And Joe’s pockets are stuffed with fizzy rockets to get us there.
Our footprints turn the snow to Swiss cheese.
‘How long will it take?’
‘Well, it’s ten thousand miles away and it doesn’t have an airport.’
‘All day then?’
I can’t remember the last time I spent all day with Joe. Definitely before he started
big school. Before his bedroom door was always closed. Before before before.
The gate to the park is an iceberg groaning.
No one’s here so I don’t have to wait for the swings. My breath sherbets the air, I am
the dust cloud after take-off.
‘Is it fun at the South Pole?’
‘Depends who you’re with.’
‘What we doing when we get there?’
‘There’s a research centre for electromagnetic studies. I want to look around.’
I shrug, the crinkly cold of my cagoule tickles my cheeks.
‘That’s what they use for ghost hunting.’
I want to get off the swing.
Joe’s not bothered though; he’s climbing the slide like we’re not meant to. Up the
metal, not the steps. He’s saying come on, the facility is at the top of this cliff! We don’t like
tea, fast or silly. That’s why that box in the cupboard is still full.
I check over my shoulder, start the hike. Joe turns himself into a ladder, cheers when
I reach the top. He lets me snuggle under his arm; and rests his chin on my head. The hair
I’m not supposed to mention spikes me. He sings the song Mammy used to. Hums the bits
she did because she never learnt the words. His voice doesn’t crack. I open my mouth to tell
him, but the creeping red up his neck warns me not to. He sings until the stars turn the sky
into a dot-to-dot and I join them up, turn the moon on its side, make it into a smile.
‘We should keep going.’
He trudges us for a long time, until he stops at a door. But we aren’t at the South
Pole. We’re at home where the lights are all off and the ghosts are all silent.
Martha Lane is a writer by the sea. Her stories have been published by Ellipsis Zine, Perhappened, Northern Gravy and Reflex Press, among others. Balancing too many projects is her natural state. Tweets @poor_and_clean