Bog Queen

Bog Queen

A Story by huh
"

You are carried by stones, friend, and you are beautiful

"

Bog Queen


She stood up, shaking the dirt and leaves that clung to her damp leggings, throwing one final glance to the lake she had been staring at for the past hour. The water remained unmoving, the surface reflecting the grey sky above. She looked further out, to the matted tangle of bare winter trees where somewhere, in some bushel of branches, a bird was nesting.

It was for this very bird she had been so patient and so willing to lay on the cold ground for an hour each morning the past few days. 

I’ll find you’ she thought loudly, causing the trees around her to shake ever so slightly.

She tucked her binoculars and hands into her pockets and trudged back to the house, feeling the beginnings of drizzle against her exposed skin.

The first break of thunder sounded with the closing of the screen door and the rain fell harshly before the kettle had finished boiling.

A small cat rubbed itself against her leg as she absentmindedly watched the rain patter against the kitchen window, raindrops racing to reach the lip of the sil.

Outside the surface of the lake was disturbed and somewhere is the cluster of intermingled trees beyond, a small bird took shelter from the driving rain.


It’s official name was the Red-Breasted Starling, but she called it The Galaxy Bird. She named it so for the spiralling red nebula it boasted on its proud chest. Its back was a spatter of blue feather marks and its eyes were sharp, its gaze was a visage of cold green.


She had seen it a few weeks ago only for a fraction of a second, as it flew past the same window she was staring out of now, carrying small branches for a nest in its beak.

It duel glided and fluttered to the small woods beyond the lake and vanished before she could even attempt to find it again.


Now for the past few days it had been a waiting game. A patient game for a patient bird.


The rain will drive it out’ she thought.


tomorrow’




The Next Day though something came up, and she had to postpone her watch for the Starling, at least for the time being.

She had been called into work on what was supposed to be her week off with the promise of an additional two fully paid vacation days at the end of the month.

Seamus had called in sick, like he always did the third Thursday of every month. When Scotties had the best happy hour deal in town, and all the girls from the college upstate would go.

Thinking of men too much made her feel sick.


Spirit of my silence I can hear you

but i’m afraid to be near you

and i don’t know where to begin


Sufjan’s formless voice filled the car as she turned the engine over and backed out of the garage, avoiding the low ragged tree stump that last month’s storm had cratered.

The gravel crunched beneath her as she began the 15 minute journey into town, accompanied by Sufjan’s low rolling echoes that seemed to find their way out of the car and into the spaces of the trees.


It took 14 minutes before she pulled her car into the lot of the Sunlit strip mall. Half the buildings were delapidaded and well beyond needing to be torn down. But the other side of the mall the three remaining businesses stood, unmoving.

Yen’s Laundromat, Heaney & Eliot Attorneys, and Riverbank.


She let out a small laugh as she eyed Scotties across the road, which was already beginning the fill up with people. Seamus really was stupid to pick the place directly across the street from work, and in a town where everyone knew each-other. She would say it was a miracle he hadn’t been spotted out yet but then again, her boss Damien is a jackalope.

The bell clinked above her head as she pushed open the door to Riverbank, the familiar rich smell of ground coffee hitting her nostrils, mixed with the aftershave Damien always plastered on. Thinking about how jolly he sounded when she told him she would come in over the phone made her eyes roll involuntarily. If that creep really thinks his weak moustache and overpowering musk would ever give him a chance with her he’s got another thing coming.

It honestly wouldn’t be so bad if he wasn’t the most incompetent man to have ever walked the earth. He knew the bookwork, but she knew the building, and she ran the place when he wasn’t there.


“Well, well, well,” came a squawky voice from behind the counter. “Look who it is.”

He leant his arm on the counter like some sort of jackass, and grinned, displaying his slight underbite in its full glory.

“Hi D.” she replied, not impolitely.

The cafe was almost empty, it was only two hours until she could begin closing up. The minutes with Damien felt like hours but before long the sun dipped and the last of the elderly customers waved a friendly goodbye on their way out the door, the bell sounding above their heads.


She hoisted the chairs above the tables, flipping and resting them. The sun was in her eyes, low in the sky and blazing through the shutters, and as the clouds rescued her eyes from the blaze above she found herself looking to Scotties, where the pink and blue lights illuminated the brick building, and bodies muscled among the smoke outside.


“You should go one time.” Damien said from behind her, pausing his count of the money. ‘I think you’d enjoy it.”


“You don’t know what i’d enjoy D.” she replied. 


