Someone in the car was saying “at death's door, on death's porch between the umbrellas and the shoes, listening to the kitchen clank and thinking size five's a bit small for a reaper”. We had been caving, six of us, a black road through limestone trees and all we knew was the cave mouth was near a chapel. There was more than one chapel. We didn't find the cave.
So we went to a bar and bought a giraffe. That's what they call those towers of beer with a tap at the bottom. You put it on the table and serve yourselves. I've only seen them in Thailand. They don't seem very French. We got some funny looks.
Not finding the cave is a part of caving. Like not catching the fish is a part of fishing. Probably. I hate fishing. I like sitting next to rivers doing nothing. At least we had a car and the sky looked good.
I went to the Big Tourist Caves last week. So big they have conferences in them. Though it must be hard to confer, with all the reverb muddying things up. Weddings, too. Anyway, astounding. I recommend it, if you like to look at things and to be in places. You can find it using the signposts and the internet.
I was there with a couple of families, to to them and fro them, and on the way back I mentioned wanting to be more of a writer and less of a not-quite-a-writer. It was a rare instance of admitting that I'm not what I want to be. She said why not change the names of the people you meet and write about them on the internet, like that police officer from a while ago. And I thought: nah. But then: alright.
So her name was Betsy Cavalcade and she was a frizzy mother of one and worked for the police as an abbreviation. I pretended to understand what she stood for, as I'd never heard of it. Her child was vague and quietly violent and she said there's always one and it's usually mine. After that there was silence, during which I felt very lucky to be childless and said yeah I must get that vasectomy booked. The windows were open and the breeze was torrential and my words were blown onto the road.
Betsy talked more about the police and departments and downsizing and the kids talked about swimming pools. There were two other parents in the car and they were laughing, or not, I don't know because my ears were full of wind.
I dropped everyone back at their tents and went for dinner, which was protein in sauce, with things on the side. During the meal I discussed sarcasm with one of the voices in my head. Sarcasm and cynicism and sneering, fear of sincerity, not brave enough to be vulnerable, that kind of thing. It's one of the lesser voices, hasn't really developed yet, so it agreed with everything I said. Pathetic, kind of, I told it so and it shrank to nothing. Really I'd prefer it to work against me like the others, but they're all on holiday at the minute. I don't know where. Local. They've never been to the south of France. So there's an awful peace, nudged occasionally by murmurs in another language that seem to be saying things like I might see The Sorcerer's Apprentice later, but then again it has Nicolas Cage in it.
I’ve been moved from a tent now and not up or down but side-graded into a haunted caravan with a south-facing quarry and a room just for spiders and a view of three moons, two of which are on sticks attached to the earth and unmovable while the other one cheesewheels and thumbnails in the usual manner.
There’s a green L-shaped bed and a fan and no bother. It’s a reward for something. I should share it.
Not long is left. It’s gone well and will go well. We eat many buttered sponges. There’s a shortage of everything else.
I went to knot school and could now tie one with my arse if necessary. I need to at the top of the tower, which people in harnesses climb up so I can clip them to a rope and kick them off. I’ve stopped doing the involuntary dance that made me appear less than fully comfortable with the situation. We tell them it’s not that bad and they get to the top and their knees turn green and they step off and leave their stomachs behind. After everyone’s had a go they gather at the bottom and I throw the stomachs back down thirty feet into their gobs.

Chinese Cheese

A serious beer, they call it, and it’s almost a pint and almost never on the menu and you have to ask for it twice. Normal unserious beers are served in glass thimbles and only good for quenching. This isn’t a complaint. I’ve been trying to write a story in my head, for a while, to save on paper, about this bald woman and her three-legged pug and a bar where it rains indoors. It’s impossible, but I read about a big serious Spaniard who once wrote his book in only two weeks because he’d already written it “in his soul” or possibly “on” his soul, so all he had to do when he sat down at the typewriter was copy. And I’m lacking a soul and the tools to write on one, but this woman and her pug keep leaning in while I go about my business. And I don’t know what they want. And it really does rain in this bar, by the doorstep, they have one of those misting systems, to soothe your being, but it’s faulty and drips a lot.
I went and talked to them, and the dog said nothing throughout, but cleared its throat a few times, and the woman was baritone and glinting. Her cancer was long gone but she’d kept “the dome” on display because “you make friends better this way”. The mister needs fixing but its “no urgency. Some people come for the drips.” The pug was no story. It was born with three legs and seems to enjoy itself. She shares it with her friends. It was never chewed by traffic. It knew before she did. About the cancer. It kept looking sad and nudging her and leaving medical leaflets in the bathroom. I don’t know if she was joking. So they caught it in time, and the pug was the first thing she saw when she woke up, she thought she must’ve fallen asleep at the vet, until she looked down.
It was very warm. I wanted to say “the sun has our pants down and is turning us into hot ruins.” The thermometers had wilted and the clouds were in the gutters and the mannequins were happy about this. They line both sides of the street for a quarter of a mile. Red lipstick, high eyebrows and shrieking hair. Ecstatic to be wearing clothes. The woman hates them. She is moving out, maybe. To write a book, a short one, a dose of something. She paid for my beer and said she had to go.
The afternoon was flat, sat by the river following the shade. White people were in the water, moving rocks, arranging the flow into narrow slowly-rushing channels for inflatable super-happy funtime. All down the river, wherever there’s a beach, there’s also an arrangement in the water, and an inflatable thing going down it with a person on top. And on the banks are some people you wish would show less, and some more, and sometimes a rope swing and a cave and a rock to jump off and fish between your toes.

Hoof Hoof

Asleep in the duty hutch dreaming horses I woke up to two of them looking through the open windows and I went whuh and they trotted off in the direction of everyone else. Which was troubling because although I am not a horse-wrangler I supposed I was supposed to make them leave. So I got out of bed and followed, and they were blurry and brown and part mammoth. And hungry. So I didn’t get close. And the whole camp was sleeping and I thought probably the best thing to do is not startle them into galloping over a marquee and chewing some child’s shins off. So I kept my distance and sent my thoughts out to them. And my thoughts returned with the message: GESTURES. So I moved round to where they could see me and waved my hands at them like they were vans. But they just stared and chewed and went further from the exit. They live up the road and I walk past them twice a day and I hoped I hadn’t accidentally invited them round to watch the sun rise. They were acting so welcome.
I woke up someone who isn’t allergic to horses and pointed at the horses and said is this unusual? And they said let them eat and they will go away. And I did and they did. And the following day was another green boiler full of screaming kids and I fell asleep in a hot hammock at 5pm.
Before the horses I’d been up all night with someone else’s face waiting for a diagnosis at the post-fiasco retina shop. It came over the phone and was good. Or do I mean prognosis, or both. We’d thought the victim might be losing a retina because of the wet red mess where their eye used to be. And the doctor saying the retina might be detached. But it was just wolf-crying and they were sent home with eye-drops and opiates and a list of things to do to the eye which included putting a grain of rice in there. Waiting for all this took a mountain of time and before the drive back I had to wire my mind to the moon to keep my lids up. So I had a cold can of muck and when I got back in the shed I could feel the brain jittering around in its holder, sweating thoughts through the third eye and murmuring how can a fizzy drink be so ruinous.