Page From My Life by Elaine Wilbur

The following short story, written by ICPPD graduate Elaine Wilbur, recently won the popular Page From My Life writing competition on RTE Radio 1’s Ray D’arcy show.

We climbed to the top of the high wall around Kelly’s field. Come on, she says. Just stand up.

It’ll be faster. Kelly’s field has the biggest hay jump. We heard that you could jump from the railway bridge. She wants to go and I want to be her. I watch her nutty legs stretch in front of each other. Her socks inside her corked German sandals. That smile she flicks backwards is warm and taunting, the same smile she has when she loans me another ten pence for Chickatees or Rubble Bubble. I want to get up out of my nine years of milky ordinariness. To shrug off early bedtimes and my Enid Blyton collection. To be white sliced pan for a day; normal for everyone else except me. Be brave I say to myself but my body refuses. My raspberry ripple knees grip both sides of the concrete blocks so tightly I feel printed with gravelly ridges. Those indents are the branding of my weakness. I knew I would never stand next to her or walk along this imagined tightrope. I knew it in the same way I knew I hated the wet potatoes in my mother’s stew. I probably have to go back for dinner I say and drop my leg down into my shame searching for solid ground. I see her knowing smirk as she skims away from me. Her form briefly covers the sun and I lower myself into her shadow before coming back to earth.

I wipe the ingrained rubble from my knees and make my way home. I hear the faraway screams of the hay jump threaded through the cuckoo’s call. The tarmac folds under my footsteps and I look back at my temporary mark. As I round the corner I see my brothers playing kerb to kerb. I hear the plastic spoke beads of someone’s bike rattling closer; someone who gets Kellog’s Frosties more than once a year and doesn’t have to fight for the plastic treasure inside. My fingers thrum along the different wrought iron gates I pass, each gap in a wall brings me closer to our opening. I have the scooped out feeling that something is missing. I look behind me wondering if I was worth following for once but I know that her reach is always further than mine.

I will always drop with the anchor while she soars with the sail. She is Mary and I am Laura, the Elisabeth to her Jessica. She is racerback tan lines and I am sunburned freckles. She is Quinnsworth, I am Dunnes. She zooms along with her in-line skates while I paint a P on my wooden tennis racket with black shoe polish.

It’s Wednesday so that means steaklets and chips. I can smell it coming through the open front door as I round the pillars. I like Wednesday’s. I still do.

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