Ant Smith

All stories

Resilience

I could paint you a picture of a room damp and cold, that stank in the corners of dog piss and stale food. Where the curtains had the same nicotine stained hue as the walls as the ceiling as the carpets as the furniture. Where there was never more than two bare electric bulbs in good working order at any one time - and frequently less than that. And where the pram in the corner was perilously close to both the electric fire and the draft from the crack in the window, at one and the same time.

But this was a room with a view.

And not just any view, but a view of Sam's star. Sometimes it was difficult to see, overshadowed, outclassed, by the braggarts of the sky, Sirius, Polaris, or... She didn't know much about astronomy. She had bought the only star she could afford at the time. It had come with a chart that detailed the dates and times that it would be visible in the night sky, and a small certificate proclaming it to be Sam's star which she didn't have any more. Depite the fact that Sam's star was most certainly a genuine heavenly body, it seemed to exhibit a terribly dissapointing streak of shyness. Of the usual 365 days in the year the chart indicated that the star may be visible from Sam's cracked window on only eleven of them. Not in precisely those terms of course, but one of Sam's friends - a student in fact - had owned a scientific calculator. Between it, the chart, and three bottles of wine one winter's night in the not too distant past, they had calculated the days when it may be possible to see the star through the window from the exact spot where they had may love on the carpet, perilously close to the electric fire. On some of those nights it was cloudy, even raining - seven nights so far this year. On others she was unavoidably pre-occupied elsewhere. Once Kieran had been ill and she had to stay overnight in the hospital where, typically, the children's ward faced entirely the opposite direction.

Kieran had been so young at the time that she still had his birth certificate carefully folded into the back pocket of her jeans. It hadn't been until some weeks later that she had lost that too. It had been through her mother's washing machine along with a crisp ten pound note, and they had both come out as soggy balls of worthless pulp with what seemed like a million disintegrating satellite pellets of mush caught up in the folds of her sweaters, shirts, bras and pants. Sam had been distraught and she blamed her mother, who was understandably equally distraut to find what she thought had been a kindness turned against her at the slightest provocation. They had fought terribly. Whenever they fought it was terrible. Sam knew that she had never been her mother's favourite; and her mother knew that Sam had always wanted, or would have preffered, to live with her father. Sam's mouth had run away with her again, and that had proven to be the last time she'd spoken to her mother. Her step-father had brought the clothes over the next day, but she pretended to be out. So the stupid man left them on the landing, still damp. When she collected them later they stank, and for two weeks after she couldn't wear anything without first spraying it with body-mist deoderant.


The next occassion that Sam's star would have been visible was November fifth, which had been impossible since she spent most of the night looking after Spoot. Spoot was the dopey, ageing, and largely incontinent labradour-poodle mut she had inherited from Kieran's father before he found out that he was to be a father but after he'd decided he wasn't going to be a husband. Not Sam's husband anyway. He had gone back to college in his trench-coat and scarf, with his scientific calculator in his pocket and his head full of promises to write. Which he did, once; to tell her that he had caught scabbies of the scrotum and that he held her personally responsible, and to ask if she could forward his diary which he had accidently left behind. The diary that they had marked the eleven nights in. The first of which they had spent together, perilously close to the electric fire. Smoking Marlboro cigarettes and drinking red wine, though they both admitted to prefering lager. Despite the typical dissapointment she felt in him, she would still remember him with some fondness; not that she had liked him very much.

Her last two chances to see the star in the year following Kieran's conception came very close together. One was only a few nights ago. And so now she sat on the rug with a full pot of tea, a packet of chocolate digestives, and her last chance to see. It wasn't raining, it wasn't cloudy, the street-lamp outside still wasn't working, she hadn't been detained, and there was only a few moments of daylight left. She needed to go to the toilet.

....

Sam had a name for her star. She called it Resilience.