The man sat back and abandoned himself to the longest, pinkest and most cavernous yawn. It lasted as long as it took the girl to swallow the rest of the blueberry pie. She turned and looked out of the window and saw the cat. Miss Foofoo’s fat languid tail moved from side to side as she stared down at whatever it was, until, with one uncoiling action, she sprang up like a furry ball bouncing up in the air.
“D’ya get snakes around here, Uncle Fergie?”
“Nah.” He waved the question away and leant forward to spear a piece of cheese with a fork, the folds of his stomach swallowing the table’s edge. She could tell he was looking at her, even though she couldn’t see his eyes deep in their slits behind the rolling flesh. “You scared? How come you girls are scared of an old snake?”
She looked back into the yard. She could only see the red, crumbling brick wall that ran along the perimeter, its surface pock-marked and gnawed away along its base, revealing huge openings, and probably unable to take Miss Foofoo’s weight, only the scrawniest cat’s.
“When’s Mommy coming back?”
“Don’t you worry, now. She’ll be here in the morning.”
Why did her mother have to go and leave her like this? She was old enough to go with her on the overnight engagements, they could share the room, even the same bed, and then she wouldn’t be left in this house.
“Do you want me to read you a story later… at bedtime?”
His weight dragging her sheets tight against her body as he settled on the bed. The nearness of him in the small room. The whiff of something ripe. But she said quickly:
“Oh, I’m too sleepy today, Uncle Fergie.”
Outside, an evening breeze was toying with the leaves on the one tree in the yard and whistling through a tiny gap in the window frame. The chair creaked as he shifted his weight. She swung her bare legs to and fro to appear unconcerned and was feeling the cool draught they created when something feathery slid along her ankles.
Uncle Fergie dropped his fork with a clang. Then the cat appeared from beneath her chair.
“Ha. You’re not scared of Foofoo too, are you?’
No, she wasn’t.
She didn’t know what she was scared of.
Peter Arscott was born in Peru, went to school in England and later moved to Barcelona where he worked as a teacher and artist. He returned to live in London, working as a tourist guide and exhibiting at various galleries. He lives in Herefordshire and has an art and ceramics studio in Ledbury.
Cover image by MayaSchedrina
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