“Fair.” he said behind her, finished the till and carrying it to the back room.


She didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of being right when she had successfully managed a year at this place without surrendering any of her hobbies or passions to that cretin, but this time he may have had a point.

The more closes she had worked the more she had found herself looking to the neon glow of the bar across the street.

Something about it called to her.


She wasn’t a shut-in, not 100% anyway, but she enjoyed her privacy. The lake house was a small isolation that she enjoyed being a short distance from town. But she had never found herself drawn to scotties until a few weeks ago, the evening on the day the bird flew across her window.


The colours thrown across the front of the rectangular brick building shifted their patterns to form the explosive colour that she had caught on the birds back and front, that very same galaxy spiral.


On the way out to her car as Damien waved goodbye to her she struggled to take her eyes off the building, now a bright space among the darkness. 


She turned the engine of the car and Sufjan came back to her, right where he had left off.


Everything I see returns to you somehow

Should I tear my eyes out now?


The drive home took 16 minutes and she was asleep as soon as she hit the pillow.




Ocean




The next morning was gloomy. The grey sky was pure and faultless, with no trace of any other colours breaking through.

She woke up much later than usual. She slept through her 8am alarm and the clock now buzzed 10:43.

She should already be outside watching for the Starling, but a tiredness had washed over her and a headache burned through her brain. She tried to ease herself up but her head was lolling about on her neck and her throat was dry. 

The radio next to her bed clicked on automatically and filled the white room with spritely guitar.


When times go bad

When times get rough

Won’t you lay me down in the tall grass and let me do my stuff


Her chin sunk below the floral comforter and she slipped back into warmth and slumber.



In her dream she was lying in the wet leaves, her vision narrowed through binoculars, eyes on the infinite trees. All around her was the fear filling buzz of electricity from the exposed wires that she knew hung above her and littered the ground all around her. As long as she was still and unmoving she would be okay.

The wetness beneath her body began to flow like a stream. Birds circled in the canopy above, singing their songs above the static of the electricity.


Just as the canopy above exploded she woke up.


The clock read 11:50.



*******



He didn’t come back that afternoon. The sun sank and soon the woods, which spanned half an acre, were too dark to catch any sight of the bird.

She knew it was time to get up but laying in the dirt was too inviting a thing. It had become a routine to her, and despite the damp beneath her which reminded her fervently of her dream, she lay unmoving for another ten minutes before rising up and brushing the dirt from herself.

On her way back to the house she caught sight of a tail, fluffy and bright white, darting about across from the house.


Wind had gotten out.


The Girl sighed heavily and set off quietly towards him.

Why can’t you be more like your sister’ she thought.


When she was close enough to reach him the cat threw a frightened look back at her and set off away from the house.


She cursed and set off after him. She felt panic as she tried to keep her eyes on the small white fluff ball weaving in and out of the darkening trees. After a full minute of chase the cat finally gave up and allowed himself to be scooped up in her arms. She brushed the mud from his paws and shook him gently a few times.


“Silly boy.” she said.


She was about to turn back to the house when something in the trees caught her eye. She padded gently over to what appeared to be an old Well. Such was its age that a thick layer of moss had grown around it, and its bricks were crumbled and grey.

She risked a peek down the mouth of it, keeping her arms tightly around the cat. She saw only black and heard no rushing water beneath its cistern.

In the ground around the well were ruined brick foundations, rising in more than two feet off the ground. 

The grey clouds gave way to rain and she felt that her curiosity could wait.



Later that evening the Riverbank was hosting its Poetry Night and a week of hanging around the house/lying in the cold dirt made her feel as though she could use a casual break. The Poetry Night was always a laugh. It was the one day a week Riverbank was open late and it was also the one day a week Damien allowed alcohol on the premises. The original idea was to sell it but she had convinced him to be easy about people bringing it in. That was she could 

A. get drunk easier

B. Not have to volunteer serve and actually enjoy herself.


It was only when she had pulled into the lot of the Sunlit that she realised she was supposed to get an uber there. She hit the steering wheel with frustration.

She was late already so she decided to just leave her car in the employee spot and get a cab home. It was a problem for tomorrow.


The bell sounded above her head and a few faces turned around to watch her come in. most of them were strangers but the few who threw her smiles she knew.

The first was Dac who always grinned the widest and was a considerable ladies man. She had known him the longest.

The second was his friend Emily who always laughed the hardest and drank the most out of everyone. She had known her for a few years.

The third was Jude who she had met earlier last year, he was the one of our group who often performed and he also drank quite a lot.

