Stride Magazine -

  Back to the Basin

   How to get back? Catch a narrow boat, crab? Hail a taxi? Paddle or crawl? Breast-stroke back up the Canal? It was a pate-scratcher.

   ‘Barge to
Venice? York Road?’
   ‘Kensal Green, more likely … to lie there in perpetuity, dreaming of Nita and Becky,
Green Park and Kings Cross. But I’m not quite ready for Sharon’s service yet.’
   ‘It’s your pleasure, sir. Take your time.’
   ‘Goodness, I’ve not too much of it’, he blurted out, then collected himself.
   ‘I’ll settle for
Camden, and a cab. Put me down at the Lock Market.’

   He felt at home in the crowd, N for anon. Saw ‘Goodge as New’ in the familiar old alleys, lock-ups and cobbled courts. Charlie, drumming up trade by footbridge, canal, ‘piazza’. Bromley, talking the hind leg off a boxer. Joe with a swatch of newsprint under his unlovely arm. He was blitzed by fitful flashes of sun on roofs, wares, jostling shoppers, and water. Saw stalls streaming with colours, falling over each other. Steps, levels, dragons and angels, changing from yard to yard. The boarded over basin yawning beneath him, yearning for a bite at a passer’s by flickering feet. Clerks of the mart dusting and calling their wares, unmasking their rituals, babbling their virtues, bubbling their savoury flavours, flapping their awnings and scarves under the nose of St Pranc, arches to Woolwich, hangovers from Stratford, blanketed bundles trying to drop off. Winners? Losers? One by one they all ended in the relief pit. Went in by the eye of the narrow black door and the raised sill that clients stumbled over, proof against overspill. Came out … or so he supposed.
   Pearly gates to
Eden? Trick or treat with St Pranc? Trip and prick with Dame Pink? No, it was back to St Zachhs with him, thanks.
   As for the clerks of the mort, c/o Kensal, he would forget about them for a bit.

   If he could …

   Mornington did it with lifts, except that it was closed, thank you. He could descend, however, courtesy of his thoughts. These he rehearsed.

   Cross by the zebras, pat the dog, buy paper, ticket …

 ‘Oblivion, sir? That’s free. Will you take the lift?’
   ‘Bit of a maze down there, isn’t it, whether I do or not, what with all those empty corridors, blank walls, blind corners and sinister turnings?’
   ‘Ah, would you want a guide?’
Sharon? No, thanks. I’ll get by somehow, even if I’m …’

                   © Brian Louis Pearce 2002

          (from the forthcoming book St. Zacchs)