192. Squiggles.


I’m staring out of the window, looking at the trees.
Whoever designed the factory all those years ago decided that trees would soften the impact of this great, rumbling, shuddering blot on the landscape, so we have trees.
I’ll admit that they are nice trees. Mature silver birch, hornbeam, whitebeam, and rowan.
I know my trees. I know them because I’ve spent so long looking out of windows from places where I don’t want to be. I’ve looked out of these dark boxes onto trees and fields and rain and sun and I’ve wondered, ‘What are those clouds? What’s that bird? What are those trees called?’
I suppose it’s better than being sat in a tree staring into a box full of miserable cunts, but not by much.
Most of the people I work with couldn’t tell an oak tree from a fucking telegraph pole. Intense Ginger Bloke once told me he’d seen a blackbird crash into the window. I looked down at the ground and saw a crow flailing around before flapping clumsily away to it’s roost.
“It’s a crow,” I said.
“No,” he replied. “It was definitely black.”
I’ve no idea what he meant by that, but I didn’t reply.
I’ve stopped replying.
I’m staring out of the window, looking at the trees, when I can suddenly smell jam. Sugar. Sweet tea.
Dimples is here.
She stands next to me, looking out of the window. She has a doughnut in one hand, a china mug in the other.
On the mug it says, “Worlds Best Nana’. I wonder what she’s done to deserve this lofty accolade. I’m guessing it is mainly cake-and-treat related. Both of my grandmothers were pretty shit, if I’m honest. I don’t think you can get a “Mediocre Grandparent’ mug, but if you could, mine would both get one for Christmas, if they weren’t dead.
Then I wonder if there’s a market for t-shirts that read ‘I SPENT THE WEEKEND WITH THE WORLDS BEST NANA AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY T-SHIRT AND TYPE 2 DIABETES’.
If people were truthful then they’d sell like hot cakes, so to speak, but how many nanas will want to advertise on their grandkids fat guts that they’re responsible for their terrible health and prodigious waistlines? Not many.
Dimples says, “Ooh, it’s bloody grim out there, isn’t it?”
I say, “It’s not much better in here.”
She giggles. “Y’bloody misery!”
I don’t reply.
I can hear her slurping tea and nibbling daintily but efficiently at her doughnut.
She sucks her fingers loudly.
With another woman I might find this sucking noise faintly erotic, but not with Dimples.
I look down at her.
She grins at me.
She’s got doughnut stuck between her teeth.
I suddenly imagine her naked.
She looks like a space hopper with tits.
I feel strangely faint and my bollocks shrivel and try to hide inside me.
I look outside again.
Does Mister Dimples still fuck her? I don’t reckon so, but if he ever wants sucking off all he’d have to do is stick a Mr Kipling’s on the end of his cock and ring a dinner gong.
Maybe that’s how she got so fat.
Everybody’s happy.
A redwing takes off from a whitebeam tree with a beak full of berries. The tree is heavy with fruit but totally without leaves. They lie on the ground like strips of wet leather.
I look up at movement in the tree.
Dimples says, “Ooh, look! Squiggles!”
I say, “What?”
She points a fat finger at the glass. “Squiggles! There’s three or four of them in that tree there!”
I ask her, “What sort of tree is it?”
I’m hoping she’ll surprise me, I’m hoping she’ll know what type of tree has been growing right outside her window for the last twenty five years, not ten feet from where she sits.
Dimples looks triumphant. “It’s a berry tree!”
I feel disappointed. “Yes,” I say. “It’s a berry tree.”
She’s watching the tree, her cherubic face animated “Them squiggles love berries, don’t they? Look at ‘em! Aw, they’re so cute!”
I look at the tree, look back at Dimples, look at the tree again. “Yes,” I say. “So cute.”
She leans towards me, in full Bun Whisperer mode. “I’ve got squiggles at home too, y’know. I feed ‘em stale buns that no-one wants.”
I say, “I bet they’re fucking starving then.”
Dimples looks puzzled. “Huh? Anyway, I put stuff out for the squiggles an’ sometimes we get fifteen or even twenty! You want to see ‘em, running around and that, having little fights over bits of cake! Oh, they’re funny! My hubby, he says I’m soft, but I don’t listen. No, I love hanimals me. Any sort of hanimal. They’re very clever, aren’t they? Just look at that one holding a berry in his ickle hands when he’s two more in his mouth! Ha ha! fancy! Yes, they’re clever ickle things.”
I rub my eyes then continue to watch the activity in the trees.
Dimples seems pretty content. Yeah, she’s eating herself to death but she doesn’t seem pissed off about it. She’s content with her lot, tapping on a keyboard all day, feeding herself and her children and grandchildren of an evening, giving the leftovers to the squiggles…
I say, “By squiggles, you do mean squirrels, yes?”
She giggles and wrinkles her nose. “Yeah, but we call them squiggles in our house. It’s cuter.”
…giving the leftovers to the squirrels in the morning. She doesn’t see a whitebeam, she sees a berry tree, every tree with berries is just a berry tree. Things are so much less complicated for Dimples – she doesn’t over think things.
I don’t envy her though.
I’d rather be dead than live my life in blissful ignorance. I don’t claim to know everything, but I do question everything I know.
I try. God knows, I try.
Dimples wanders away and I stare out of the window, looking at the trees. I watch the rats climbing in the branches, great, fat grey rats scurrying from limb to limb, gripping twigs with their pink, scaly tails, keeping balance while they gorge themselves on bright red whitebeam berries. There are no squiggles, squirrels, round here – there never has been. The rats have scared them all away.
We have rats, huge rats that build nests in the rotting drifts of waste paper round the back of the factory and swarm in the drains and the roof spaces. We have great, sleek rats that can climb trees and eat berries and shuffle around boldly in broad daylight.
I wonder about Dimples’ garden.
What is she feeding?
Are her squiggles the same as these squiggles?
Does her family sit and ooh and ahh out of the back window as rats swarm and fight and snarl in a seething mass in her back garden?
Maybe they are squirrels. Maybe I can only see rats where actually squirrels cavort.
Intense Ginger Bloke is lumbering past, on his way to the bogs.
I say, “Here, look at this.”
“What?” he says.
“There. In the trees.”
He scratches his arse. “What trees?”
I sigh. “The berry trees.”
He nods. “Oh, them. What about them?”
I say, “There’s something in the trees. Eating the berries. What are they?”
Intense Ginger Bloke presses his fat beak against the glass. “They’re squiggles, aren’t they?”
I stare out of the window, looking at the trees, looking at the rats.
“Yes,” I say. “They are squiggles.”

whitebeam-tree-winter

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