After my last story, “My Son, My Son” a number of you asked if I had a transgender child. I do not, but I believe our bodies are our home, our dwelling place and our sanctuary, a place where we should feel safe and belong.
How then do I relate to someone who is unhappy in their skin.? Possibly this story will explain it. For many, many years my dwelling was in a place where I didn’t feel safe nor did I feel I belonged.
Please remember this is a tale of long ago and the past, as they say, is a different country.
The Golden Fish
They were going to fetch the golden fish. Three golden fishes that would live in the rain butt until the old pond could be cleaned out ready for them. The rain butt was by the back door in the shadow of the house; a cool damp place full of mystery and delight. If she stood on tip toe she could gaze down into its green depths and wonder what was at the bottom.
Sometimes she would reach in and trail her fingers to feel the cool softness of the rainwater, so different from the harsh, lime ridden liquid that gushed from the taps and turned the inside of the kettle white.
Green feathers grew from the sides of the butt, trailing like wisps of emerald cloud. If she tried to lift them out they just became soft green slime on her fingers, only deep in the water did they hold their magical beauty.
There were other wonders in the moss underneath – a toad lived there, as brown and wet as the wood. She had only seen it a couple of times, but today she bent down to whisper the news of fish as gold as his eyes.
The fish had been living in the pond of a big house that was being knocked down and they had been left to die She could not understand how anyone could allow something so wondrous and precious to die.
But they were now going to be saved.
She could hardly breathe with excitement and there was a wriggling feeling in her tummy, because there was more.
He was going to collect them today and He said she could go with Him to help.
The joy and the excitement meant she forgot to be wary, forgot to look for the signs, instead she had waited eagerly while He found car keys and retrieve lighter and cigarettes from the table by His chair.
The car smelt as it always did of Him, a mix of after shave and cigarettes and the added smell of old leather baking in the morning sun. The heat burnt her bare legs as she climbed in beside Him.
It was only a short drive to the place, but for her it seemed to go on and on. She bounced up and down in her seat, looking for landmarks and chattering about all she saw and asking how much longer.
He answered her without impatience and she slipped further into the caress of unpreparedness.
She watched in an agony of anxiety as the golden fishes were netted out of their rumble polluted pond, huge and lustrous, nearly as big as her little fat arms.
Back in the car they swam round and round in the huge bucket she gripped tightly between her feet, the light through the windscreen glinted on their scales and the clear cold water flashed shades of deep orange and golden glowing yellow.
Her eyes feasted on them and she chattered on and on about how pretty they were and she missed the fingers beginning to drum on the wheel and the cigarette smoked in quick, snatched bursts.
She asked how long it would be to get home and He replied soon because He wanted to watch the rugger.
Words delighted her, and would for the rest of her life, and here was a new one. She asked what it meant and He explained in a few, brief words.
Watching the fish swim around and around she began to experiment, the smooth elegant dance of the fish filling the place where caution normally lived.
“Lugger?” she offered Him on a tentative note.
“It’s a sort of boat”.
“There’s no such word.”
She should have caught the tone, should have known to keep watch, but her senses were bemused by the beauty before her and, because she was only five and because her name began with B, she said.
His left hand came down on her bare thighs leaving a mark the colour of poppies. It came down again and again and again. He never at what He had done, never once took His eyes from the road ahead and He never looked as her sobbing salt tears fell onto the golden fishes.
She wept with the pain and she wept because she had once again spoilt everything. She was always spoiling everything and making Him annoyed so He had to slap her. She tried so hard, but again and again she made a mistake.
She wept again because she was as stupid as Daddy said her she was.
Mummy looked a question at Him as they came through the door and He snapped,
“Now she’s swearing for Christ’s sake! How much longer are we going to have to put up with her behaviour?”
He slammed the living room door behind Him and soon there was the sound of the television.
In the days to follow, the golden fishes swim their circuits in the rain butt and she watched them down in the green depths. Sometimes they seemed to disappear and she wondered what it would be like to be invisible. Perhaps you were safe where no-one could see or hear you.
She watched them again when they went to live in the pond and would come to the surface from their weed forest hideaway in search of food, but they never again had the power to fill her with delight.
They died one winter when ice cracked the bottom of the pond and all the water drained away before anyone noticed.
© Bev Allen 2013