Memories form the fabric of our identities: we encode, we store and we retrieve. Children's memories are often formed from play, games and fun finding. In an infant, memory is like sand used in a play pit. When shaken through a toy sieve most of the sand works its way through the grid and disperses. As adults to the grid is covered with a fine gauze mesh, most of the memories remain as they can't work through the holes. As toddlers, we make recollections from a smell, from sight, from touch, from what we hear, from indifference or from danger?
Sal's first living memories are very mixed, some are fully comprehensible, others are fragments which can be recalled and put together. We go back to a time when she was still a toddler, three or probably four years old. A time when she was able to walk but had to be guided if I was outside. Harry, her eldest brother, her Saviour was still there to look after her and lead the fun-filled childhood days.
In the kitchen, low down as everything was above Sal back then. A late seventies build, low-cost terraced solutions to the ever-expanding population thrown up in social housing schemes all over Britain during that era. A council estate which the small riverside town didn't want, a town where anything untoward happening was blamed on someone ''Off that estate''. A development which had been named ''Cold-its'', its long terraced forms claimed to resemble the famed Prisoner of War camp from an earlier decade. The kitchen-diner, the Hatch and the second-hand gas cooker from a generation when domestic appliances were manufactured to outlive the initial purchaser. And on the stove there is a pan of boiling water, a pan with the handle pointed out into the kitchen. A handle pointed purposefully towards Sal. And towards the handle she walks, arm stretched out...
On the radio plays culture clubs 'The Church of the poison mind'.
She looks up at the World which lies mainly above her from the minuscule size of a four-year-old girl. In the bin, there is the raw skin of a chicken, torn from the poultry and dis-guarded along with the carcass. Raw and speckled in texture, shrivelling towards the edges, no longer fitting around the former bone structure. Sal looks towards the sink where her Mum sometimes bathed herself and her brother Callum when the bathroom was too busy. By the sink, there is the salad dryer, an egg joint device for drying salad instantly, common of the time but died out though years later. Mum and Dad are out, at the supermarket then to Iceland to fill the freezer for the family. She takes another step towards the handle, arm stretched out.
'The Church of the Poison mind' sings Boy George.
Behind her is Jack, her second eldest brother. Out of vision, he stands, lingering in the dark shadows by the sash windows, she is unaware that he is present. Positioned with his snow washed, turn-up jeans, his luminous T-Shirt and his almost crew like short, back and sides dark hair of the day. He lurks, waiting and watching. Waiting for the accident he has engineered to take place. Towards the pan she walks, arm stretched out to pull down...
'The church of the poison m-h-ind' blurts out.
Across the floor, she takes another step. Over the ceramic tiles, mopped once a day as the kitchen of a busy family Hub. Three boys, the youngest a girl, and a large Golden retriever. The pan of water boiling on the stove, burning liquid to burn, scold and disfigure for life. Jack waiting and watching for his plan to take place, dancing with the Devil, ready to band around the term 'Accident Prone'. She walks nearer, arm stretched out...
'Church of the poison m-h-ind
In rushes Harry, the eldest Brother, the saviour:
'What are you doing?' he screamed directly at Jack, knowing exactly what he was doing – he had caught him many times before. Acting as the protector he spins the handle almost upwards and away from her grasp. Saved from burning, from a trip to casualty, from a permanent scar. She now sees John, caught in the shadows, although too young to understand, she knew to stay away from John, to watch the evil in him.
Harry was there Saviour, Sal and Callum's, the youngest of the elder brothers, their Guardian. He watched over them, he guarded against the corruption in John, he second-guessed his next move, he kept them safe. The times when they were alone when the parents were at the supermarket when the house was the children's domain. But it was not to last. The saviour was to die. Fried instantly by an electrical cable retrieving a football when he was still just a child himself. But his Legacy was to live on, Sal and Callum knew to watch the evil in John, caution to be taken around pans and to avoid the moved stacks of fodder, but what they did not know then, even worse was to follow.
By Alison Little
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