They exchanged heys as she dragged her favourite seat next to them, a big battered brown chair, and planted her a*s in it.

The others were already engaged in conversation. She pulled out my hip flask and smelled it to identify what had been left in there. It was the sharp poke of cheap vodka. She took a swig like a small stab in the throat, feeling a drop of blood fall like a tear down her face. Was that real? no, it wasn’t, just her imagination.


She scooted her chair around to join circle with the others as Damien, dressed informally in ill fitting jeans and dress shirt, stepped onto the makeshift platform and tapped the mic. A spike of feedback pierced everyone’s ears.

“Sorry, sorry.” he gestured to the soundbox behind him where a teenage boy was fiddling with dials.

She rolled a cigarette between her finger and her thumb as Damien’s gravelly voice read out the introductory paragraph.


Dust hung in the air, caught in the low sun, as she joined in the conversation about people and things. She laughed, she joked, she rolled another cigarette as the first person stepped up to read.


She was a woman in her late 40’s, with brown hair and a kind smile. She nervously dressed the room and began shakily to read.




Hailstones!




Hailstones!


Hailstones!


When the hair dies and all white behind my eyes are a bog

The conductor drags an empty train along the tracks

I was in Albion again and I felt you close


To take a break is impossible. Time did not heal as it never promised it would. Time got me more drunk and pushed the trains out of my life. Time made me lost. 

Ready to leave always ready to leave. 

I'll take a break.


I'll sit by the other girls. 


I am back in Albion. 


im thinking of spaces in the river

Dreams of swirling pitchers

bring me love in buckets

Bring me alcohol and 

You can rest in my heart forever


****


She heard the words at first but after a few more shots and whispered conversation swirling around her brain, the words lost their physical form and became a noise in the background. 

A crunching gravel driveway, 

a ragged stump, 

an unfamiliar birdcall buried in the dead trees,

A still river.

Electricity buzzing above her head.


She felt her skin rust beneath the pressure that necking shot after shot brought. She didn’t hear the words that echoed around the shop, but she felt them sift below her skin. Planting kisses and kisses and kisses.


Hailstones and an empty train, spaces of the river and buckets of love, they all found homes in her skin.


She zoned back to the shop. More people had arrived, the bell chiming every few minutes as people flooded in, sitting and standing, others slipped in an out to smoke and talk in the light of the now set sun.




Pink Mess




When she was pulled back she had forgotten everything she was going to say. She thought she might get up there and read a few words. Words that had been around her head for a few days. About the Well she had found, the rain, and of course the bird.

But the more she heard the words of others the more her own were lost, fervently nuzzled into the back of her mind. Saved for another time.

When the intermission came around she was the first outside. She never really felt a strong urge to smoke but something about hearing too many poems pushed her almost to that point.

She tried not to look at Scotties but there it was, so bright and inviting.

Its pink and blue warping runway lights like doors to another world entirely. A world away from the wooden interior of the Riverbank. A world where she didn’t wait to birds to make themselves known. A world where perhaps, she could find that thing missing in her life.


The cigarette burned to a stub and she lit another one.

Dac, Emily, and Jude stumbled hands in pockets to the off licence across the road, a blue and green neon building, to get more alcohol.

Dad shouted if she wanted anything and she replied ‘whatever’s strong and cheap’

Her signature drink.

While they laughed across the empty streetlight lot, she watched the bodies coming in and out of scotties. 

Some half dancing, some half looking around, some looking like anywhere else in the world is the real place to me. That made her feel better.

She compared what they were wearing to her own attire. All black, sporty but un-scuffed trainers. Small and tight clothing. Skin and skin and skin, flooding her eyes.

(She was wearing a heavy oversized brown cardigan with washed blue jeans, her hair stuck out in a hundred places and her skin felt oily.)

Her eyes only left the people mingling outside the Bar when she heard the whistling and noise of her friends returning. The two boys carried a brown paper bag each and Dac carried one extra which he handed to her with a smile.

He was wearing a cut brown Borg jacket with a white t-shirt underneath. He looked good, like he always did. 


The Riverbank smelled smokier than before, and enough people had left now that everyone could sit. She was glad no-one had found her chair and felt a tiredness take hold as soon as she sat back down in it.

She made it though another two poems before she finally felt the need to go home.

Just before she announced she was calling a cab Jude hauled out of his chair and waved to the group.

“alright, thats me guys. See you on the weekend.”


“You’re alright to drive?”Dad asked, a touch of concern in his voice.


