All that was left was a chickpea. I can cut it in half if you’d like? I say. She says no, but I do it anyway and she accepts it with one of those smiles where only her mouth moves.
We hover around the buffet table searching for something to say when a gloriously silver pigeon with a violet neck plume bats its wings before returning to its home in the fur tree.
It’s… almost fortifying to know how bright their feathers get out here, I jibe.
You know pigeons are covered with ticks, even in the country, she says. They’re like giant fleas, if you sit and watch a pigeon for long enough you can see them crawling all over it.
They’re fiercely loyal though, I say, trying not to hint at anything.
How so? She says.
They mate for decades, always stay close to their families, never fly the nest.
Pigeons only live for a maximum of 2-3 years in urban areas, she says.
That may be so, but the capacity for loyalty is there. Culled, maybe, by the inhospitableness of the world around them.
She says nothing and begins to nibble her half of the chickpea. I smile and slip back into the garden party.
You know, she says, breaking into a discussion on pool cleaning. We don’t get much use out of ours either way. Clean or not.
Huh, I turn and say. I didn’t know you had a pool. Have you moved from Surrey Hills?
No, I’m still in the same place. We’ve always had a pool, in the basement. I thought Gill and the boys came for a swim one summer a few years back.
I say nothing.
Have you always lived in the city? Asks one of our parents’ new friends from the local horticultural association. I admit, she continues not waiting for an answer, I love David and mine’s little trips down there but there simply isn’t enough roooooom you know, and she gestured towards the extravagant potted lavender bush she had brought with her as thanks for the invitation, for the really important things in life.
I begin to mindlessly nod my head back and forth with my usual well-worn ready agreement. Years of garden parties, years of vacant yessing, before realising for once I did agree. There isn’t enough space for the important things down in Becky’s bloody pool room or in her pokey flat.
Of course, the issue is flies says our dad’s oldest friend, steering the conversation back to pools. Swatting away a butterfly that made to land on the edge of his wine glass. A few sharply drawn breaths from the association members. Sorry he says, I thought it was a moth. Flies, he continues, forget fur or dog shit, flies are all I ever scoop out my pool. They have a genuine death wish when it comes to water, the ruffled horticultural members make eyes at each other as Martin goes on, his voice growing in volume and enthusiasm from the thrill of an audience. They’re a special species of fly. To which the members perked their heads. I’m not saying normal flies don’t end up in pools, far from it, but these are genetically defunct. Stretching the ‘a’ in genetically out so long I wondered whether I might be able to stuff the half eaten cocktail sausage Mazzy had spat onto the corner of my plate into his open gob. Of course, he continues, James never cared much about any of that stuff, he says pretending to find a smirk. Your father keeps a filthy garden, he says in a lowered tone and shoots that annoying grin at me and Becky. The issue is their wing size, he continues, back on the flies, their wings are too small for their bodies, renders them almost incapable of flight over half a metre or so. The rest of the circle begin to join in the hilarity of a fly whose own stupid course of evolution had rendered it unable to fly. I haul em about by the bucket load, continues Martin gasping in the throes of the hilarity of his own story, he slows to a light snort as the group wipes their eyes and I slip away and head inside.
Martins such a twat, I say to mum passing her the mayonnaise. Well, she says, we’ve known him for years now, no getting rid of him really… And your father likes him. We glazed out at the group on the lawn, still swaying under the direction of Martin's flabby wit. Well, says mum, to be honest I think you and Becky always gave him a bit of hard run if you ask me. To which I don’t reply.
As I ascend the stairs as wonder whether Martin ever even noticed what we used to do it. If that bloated shit ever considered the fact after Becky moved away that his car was never again covered in birdseed or the rate of animal poo on his lawn must have all but evaporated. I doubt he ever made the connection.
The door to mum and dad’s room is ajar but as expected the whole party’s jackets and bags are strewn over the bed. I see Martin polished leather jacket neatly laid on top, I noticed him wearing it as he arrived, it would have been impossible to miss, he looked like a tan-leather armchair waddling up the drive.
It’s like a bloody mahogany tent, she says smiling with that age-old sense of mischief we forged together. I know, I say, happy to see her. What are you up to? she says.
I open my tissue filled with the half-chewed sausage, ow and this for good measure, and show a chuck of dry cat poo I had taken from Mr Rex’s litter tray on the way out the kitchen. Brilliant, she smiles, have a look at these. Becky opens her jacket and pulls out a Ziploc bag full to brim with dead flies. Fished them out of the pool, she says.
And so, for a happy 5 minutes Becky and I filled the pockets of Martin’s jacket with chewed up sausage, dry cat poo and thousands of dead genetically defunct tiny-winged flies.