Ouch, ow, ooh, the inner gnashing of teeth. I hold my back ramrod straight, tensing my muscles against the cold slop of cream. I buck involuntarily as each dollop shoots bolts across my back. Once done, I rejoice in my newfound freedom of movement, the skin hydrated and supple once more. Tomato, beetroot, a spongecake dripping with cherry juice, such is the scarlet state of my spinal column. Taking shelter under a drooping beech tree, I survey the lake, envious of the shapes splashing in the sunglight. The cacophony of shiny caramelised children reach out across the water’s surface, overlapping and undulating, rising and honking. Coarse jokes and early afternoon drunkenness string the shoreline. Manet would be proud. I writhe uneasingly on the picnic blanket, its heavily textured form pressing uniform squares of decorative relief into my irritated flesh.
Head swirling heat, the reverberating throb of raised voices under the alloy roof. Sweaty palms, a dripping forehead, salt stains crawling along the raised stitching of my sleeves. We hurtle along the baking road, road debris clinging to the heated tyres. Our legs are heavy from the days toil but dreams of cold showers and ice-cream hurry us on. The air is hot, heavy with fumes. I breathe shallowly, each gasp dissipating before reaching the full depth of my lungs.
I rinse my work clothes in a tub of washing-up liquid, the water quickly discoloured by the impregnated road dust. The overlapping bubbles quickly replace the salt stains, I acknowledge the powers of industrial detergent as a film of grease rises to the to the surface of the bucket . The purge complete, I bundle the clothes irreverently into the machine before pouring the salty mess down the kitchen sink, making a mental note to scrub the cutlery lying haphazardly in the sink like the tin soldiers of a singularly petualant child.