He shrugged. “I’ve only had one, I’m good.”


“I know it’s a bit out of your way but can i grab a lift back too?” she interjected, not wanting to make anything of a scene.


He shrugged again. “sure, it’s no worries.”


So she gathered up her things and said goodbye and before she knew it the door slammed and shut them both inside the car.

She leaned down and dropped her bag in the footwell, catching Jude’s eyes on her for a split second. She ignored it. The only thing on her mind now was getting home and going to bed.


She felt the tiredness wash over her again and rubbed her eyes until they were red. Jude reversed with one hand on the wheel, the other stretched across her headrest. She felt his arm brushing against her hair and closed her eyes. She knew what was coming.


As they pulled back into the street she got a brief close up look at scotties. Everything remained in full swing, a few people turning their heads to see the car before it sped away slightly faster than she thought it would.


She had her eyes closed the way home, which took far shorter than if she had been driving. She heard the window open a crack and felt a warm sliver of breeze across her face, rushing through her hair.

Through the crack in the window she heard a plane flying overhead, seemingly low to the ground. And she felt the gravel crunch beneath the tires as Jude pulled into her driveway. He killed the headlight and she opened the door as soon as they had stopped.

“Woah, woah, woah.” Jude called as she climbed out. 

“Whats the big hurry?”

He wasn’t fooling her with the voice he was putting on. She had had guys putting that voice on at her since puberty, and Jude was one of the worst.

“Thanks for the lift,” she said, shutting the door but hearing the window wind down anyway.


“Let me get you to your door,” he said, unbuckling his seatbelt and popping the driver latch.

“Seriously,” she replied, losing her patience. “I think ill be fine.”

She turned to walk towards the door but felt a pang of panic in her stomach as his feet crunched in the gravel not far behind her.

She walked, keys clutched between hands until she reached the door, and as calmly as she could she unlocked it.

“Well, can i co-”

She spun around, he was inches from her face, his eyes almost sickeningly hungry and his mouth hanging gape.

She shook her head, looking down as her came a little closer.

“No means no,” she said, in a voice that had started out strong but weakened. 

“We had a good time, I had a good time,” she continued. “But i just don’t-”

“Just don’t what?” he said, placing his hand on her cheek, leaning in.


With that, she quietly opened the door behind her and slipped into the house, shutting the door in his face quickly. For a moment she felt okay, like the danger had gone. But then he banged hard on the door.

“You absolute b***h,” he yelled, with a voice that sounded possessed.

“I give you a ride back and this is what i get?”

She locked the door and quickly backed away from it, almost bumping into Wind who had been frightened by the yelling.

Another bang and then nothing.

She retreated into the bedroom as she eventually heard his car start up and back out of the driveway. Not 5 minutes later her phone blew up with texts from an unknown number, saying how sorry he was. She turned the phone off after a while. She didn’t want to read them.


No words could place the feeling inside her.

She felt like she could cry. But there were no tears.

She felt anger. But there was no direction for it to go in.


She rubbed her tired, greasy eyes, and sat on her bed. After a while the sun began to rise, very very early. She saw the sky turn pink out over the still lake and decided to go outside for a smoke.

Wind tried to follow her but she pulled the door shut before he could get out. She pulled the last cigarette she had rolled out of her pocket and lit the end.

Out over the trees the branches looked like the heavy legs of spiders, all vacuumed up and spat out again. She rubbed her eyes again, feeling the tiredness now more than ever.


As the sun peeked its yellow head the automatic light she had been meaning to tear down behind her flicked off. The bulb broke with a loud bang and a fizz of electricity. She jumped slightly, her hand on her chest.

All the flowers around her spoke in unison with the winds gaze and to her left on the glass table, something caught her eyes.

A small creature had landed, with a galaxy spiral on its chest and a sharp but strangely kind look in its gaze.


It cocked its head to look at her and she did the same to it. It hopped across the table closer to her. 

She slowly reached out her hand and ran her fingers gently down its back, feeling for he first time that she had found other part of herself.


Things weren’t perfect, not by a long shot. But they were f*****g beautiful. And she felt that she was f*****g beautiful too.


And when her cigarette had burned to a stub she let it (and in that moment all things) fall from her hand.


And the bird stayed with her on the table as she cried and cried and cried.

© 2018 huh


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Added on June 10, 2017
Last Updated on January 23, 2018
Tags: poetry, birds, birdwatching, friends, cafe, car, travelling, girl, cat, dreams

Author

huh
huh

London, United Kingdom



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