocence, we overloaded on TV (Masterchef, Bleak House on DVD, Skins and Question Time: a heady mix) and were looking forward to bed. I had changed the sheets earlier and was anticipating that glorious moment when you scissor your legs in new bedding.
But, what was this?

The bed was hijacked by F10, still in dressing gown and glove puppet, sprawled across the middle, while the prostitute-in-waiting clung to the scrap allotted him on F10’s left. A similar tiny strip, which should have been flattering but was just annoying, was left for me on the right. E took one look and legged it, heading with insulting delight, to the spare room. I tucked myself in, and dreamed uneasy dreams.


lampworkbeader said...

Comfort yourself Milla, that F12 didn't list pre-teen father in his list of wannabe jobs.

Anonymous said...

The image of a prostitute-in-waiting seems to be stuck in my head! I guess the kids working will have some money in their pocket at least.

CJ xx

Fennie said...

The advantage of being an actor is that you can do all the others and still have plenty of time to 'rest.'
But shouldn't exotic chef figure there somewhere - the meat and blueberry pie - or whatever it was?

softinthehead said...

Milla you really have a wonderful way with words, I could envisage every scene - great stuff - yes, "prostitute in waiting" - I loved it :)

Pondside said...

That word must roll of the tongue in a wonderful way to capture your son's imagination.
You paint a picture of the supermarket parking lot that makes me think of one of the circles of hell.
Another great read - thank you.

Carol and Chris said...

Really enjoyed this post, Pondside is right, you certainly have a way with words!! 'prostitute in waiting' didn't half make me laugh :-)

C x

Preseli Mags said...

I loved the trolley boy and the supermarket car park tale. "Ranch work for small town cowboys" indeed. And the taste of those kisses. Bleurch.

PS: Prostitute?

KittyB said...

Milla, I think you and I used to have very similar jobs. The jacket on the back of the chair idea always suggested busy-busy-busy elsewhere (and not in the Spar buying magazines and crisps, as I usually was, or lolling in the studio pirating CDs on their Macs).
Interesting career choices. H wants to be/do 'nothing.'

Pipany said...

Yes, why is everyone always so darned busy? I'm not, though will admit to moments of such when my idleness has caused a backlog I can no longer avoid. I often wonder what these people would actually say if questioned on what their busyness has actually entailed...bugger all I suspect! Great blog as ever Milla xx

LittleBrownDog said...

Excellent reading, even though you sounded perhaps a little distracted, dejected, even. Totally poetic. If a tad disturbing.

Cait O'Connor said...

Lovely words as ever, thanks Milla.

Faith said...

I think I'd hate to be chained to a supermarket check-out too. But at least he was working.

I have to say I'd have probably gone off to share the spare room with E rather than share with the boys.

Edward said...

A great blog as always - loved the "ranch work for small town cowboys".

If Milla had come with me into the spare bed, she would shortly have been followed by F10, a glove elephant and Catty, and no-one would have got any sleep.

Carol and Chris said...

There is an award for you over at mine :-)

C x

blogthatmama said...

Milla, highly entertaining car park description. Maybe T12 could work in Amsterdam, a job's a job after all...

Suffolkmum said...

Fabulous Milla, just great reading.

Tattie Weasle said...

Prostitutes and cowboys and cheese and onion shandy kisses - you know the way you write it, it almost sounds idyllic. However, having to create a space in the bed now that is the stuff of nighmares.

Welsh Girl said...

Ahh, February days! Filled with inspiration. Glad that T12 doesn't want to be a trolley supervisor though...

CAMILLA said...

Fab writing Milla honey, brilliant post as ever. Why are you not writing for newspaper column, could be earning big bucks.!!

Thanks Milla for stopping by my blog.



Slightly alarmed by the undercurrent of prostitution in this post - T12, you in your clothes ON job (implying you once had a clothes OFF one?) scissor legs in bed?? A host of unwanted images are spinning through my mind!! Let alone the sinister F10...You won't be the only one having uneasy dreams tonight I can tell you!

Wonderful descriptions, as ever.


Ps: smart new blog - you have been busy!

Pps: and on the subject of which, since you held the honour of being the ONLY person to visit my Fridge Food enterprise many moons ago (!), I can proudly announce that I have FINALLY produced another post. Explaining why I hadn't posted. Hopefully I'll get round to another one before another 4 months passes or it won't be much of a ripping read!!

Exmoorjane said...

Good for T12.....hey, look on the bright side, if he does pick the, er, prostitute line, at least he'll be able to keep you in your old age.. Though lawyer would be good too.

Anonymous said...