No One Visible
    Alan Beard
A child talked to him and told him that she was going to her room. She pointed it out. Nothing but parked cars simmering in the heat.

‘There,’ she said, face and voice attempting to be like teacher’s, ‘there you see. That’s where we go on our days off.’

He looked again at the blocks of colour, bright, about to melt, the still trees behind. ‘I see,’ he said. The girl, in dungarees, had yellow skin. Was it the heat, jaundice? Sweat in the creases of his eyelids. Where were the adults? He looked around, half expecting a mother to slide up from the drain slots, or twist out of a car. His eyes tight against the noon glare. The offices behind him flashed brilliant as he turned his head.

The child replied to herself, ‘Yes we live there. We feed baby ac-tew-a-lee and then we feed the birds.’

He was sodden, wilting, in his interview clothes. Everywhere around there was evidence of humans, sounds issuing from the works behind, a radio left on in a car, but apart from the two of them, the stooping, grimy one and the small bright one, there was no one visible. The windows simply blinded. The noise was like silence. The cars melted. His hair stuck like plastic to his temples. She alone seemed cool and calm. Where were the adults?

‘Sometimes we lie there all day. No-one comes.’

No one came.

She lost interest in him, examined her foot. He walked away without a goodbye. After a few hot steps he looked back but she was gone and there were cars pulling out, heads leaning through wound down windows, people coming out of the great glass doors, a tannoy voice, and a breeze lifted the shimmer from the day.

Alan Beard's stories have appeard in London Magazine, Panurge, and Malahat Review; anthologies England Calling, Neonlit, and Best Short Stories; and on "radio 4." His collection -- Taking Doreen out of the Sky -- was published by Picador in 1999. He edited Going the Distance (Tindal Street Press) an anthology of twenty stories from Birmingham (UK) writers, published October 2003.


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