Thursday, 7 October 2010

Marbles Came Out Instead of Words

I was sitting by the duck pond. I watched the ducks sticking their bums in the air as they searched for food. Some fully immersed themselves and I would try to guess where they were going to surface. One appeared to be fighting itself. A couple of swans drifted on the periphery, looking unimpressed.

A man sat next to me on the concrete step, a little closer than I was comfortable with. He looked distressed. His forehead was creased and his skin was pale, shining slightly as if covered with a thin transparent outer layer.

‘Are you ok, mate?’ I asked.

He turned to me and opened his mouth.

Marbles came out instead of words. One or two at first. They hit hard on the concrete and bounced three or four times into the water with a plop. More marbles came bouncing down. They didn’t stop coming. They built into a steady stream that stretched the edges of his mouth wide until a discordant waterfall was flowing from his distended features. The duck that had been fighting itself stopped to watch.

I’m not sure how long it went on for, but at some point it finished. The ducks came over to see what the fuss was all about - maybe it was the entertainment before their dinner time.

The man coughed into his hands a few times. He let out a laugh, which turned into another cough as a final marble popped out and bounced down and plopped into the water

‘Well, well,’ he said. ‘I feel much better.’

His voice was thick and dented, a marble possibly still stuck in his throat. I wasn’t surprised. He got up, patted me on the shoulder and left.

The ducks looked at me expectantly. I’m pretty sure they knew I had the last of an almost stale loaf in my bag. As I pulled it out, I could see the swans take note and start making their way over for a piece of the action.

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