SISTERS UNFINISHED [ARTWRITE: unframed writings performed at: The Chapel Gallery Bromyard 25th May 2019]

by Sharon Ashton


SISTERS UNFINISHED       [ARTWRITE: unframed writings performed at: The Chapel Gallery Bromyard 25th May 2019]

Look at this one: ‘Sisters’, just like you and me!

Oh yes, they’re so like you and me! Where are they?

In a railway station by the look of it. Paris, I should think.

Why Paris?

Because they’ve got that Parisian chic look, haven’t they; Audrey Hepburn-ish, impossibly tilted hats the size of dinner plates and they’re prancing, as if they’re on a catwalk. All very French.

Prancing?

Maybe not prancing, but gliding carefully. Look how the one in white’s got her arm out, like this, for balance. You need good balance when you’re in stilettos and you’ve got those long skinny legs. I bet under those coats they’ve both got kneecaps that come to a point. Not like mine. All I have is the memory of pointy knees and what look like two turned-out suet puddings, and I’ll never wear stilettos again.

My chiropodist says stilettos weren’t designed for Anglo-Saxon feet.

What the hell are Anglo-Saxon feet?

The short stubby kind. He says I’ve got them, and yours are the same as mine, so it must be genetic; we can blame Mum and Dad.

When did he tell you this?

Pretty much the first time I saw him.

And you never thought to mention it before now?

It’s never really come up till now.

How does he know what Anglo-Saxon feet looked like?

Maybe he’s studied them. They can reconstruct faces from skulls, can’t they, so maybe they’ve done the same with the feet bones of Anglo-Saxons.

I think he was having a joke with you.

No, I don’t think he was…What are all those squiggly bits on the right, d’you think?

I was wondering about those. I think they’re birds.

Why birds?

Well they’re sort of flurrying like birds, aren’t they, and you do get birds in railway stations ─ pigeons, nesting in the roof spaces, swooping about. It makes sense if you’re a bird, doesn’t it ; out of the rain and snow and people dropping bits of sandwiches and crisps all over the place. If I were a pigeon, I’d live in a railway station.

I read somewhere that they’ve started using birds of prey to get rid of pigeons in railway stations. Wimbledon do it too. Maybe that’s what’s going on here; the pigeons are in a flurry because they’ve just spotted a bloody great Harris Hawk about to swoop down and rip their heads off, and that’s why the sister in white has her arm stuck out; she’s pointing  the way they need to go while pulling her sister out of the path of flying bird shit, crying ‘Merde! I faut sortir du chemin, ma soeur!’

I didn’t know you could speak French.

 I’ve been going to classes.

Where?

Local college.

When?

Thursday nights.

You never said. I would have come with you if I’d known. Is it too late to start?

It would be difficult. We’re moving on to more advanced stuff now; present and past subjunctive.

When are you ever going to use present and past subjunctive?

When I go to France and need to express emotion, doubts, and uncertainty.

Are you going to France then?

Yes, this Summer.

Who with?

With the French class.

First it’s Anglo-Saxon feet, then the French subjunctive and now a holiday in France. Why are you always so secretive?

I’m not secretive.

Yes you are. You’ve been hiding away and doing stuff ever since you were little, like that time you went behind the settee at Christmas.

Oh God, not that again! It was over fifty years ago.

Yes, but you’ve never said sorry, have you, so there’s been no closure for me.

I can’t say sorry.

Why ?

Because I’m not.

What d’you mean, you’re not ? Even allowing for the fact that you were a child at the time, you’ve had more than enough years as an adult to acknowledge that you did a terrible thing to me.

In a way you could say a terrible thing was done to me.

What are you talking about? You ruined my doll, my Sarah doll, the most incredible doll ever; three feet tall and legs that walked. The moment I saw her in Lewis’s window, I wanted her. I wrote and asked Santa for her, and the day I got her, you took her behind the settee and defaced her!

Only her eyebrows.

You scribbled all over them with indelible biro!

I was just four. I didn’t know what indelible meant.

It wasn’t as if you didn’t get a doll too.

Oh yes, I got ‘Tiny Baby Janice’

So why biro on mine? I couldn’t stop crying while Mum scrubbed and scrubbed with Vim on a Brillo pad.

 Well that got it off.

Only because it removed the entire surface of Sarah’s forehead! It’s not funny! I was traumatised! How can you not be sorry?

It’s complicated.

How’s it complicated?

Because it was, and still is, about justice.

Justice?

Even a four year old understands when something’s unjust, but being four, tends to trust adults won’t let it happen. When they don’t, shit happens.

I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. All I’m asking is for you to finally, after fifty odd years, say sorry for ruining my doll .

And all I’m saying is that’s never going to happen… You know it says here: ‘Sisters… drawn at New Street Station.’