His Red Gloves

Fragments, snatches of pictures, like so many postcards; faded views on one side, on the other traces of ink where the words should be.

A turbulent sea, wind blown foam scattered along the shoreline.
In the clutter above the strand line, along with crumpled cans and cartons, slivers of plastic signs, the remnants of a couch, a single red oil stained glove, thumb crossing palm.

He had red gloves, a birthday present from his Gran. God love him, but the first time we met he was holding back the tears. That’s how it was for him and his Mam, his bother Gabriel always kicking off, in and out of trouble, uncontrollable. Let me tell you about him, tell you what he told me about his life.
‘You. Piss off, before I put you through that window.’
Gary’s frightened, his mother protective.
‘Gabriel. Stop this, please?
‘I hate you, and he better disappear quick.’
Gary did; left behind shouting, screaming, the sound of a bottle breaking. He’d walked until he was on the lane leading to the quarry, to a broken barbed wire fence, and a sign saying, DANGER. KEEP OUT. He’d followed paths familiar to both of us, leading to the old quarry offices; ruined, apart from one, its roof still intact, and with what passed for curtains at the windows. My home at the time.

My home. Imagine this: against the rear wall a neatly made bed, towel draped over a line strung across an alcove, wood piled next to an open fireplace. In the grate dried leaves, twigs, kindling, logs. A small mirror hanging from a nail hammered into the wall opposite the bed. An enamel bowl resting on a table in the middle of the room, next to it a frying pan, knife, fork and spoon, upturned cup and plate left to drain on a tea towel. Two old, and very large, threadbare carpets cover the majority of a concrete floor. An easy chair I salvaged, and dragged through the quarry, is near the fireplace.
He’d sat in the chair, might have noticed the blanket covering the cot, a hold-all tucked under shelving constructed from floorboards, supported on bricks. Some clothing: worn tracksuit bottoms, a pair of boots, scuffed and a little on the small side, the soles still in good repair, a hairbrush. On another shelf a gas ring hooked up to a gas bottle. A pan, kettle, tea, milk bottle, assorted cans, and a basket full of onions, carrots, potatoes. He must have have been sitting in that seat long enough to relax, for his eyes to close.

‘You’ve made yourself at home.’
‘No. Yes. Haven’t touched anything. Loads of stuff in here. What’s that you’ve got?’
‘Dinner. Hungry?’
‘Dunno. Famished. How come you live here? Isn’t it spooky?’
‘What’s you’re name?’
‘Gary, what’s yours?’
‘Coo, cool. Need to go home, get back to my Mam.’
‘Fine. Maybe next time think before you walk in.’
‘Sorry. What can I do?’
‘Thought you were going?’
‘Right. Wood. And fetch some water.’
‘You’ve left your gloves on the chair. It’s cold out.’
‘I’m not picking up stuff with them on, they’ll get dirty.’
‘Suit yourself.’
We ate, talked, and he left, still fretting over his Mam.

Turning the corner into his street, he sees a police car outside the flat, people staring. A neighbour pulls him towards her. He backs away, doesn’t want to hear. ‘A stupid idea. Miracles don’t happen, just shit and piss.’ That’s what he said.
He runs. In the fading light the quarry’s different. Darkness closes in. Roots, not present during the day, obstruct his way. Blundering along awkward tracks, he tumbles through the door sobbing, shaking.
‘He’s done it.’
His mother in hospital. His brother gone.
‘Calm down.’
‘What’ll I do? He might have killed her.’
‘What did your Mam’s friend say?’
‘Mam’s in hospital-‘
‘Being looked after.’
‘Calm down. It’s late, tomorrow you’ll need to find out which ward she’s in.’
Wood crackling in the grate. Tears trickling down his cheek.
‘What’ll I do?’
‘I’ll bank up the fire. Get some sleep.’
‘Dunno. Doesn’t matter.’

By first light he was away, running towards the trees saying he’d let me know what was happening with his Mam. And then he’d gone, disappearing into the undergrowth.

It was a good place. Comfortable. You keep your head down, but it never lasts that long, always need to have somewhere else in mind.