We keep the wall
between us as we go
It was Valerie’s idea. Just a little one, she said. One we can carry around with us. Doesn’t have to be that high. We need to be able to see over it in case of emergency. And it can’t be too heavy, something light, some kind of aluminum brick, she suggested. I’d never heard of aluminum bricks. I thought that maybe the space shuttle was made of them, so it can get back in through the atmosphere. I said that, and on Valerie’s face I could see clearly that she thought I was an idiot, (hadn’t mother always thought so too?), but she decided to humor me.
We went to the DIY store.
“We need a portable wall,” my sister said to the young man in the red overalls. He thought for a moment.
“Well, I s’pose this could be portable,” he said, ushering us to Fencing. Valerie lifted up a light bamboo section.
“What do you think?” she said to me, but I could see her mind was made up.
· · ·
Now we have it between us at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Valerie says,
“Pass the potatoes,”
and I reach over the wall/fence to hand them to her.
“Thank you,” she says.
Valerie insists we take it when we go out, too. She says we can take turns carrying it, but I think that because it’s her idea, she should shoulder most of the burden. This doesn’t go down well. She glares at me, her face, which is so like my face and at the same time so completely different, folds into little creases of disappointment at the fact that I don’t think like her, don’t understand what she’s getting at.
“Ok, ok,” I say, and I pick up the wall/fence, which is hard to hold onto, bamboo being kind of slippery, and I take it out of the door. Valerie’s face relaxes.
“Off we go!” she says, and if she wasn’t so almost-elderly I’d think she was about to skip.
In the tearooms, we meet Sandra and Jacqueline. They like the wall idea.
“It’s just so unique,” says Sandra, who always favored Valerie, always tried to get in her good books. “Separation, yet togetherness. Two, yet one.” Valerie beams. Sandra understands, Valerie’s grin says. Sandra may not be my blood relation, says Valerie’s beaming smile, but she knows me.
“It’s moveable art,” says Jacqueline, who lives in another world most of the time, and she gazes at the bamboo as if she wants to eat it.
I sigh, and everyone ignores me. I lift up my teacup, blow on it, think to say something, know that it will be roundly dismissed, and take a sip of tea instead.
I think about aluminum bricks.
I think about a taller wall, a wall that would block out Valerie’s smarmy face, her aggravating laugh, her screechy voice.
And I wonder if, when she isn’t looking, I could crouch down behind the wall/fence and slip quietly away.
A former science journalist, