Apr/May 2002  •   Fiction

On the move

by Duncan White

Anne lived on a busy road.

I went round there. Her little girl watched me come up to the door through a window. I rang the bell and she opened the door.

Anne's daughter is called Mary-Ann.

"Hello, Mary-Ann," I said.

"Hello," she said.

The traffic on the road was heavy and very loud. It was beginning to rain. Mary-Anne let me inside. She had smooth yellow hair.

I looked at her hair.

She walked away towards the kitchen.

Anne came down the stairs. She was fixing the buttons on her shirt.

She smiled at me.

I took off my coat and hung it on a hook.

"Coffee?" Anne said.

"A cup of coffee," I said.

"Mary-Ann, put the kettle on," she said. "And go and run a bath."

I looked at Anne.

"It's bath time," she said.

I grinned.

I walked into the main-room, and went over to the window Mary-Ann had watched me from. Cars went past. It was raining heavily. People ran or walked quickly in the rain.

"Nice day," Anne said.

I nodded.

She kissed me.

Then she went to make the coffee.

The room was untidy. A green plant stood in a corner. I looked at the plant.

There were two chairs and a worn brown sofa. I didn't sit down.

I walked back through to the kitchen, went to the sink and filled a cup of water. Anne was putting coffee into the pot. Two white cups stood on the side. She poured milk into her cup. I watched her hands. She had clean hands.

I took the cup of water into the other room and poured it into the soil of the green plant.

I could hear the traffic in the rain.

I looked at the plant.

Then Anne came in with the coffee.

"Here," she said.

"Thanks," I said.

I took my cup.

We didn't sit down.

Anne looked at me. We didn't say anything. I listened to the cars and the rain.

Then Mary-Ann came in. She looked scared. She was naked except for her pants. Her pants were white.

"There's a spider," she said.

We looked at her.

"It's on the bath. It's big and black."

Anne looked at me.

I didn't say anything.

"Wait here," Anne said.

She handed me her cup, and walked out of the room. I stood there with a cup of coffee in each hand. I looked down at Mary-Ann.

"You look funny," she said.

I nodded.

I could see where her ribs were. And the shape of her fat stomach.

"Are you scared of spiders?" she said.

I looked at her.

"I hate them," she said. "They scare me."

"They come in when it rains." I said.

She scratched the top of her leg.

"What if there's one in my room?" she said.

I shrugged.

"What if a spider crawls on me when I'm asleep?"

"How would you know?" I said.

She looked at me.

"They probably crawl over your face every night," I said.

Anne came in.

"It's gone now," she said to Mary-Ann. "Your bath's ready."

"I don't want to go," she said.

She looked up at Anne.

"Don't be silly. The spider's gone."

"Is it dead?"

Anne looked at me.

She nodded.

Mary-Ann looked at me. Then she looked at her mother.

"Will you come?"

Anne took her cup back. The two of them walked out of the room.

I heard Mary-Ann say I had said spiders crawled on people in the night. I heard Anne say it wasn't true.

I looked out at the cars and drank the coffee.

The cars didn't cease.

I checked the corners of the ceiling. I couldn't see any spiders. I knew they were everywhere. I waited for them.