To Ingrid it was a picnic, but to Benedict it was merely a bag of goodies and bottles of pop. He said to meet him outside the green grocer shop in Meadow Row, just a little inward in case Ingrid's father came that way on his way to work and became suspicious. Benedict stands by the green grocer's shop, looking over the bomb site, the areas of green where weeds grow up through the bombed ruins. He holds the brown paper carrier bag in one hand, his other hand in the pocket of his black jeans, fingering his two favourite marbles. He knows she wants to come, she was quite excited by his idea of a lunch in Bedlam Park. His mother has made the sandwiches: cheese, spam, fish paste. Two packets of potato crisps, and two bottles of pop drinks. He'd bought two Mars bars at the newsagents earlier that morning out of his own pocket money. He walks up to the edge of Meadow Row and peers down towards the slope leading to the flats. No sight of her. Maybe her old man has kept her in saying she's been too naughty to go out. Or maybe she's too frightened to ask or say and is waiting for her father to go, before venturing out. He sniffs the air. Fresh and warm. He walks a few steps down by the public house and back again. The smell of beer is still clinging in the air. One door is open, a lone drinker sits on a bar stool, sipping a beer. Benedict looks up the street towards the New Kent Road. As he looks back down the street again, he sees her coming, nervously looking over her shoulder, her pace quick, her legs walking, but almost running. At least she's come, he muses, holding the bag in his other hand. She arrives at his side out of breath and anxious. Sorry I'm late, she says, he has only just gone out. They've been rowing all morning. I kept to my room in case he found fault with me and kept me in or lashed out at me, she says, looking over her shoulder again. Well at least you're here, Benedict says. I've got the grub, he shows her the bag, and drinks of pop. She looks at the bag and looks in. Here you take it, he says, and hands her the bag. They walk across the bomb site at a slow pace, she talking about her parents rowing, about hiding in her bedroom, listening at the door. Benedict listens, he knows her father and mother, her father dislikes him, thinks him a spoilt brat in need of a good hiding. Benedict thinks like wise of her father, only he thinks her father's a bullying pig in need of good punching(although ten years old he's too young yet to oblige). She talks of her mother crying during the night, the sound of slaps, raised voices. Benedict takes in her short sleeve, green dress, food stained, her grey once white ankle socks, battered shoes, and the green speckled cardigan with only two buttons. They walk on and down the subway and out the other end along St George's Road. She talks on about missing her tea the evening before, her father claiming she had not done sufficient chores to deserve it, even though her mother had said she had, he ignored her and sent Ingrid to her room. She was hungry all night. Her stomach rumbled, she hardly slept. Did you eat breakfast? Benedict asks. Yes, I got some this morning before he was up, she says. They walk on by the shops and houses, he telling her about the six shooter his old man had picked up for him from a junk shop. Silver looking, the bullets come out and go in, he says, but I didn't bring it, I'll show you another day. They go by their school on the right, by the church, and on and into the park. The war museum is on their right, the football grounds on their left. They walk on until they find an area of grass that is clear and clean of paper or dog mess or tins and settle down. He takes off his jacket, with his small toy gun in the inside pocket, just in case of bad guys ambushing them, and lays it on the grass. She removes her cardigan and puts it by her legs. Fading bruises show on her upper arm, but he says nothing, takes note and looks away. She unpacks the carrier bag of sandwiches and bottles of pop and packets of crisps. Her eyes widen. Did you make the sandwiches? She asks. No, my mum did them this morning, he answers. She's good your mum, she says. Yes, she is, he says. He says nothing about her mother. He knows her mother has little say in how her life is run or how her daughter is treated. Ingrid hesitates. Shall I take one? She says. Of course, he says, that's the point of bringing them. Do we say grace? She asks. Can if you like, he says. She says a grace over the sandwiches and crisps and bottles of pop, her eyes closed, her hands together at the palms. He stares at her hands, the thin fingers, the chewed nails. He also noted that she winced as she sat down on the grass,  just a short while ago, her father's handiwork, no doubt, he thinks, seeing how she sits to one side. Amen, she says and he adds an Amen afterwards. He opens up the bags of sandwiches and offers her a choice. She stares at the bags, hesitates, then picks out a white cheese sandwich and bites at it ravishingly. He takes out a brown spam sandwich and nibbles. They sit in silence for a while eating. He offers her a bottle of pop, which she takes and unscrews the cap and sips. He unscrews his bottle and takes big gulp. She watches him, looks at his combed back hair, the wave, the hazel eyes. Does your mum know you're with me? He asks. Yes, she says, asked her last night while he wasn't around. What did she say? He asks. She said I could, but to wait until he'd gone off to work and not to mention it to him. Guess he'd not like that, Benedict says, you out with me? No, she says, looking away, staring at pigeons nearby, he doesn't like you, he thinks you're a bad influence on me. She is silent. He studies her profile, her eyes, her shape of nose, her hair badly brushed. The bruises still visible on the arm. I think your father's a pig arse, Benedict says out of the corner of his mouth while eating. She looks at him, her eyes bright and wide, her mouth open, words waiting to come, but don't. She bites at her sandwich. He takes a slug of his pop drink and wipes his mouth on the back of his hand. He burps. Last time he saw me with you, she begins, but then says nothing. What? Benedict asks. What did he say? She wipes her hands on her dress. She looks across at the football grounds. He said I wasn't to see you anymore, she says. But you have, Benedict says. She nods. Yes, but he mustn't know, she says. I won't tell him, Benedict says, if you don't. Last time he saw me with you, she says quietly, he punished me.  Why did you come? Benedict asks. I wanted to, she says. Even if it costs you? He asks. She sighs and nods. Even if, she mutters, gazing at him, looking at him with her sad eyes, her fingers holding each other. He takes another sandwich and bites into it. She looks at her fingers, feels the sensation of pain in her thighs, tries to sit in another position, shifts on the grass. She takes a sandwich from a bag and nibbles anxiously, her fingers holding, her body shifting to ease the pain, her eyes looking, staring, feeding on him, feeling safe, feeling lost and found. Benedict takes another slug at his bottle of pop, gulps down, wipes his mouth. Don't be anxious, he says, tapping his small toy gun in his jacket pocket, you're safe with me. She smiles, moves nearer, sips her drink, touches his leg, feels safer. Despite the pain, she thinks, she'd see him again and again.

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Open Pit

Smells so good,
Barbeques after

A swim, raw meat

On an open pit,
Slathered thick
With seasonings
And sweet sauce,
Cooked just right.


Sitting nearby,
My dog drools,
And just before
I take my first bite
One of my guests
Reminds me that
In some third
World countries
They eat dogs...


Suddenly, I
Lose my appetite
And grab a salad.


9:50 PM 5/9/2013 ©

Author's Notes/Comments: 


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