Three Craigs

I’m walking along a path with two Craigs, which at the time doesn’t strike me as strange. I’m wearing a harrier jacket, black with tartan lining, so is Craig. But this new Craig is wearing a bomber jacket. We haven’t seen these before, so Craig is talking and laughing with the new Craig.

The tarmac path cuts across the hillside from school to home. To my left the hill rises at a low gradient, a blur of common land, high grass, barbed wire and crumbling drystone. To my right, downhill, is red-brick and the backyards of terraces beyond which I hear cars ripple along the high street. Mr Harrison will be selling flying saucers, refreshers, army and navy and aniseed balls by the quarter, in paper bags that stick to their contents if left too long in the pocket.

The path is littered with green, quartz-like stone. Mrs Harker says that it comes from the tombstones in the cemetery across the common. She smiles when she says this, showing long teeth and plastic gums. Sometimes she’ll stick her tongue out, letting her ridge of false teeth fall to her bottom lip, her tongue protruding over the top like some curious newborn thing.   This would make us laugh, but scare us too.

New Craig, in Nike wally-waffles, scuffing the stones, one hits me in the calf. I turn and smile. His sharp look flicks to me then to Craig, who returns it. I turn back to look where I’m going, hairs rising on my neck. The long grass ripples in the light breeze, gravel crackles and rolls beneath our tread.

Even now I feel the hands pressed into my back, my shoulderblades pushed forward.   It’s almost as if my body, like clay, refuses to retake its old shape, wants to keep something.

My knees replaced my feet, sending my teeth into my tongue. I lay in the long grass, remembering a few weeks earlier when Craig rose from the same long grass with glass in his shin. The cut looked so small, frothing with yellow foam and black blood. His dad works on the North Sea oil rigs and I think of the blood bursting from pipes, arcing over the sea’s rippling canvas. Its energy diffused, then lost as it dilutes with the salty sea. I can taste blood and salt in my mouth. I can hear two Craigs laughing as they run off along the path.

I feel cold grass stalks on the back of my neck. I can still hear the laughter. Five years old and still very much a part of other people. So as they laugh, I laugh along with them. For all I know, my name is Craig too.

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