Down Hill Fast
When A said "come on, we're both
good-looking people" and I started
at his ugliness - pigeon-chested, culpable,
a jigsaw heap of bones and bargain lager;
when B pronounced "it's LAZY. Councils
ought to take the notice down
AS SOON AS THE EVENT IS OVER" - military,
disappointed by the blurriness of rainbows;
or when C shouted, toe-to-toe
"if it is like this now, how will we live together?"
so that I understood what he had not
and headed for the car;
when D, half-stoned and speaking of
the night he burned a car out with his friend
for the insurance, said "you're sheltered, honey.
Everybody lives like this,"
or when E told another slow-burn joke
explaining it as if to toddlers,
turned another phrase in Latin,
said "Oh, you state-school girls!"
or when you said "she's pregnant"
and tried to make of me a little boat
to bear you through your own tsunami,
carry you across your coral reef of guilt:
each time, each circumstance a ski-lift
that delivers me again to stand
unbalanced at the hilltop, scanning
all the great slant swathes of white
to choose a route - until I push off,
lean into my own weight, building speed
to take each corner in a knife-smooth arc;
belting downhill for the sweet dark pines, and spring.
Even as a child
the pace was measured
behind the safety
of an apartment window
observing, always observing
There are times
when slow equals stopped
a zero sum game
with no transfer of energy.
When observation is death.
the payoff matrix
is directly related to speed
down the fall line
a clock ticking against
the line of greatest slope
The end isn’t so far away
fear a cloud behind my eyes
my body an avalanche
cold air condensing the heart
focusing the breath.
Sleep can come
in the inertia of recollection
when the painful pulse of adrenalin
Brenda Smurthwaite was not a woman given over to humour. Or sympathy. Or empathy. Or indeed anything that might expose a chink of humanity somwhere in the heart encased in Brenda's sturdy, meaty frame which itself was clothed in the Edinburgh Woollen Mill's finest. From behind thick, but always clean, lenses, Brenda's small piercing eyes, the colour of Lakeland slate, would survey her sorry charges and she would proclaim, whatever the topic of conversation they had chose to strike up to relieve the monotony of a logistics firms' account office, that almost everything would lead to the slippery slope of failure and would result in despair, misery and in many cases, a slow painful death. Whatever the starting point, in Brenda's opinion, it was always 'down hill fast from there'.
Brenda Smuthwaite was a not a woman to enjoyed the thrill of a gamble. So when Julie Parkinson suggested the office set up a lottery syndicate, she felt the full force of Brenda's ire. 'Oh yes, Julie Parkinson, you might think that all you're doing is setting up a weekly syndicate, but you'll get the taste for it, you will. You'll get the fever. Gambling fever. You might think that all you are doing it setting up a simple way for the office to support good causes that also offiers the minute hope of an escape from your hum drum dreary lives, but believe me, it's all down hill fast from there. Before you know it, you'll be in Tesco wearing your slippers and a malibu and coke stained onsie spending your housing benefit on scratch cards, and him, him" she pointed at Declan Quinn, a young man innocently involved in the activity of refilling his stapler, "he'll be sat in some hokey pokey bed-sit in nothing but his pants, playing casino games he has NO HOPE OF EVER WINNING until he dies of malnutrtion. It'll just be down hill fast as soon as you start this ridiculous syndicate up."
The office set up the syndicate when Brenda was in Pwlheli.
Brenda Smurthwaite was not a woman who enjoyed the glamourous side of femininity. Carole Malone was once showing Julie Parkinson her new lip gloss when Brenda gave them the benefit of her opinions on make-up. "Mr Smurthwaite appreciates the natural woman. If I painted myself like a strumpet, Mr Smurthwaite would be disgusted with me." As Brenda resembled the elder, uglier brother of John Prescott anyway, Carole was not surprised. "It's make-up this week for you," Brenda continued, " But next week, it's down hill fast. Some rich arab takes a fancy to you, it's nice at first but before long you're walking the streets of Rochdale in December wearing hardly anything but an inappropriate gusset. And him, and him," She pointed at the unfortunte Declan who was completing his latest delivery schedule, "He see's a pained face and it's down hill fast from there, he's in Thailand surrounded by Lady-boys breaking his motheres heart. I hope you can live with that, Carole Jackson.It's down hill fast for Declan and it's all your fault. And with that, she went back to her accruals.
Brenda Smuthwaite was not a sporty woman either. To be fair to her, she was not built for sport. She was built for quarrying. Dave Dean, bored by chasing up late payers, asked the whole office in one question if they'd enjoyed the Winter Olympics so far. Brenda shot him a venemous glance and snoryted, derisively, "Winter Sports? Winter Sports? Once you start with them it's."
"All Down hill fast from there?" asked Declan, anticipating the mauling he would get for no crime other than filling in his timesheets while in Brenda's eye-line.
"Yes", said Brenda, "All down hill fast from there. Actually..." there was a pause. "That's quite amusing." THe office had never known Brenda find anything amusing before. In fact no one had ever seen her smile. But now, yes, there was a twitch. There was a smirk. There was a full smile! In fact, Brenda began to laugh. "Down Hill All the ..Way..."
There were now tears in her eye. She clutched her belly. Attempting to compose herself did not work and , still in a fit of giggles, Brenda left the office. Early, to every one's further shock.
The following day, the office learned that Brenda made it home but died of heart complications shortly afterwards. Mt Smurthwaite came in to thank them for making her last hours as pleasant as she had ever known. To everyones surpise, he resembled George Peppard very closely. "Once she's started laighing for the first time," Mr Smuthwaite said, "I'm afraid it sent her body into shock. It was down