September 1, 2014 by The Citron Review
by Jay Merill
Winter in the Fens – think of a Christmas-card. Everything with a frosted look. Sky and water as white as one another. Big Lake where we skated was frozen hard. Then I found out there was still water running underneath. You’re a whole lot safer if you keep to the sides. It’s solid there. Pit-Bull raced headlong into the middle and the ice broke. We called him Pit-Bull because he snarled like a dog and chased anything that moved. But when he got pulled under the only sounds you could hear were a cracking and a sucking and a cry.
So it’s a surprise to me that people feel safer in the middle of something. What everyone’s afraid of is being on the edge. Out on the margins is a scary thought, but to my mind it should be the other way round. I was the same I have to admit, till I thought it through. What I wanna say is, always take a look beneath the surface. Don’t get sucked in.
After Pit drowned his Aunt Jenny took to her bed and wrapped herself in all these quilts and fleecy blankets to keep safe. There she was high and dry in the middle of the bed, hardly daring to peek for fear of a sign of catastrophe. She even kept a hat on so’s nothing nasty could touch her. What happened was she died of an asthma attack brought on by prolonged contact with the fibres in the fleece. Next, to go was Auntie Jenny’s cat: Pit-Bull dead, Auntie Jenny dead, nobody left to feed it. Cat bewildered, got in a state, ran out in the road haphazard-like, was killed in a flash. What I wanna say is, think outside your comfort zone. Stay aware.
Tonight I’m sitting on the wall which runs along the north end of Leicester Square. I’m a rough-sleeper on the streets of London and I come down here to beg. Square’s lit up and festive. Constant sightseers. Most make sure they don’t see me so as not to spoil their picture of things. The avoiders avoid and the snooties look down their noses. But I’d like to tell them all just one more story: I got sick and lost my job, had been mortgaged to the hilt was served with a repossession order. Nobody there to help me out. Next stop the street. It happens. Times like this I think about the Fens; the nature of things and the ice. What I wanna say is, cut through the cover-ups; arrive at the real. Ice cracks.
Jay Merill has fiction in current issues of Anomalous Press, Corium, SmokeLong Quarterly, Spork, and Eunoia Review. She is the author of two short story collections – Astral Bodies (Salt, 2007) and God of the Pigeons (Salt, 2010) Her story ‘As Birds Fly’ won the Salt Short Story Prize and is included in the ‘Salt Anthology of New Writing, 2013’. Jay has an Award from Arts Council England and is Writer in Residence at Women in Publishing.