Dave Duggan

Blood on the Dreamtime

Dave Duggan

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She finds a plastic-handled vegetable brush on the window ledge, above the kitchen sink. The end of the handle is broken, sheared off in washing-up chaos. She tests the bristles with her thumb, and smiles. The house is quiet. The slither of her school-bag jars her ears as she kicks it out of her way across the tiles. She opens the patio door that leads to the yard. The Dreamtimes, luminous in the late afternoon sun, wait on the low garden wall that surrounds the flower bed. Her smile widens. The boots almost purr in the heat. The extra stitching – the serrated vamp on the uppers - gleams. They are Palace Lions, at the gates of a royal residence, waiting to pounce.

She releases a low trickle of cold water from the yard tap. She watches it flow, gently easing the tap back and forth until she is satisfied. She settles it just before the squeal. Then, with a deft movement, she flicks the brush into the water flow, bristles side up, until she judges it to be damp, but not soaked.

She kneels, as if in prayer, at the low wall and picks up the left Dreamtime, slipping her left hand into its velvet cavern. Turning it upside down to face her, she once more marvels at the arrangement of blades and cones that gives the boot its grip. Delicately at first, then more firmly she moves the bristles over the underside in a deliberate circular motion. A quick glance at the bristles tells her what she hoped for. The bristles are lifting the gore and the brains. The Dreamtime is no longer plastered in the dead man's blood. 

She should have brought more water, however. A bucket, perhaps. She wants the Dreamtime pristine. She gets off her knees and carries the brush and the left Dreamtime to the tap, which she sets to run again, just ahead of the squeal. Below the tap her mother has positioned narrow trays of flowers and plants she will place on the kitchen window ledge and along the low wall where the right Dreamtime now gleams alone in the sun.

She holds the brush at an angle and lets the water flow through it. Is that a glint of red in the water as it drops upon the green leaves of the emerging plants? Now she rubs the brush along the blades and cones of the left Dreamtime, then, emboldened, she angles the boot itself under the water's flow so that it rushes through the rapids of the blades and cones before coalescing once more into a torrent that shudders onto Summer Snapdragon.

Her mother calls it Angel Face. Yours, she says. The violet bloom pokes upward like a small mast. The water, not crystal clear, bounces and sparkles off the fronds and the flowers. The left Dreamtime, still angled to the flow, eases the life-giving cascade and she senses the plants straightening their stems to receive it.

She returns to the low wall, gently shaking the left Dreamtime and the brush. She puts them on the wall, underside up. She lifts the right Dreamtime and, inspecting its underside, confirms what she found on her return from school. There is no gore on the underside of the right Dreamtime. She placed only her left foot on the bloody neck of the dead man.

Dave Duggan

Dave Duggan is a novelist and dramatist, living in Derry. He writes in English and in Irish. His latest novels are Oak and Stone (Merdog Books, 2019) and Ór agus Mil (Cló Iar Chonnacht, 2022). Sole Purpose Productions mounted a twentieth anniversary production of his play Scenes from an Inquiry in 2022. He is currently completing a collection of essays entitled Journeywork, with underlying conditions: a writing life.

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