The Trap

I set the ALICE-TRAP at the top of the stairs hoping to trip her up and wait behind the top banister: squeezed between the wooden rails and the paraffin heater – which is off of course – we only use it in winter. Alice is a long time coming so I count spiders and then tick off all the boy’s names I can think of on my fingers, and I have got to TWENTY-NINE, which is Frank when I hear Alice come out of the kitchen, and Mama shouting Go and wash your hands and you can help with dinner. Suddenly I AM SO EXCITED I imagine that I am the ferocious lion from Job about to POUNCE on my prey, and I fluff my hair up like a mane but it just flops down again. Then I try to get on all fours like a proper lion but the space is too small and the floor is all dusty, so I shuffle forwards on my bottom ready to SPRING OUT ON HER. I hear Alice’s footsteps on the stairs, pad − pad − which is how I know it’s her, because Daddy’s walking is slower and heavier and Mama never comes upstairs. And as she gets nearer I stuff my fingers inside my mouth to stop myself squealing. THEN she steps on my trap and I pull the string and trip her up, and she is SHRIEKING and BAWLING and SPRAWLING on the landing with legs and arms OCTOPUSSING EVERYWHERE, and I jump out and surprise her with my lion paws and with VERY LOUD GROWLING. Then Mama comes out of the kitchen, her arms all dusty with flour and calls What’s going on up there? Do I need to fetch YOUR FATHER from the garden? And Alice glares at me, and her look is like machine-gun-fire filling me full of holes and she says No Mama I just TRIPPED that’s all. And to me she whispers ME or GOD will get you later! And Mama pushes her hair out of her eyes so that flour powders her cheek and goes right back into the steamy kitchen.

From Bird Sisters (Nine Arches Press, 2016)