Edith (Head)

The mornings are growing darker, slowly but it is happening. As I joined St David’s Road the lights from a vehicle came round the corner. It was the milkman, the one who looks like Bruce Springsteen. It was early. The van (it wasn’t a float like the old days) is an open one with a frame around the back. The milk bottles jiggled in their crates as he turned into our estate. I remember the milk man who used to come to Nanny’s flat in Wilmslow. (She wasn’t our grandmother but my father’s old nanny, and she became a Nanny manqué for all of us offspring and I loved her dearly.) Her milk man came on a horse and cart. I would hear him arrive through the open window of her bedroom – that same chinking of glass against glass. His horse wore blinkers so that she didn’t get distressed by the traffic. Slow, methodical, cheerful work, it seemed to me. He’d arrive like clockwork.

These fucking spots, he said scratching his head at supper, and you don’t need to write about them again. OK, I won’t. He was a little tetchy this morning. It’s the weather, he can’t decide what to wear against the possible downpours we are promised today. I try to advise but he just snaps. I do understand, truly. You snap away, if it helps.

The air is close and heavy. A thunderstorm may help.

He bought me a present. I don’t often desire things. I’m a shedder at heart. But she looked so calm and graceful and so pure in the window of the junk shop that I allowed myself to want to her and told him of her at breakfast. If you’d like to buy me a present, I said. She might take £15 for cash, I added. He returned with a crestfallen look on his face. It had already gone, he said. Then TA DAH! he pulled her out of the bag. She is ceramic when I thought she might be plastic or fibre glass. A Grecian head with a thick top-not of hair, all in white. What shall we call her? he asked. It will have to be something traditional, Victorian and simple. Edith, I said. I like her being there, looking like butter wouldn’t melt.

Tired again today. And I slept through my first alarm, falling into a dream where I was advising a young girl how to ready herself for her performance. She had two cold sores on her face and I suggested she get some concealer stick, but she didn’t seem to know what they were. Go and have a shower, I said, blow dry your hair put on the concealer stick and you will feel much better. I can hear the cars already, she said. Hurry, then, I said, you’ve got 48 minutes. Then my second alarm sounded.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.