the m john harrison blog

Month: June, 2017

hard boiled

I thought we should put the laundry out despite the weather forecast. After all, I said, it wasn’t going to rain in secret. We could always run out & bring it in back in. I was at that time more worried about the noise the washing machine had started to make. It sounded like an entry-level Mazda coupe being retuned for the son or daughter of a small businessman. No washing machine should make a noise like that, I said. But if I’ve learned anything from life since, it’s that they all make a noise like that in the end.

Solstice in the provinces. It’s hot. There’s no government in the country at the moment. To get the air moving, I have an old black rucksack holding open the study door. Every time I glimpse it out of the corner of my eye I mistake it for a cat I used to have. It’s too big to be a cat, but I never owned a dog. Outside, a man has parked a low-loader so that it blocks the little roundabout at the top of the High Street and left it idling there while he makes some sort of decision more important than anyone else’s that morning. Every so often he returns and moves it ten or twelve yards back or forward, always keeping it on the curve of the roundabout, always blocking as many exits as possible. Then he sits in it with his thick hands on the steering wheel, looking straight ahead while the engine runs. Around him the year tips over into whatever’s coming next.

dream

I was living in a house I didn’t know in a city I didn’t know. The people who lived there were young. They were cheerful, although their faces had a certain toughness, a certain wariness. The house had a lot of rooms. I left objects of mine, including my personal identification and a laptop with new work on it, in various of them. While I was anxious about this I wasn’t worried. I kept track of my things by rehearsing their positions in each room. I visited every room regularly to check that everything remained in its place. Everything was fine until I began to notice that the house was badly built. Living spaces had been constructed out of what had clearly been a condemned building. Then I began to forget where my things were. As I went from room to room looking for them, the house revealed itself as even more badly built. Some of the rooms had collapsing floors. Ceilings and walls seemed solid but were made of draped tarpaulin. The stairs moved under you. First I forgot where my belongings were. Then I realised that I was beginning to forget the layout of the building too. I wasn’t sure which rooms I had visited and which I hadn’t. The structure was increasingly unstable. Lath and rafters showed through. The rooms trembled and wallowed as I moved. My panic increased. I had lost all my objects. I had lost all sense of where I was. I had lost all my identifiers. I didn’t recognise anyone in the house. When I looked out of a window I realised that I had forgotten what country the city was in. I went out there and began to wander about. At first I was absolutely certain where the house was.

transcript of an interview

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Photo: Cath Phillips