The garden has aged this year and I unfolded a worn sheet of paper as I went outside with my childhood wrapped up like a compass in a tractor tyre. It meant to show all the places I wanted to go to but instead showed all the places I had been to and didn’t want to go again. Beyond the perimeter row of sentry shrubs the slow roll of hills was obscured by the typewriter keys of buildings and a thick column of steam looked like a swimming suit hanging by an empty pool. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that a man had reconstituted himself out of pieces of bread thrown out for the birds; I waited for him to speak but went back to the house in silence. June watched from indoors as four coloured squares landed and tried to arrange themselves into a meaningful pattern.
June and I left the house (which had grown long auburn tresses in the night) with empty shopping bags that reminded me of the gates of hell in Dante’s Inferno – I would have spoken to Virgil but he looked the other way. After marching like an army coming back from war we stopped to eat; the waitress sat on a perch and the chef had an A road running though his middle – a little old lady tried to cross but had to wait until a passing vulture stopped to help her. I looked up at an angel in an elevator when we left the restaurant, June went off for more centipede shopping and I came home wearing shoes I had borrowed from Dick Whittington and flower petals in my wallet instead of coins. I put a flower in the mouth of my last childish thought and watched it drift off into the dark logicality of sadness.
I had to go out and took the door with me to save me the trouble of opening it on my return. June would have put the front gate in her pterodactyl handbag but we don’t have one, only the space where a Victorian postman would have forgotten to have closed it. I called my shadow omnipotent then talked in jungle colours as the monkeys on the overhead wires scuttled to and fro like garbled messages. As a joke I reversed the horizon and put the dirty houses on top – a man fell from a brick cloud and pretended he didn’t know me (I reacted by pretending I did know him). June and I then walked into the glimmering sky; wagon wheels rolling in front and the wagon coming along behind. It had purportedly come from a country where poverty is outlawed and money is only a bad dream.
I left the house moments before it transformed itself into a giantess combing her hair (if the house had an extra storey she would have been wearing a hat; as it was she had what was left of a test site for moustache wearing rockets). I came back sometime before I had left, a Chinese dragon stuffed in each pocket and a man in a long coat pushing a flag into the top of my head. June wanted to drag a paddle steamer to town and I drew the sea on a scrap of paper and promised not to sink in it. After she had gone I pulled the Biggin Hill airfield from a drawer and landed on it with smoke issuing from my one merlin engine – I would have said to myself that memories are like smoke but didn’t have to. A hovercraft then came through the front door with a map of the Isle of Wight on its nose.
I was up very early (after being awake much earlier still) and pressed my elf ears to the door before leaving the house. June was talking to the cupboard – or the cupboard was talking to her – and the dog was making a paper hat from the daily newspaper which she doesn’t have the time to read. After a forked tongue journey I met the grand piano man in his orchestra pit lounge. We talked in sonata form although he had to go out before the recapitulation and I then went out myself with wings extending from the sides of my head. I thought they were Nordic but the bus driver favoured the mythology of Ancient Greece. June was the remains of a camp site and was pulling thoughtlessly discarded litter from her cardigan when I came in – I pointed to my head and she pointed to hers.
I took a flaming arrow route to town, landing in a bucket of water and then drying my superhero wings in the only ray of light that was visible. Seagulls flew overhead as my journey home became a black and white movie, punctuated by one person who as an act of defiance had chosen to remain in full colour. It was only when I got to our house that I realised that the person was another version of me. We smiled at each other before he went off to crawl behind a mirror and all pertinent realities were sequestered again. June was a sergeant major among the housework chores and I slunk up to the old kettle in the roof – it was once occupied by a family of robins but now holds the name of every person I would like to be (including the Black Widow who once smiled at me from the other side of the road).
The stars of the Southern Hemisphere (which I have only ever seen in back to front dreams) were projected on the roof of our imaginary cellar when June opened the first door and followed the tunnel as an avenger from another world. I opened the last one and followed a trail of bread crumbs left by a person who is simultaneously a young girl and a very old woman. I met my sister at the juvenile blackbird station and we took a taxi to the town centre (it is code named octopus in my espionage dreams). My father was as large as a toadstool and all the stars revolved around him. We ate in the dark, emerging into the still singing daylight to put our hands in our pockets. The day was separated into paragraphs and I spent the second to last on my own, the blank page twisted like a snail shell.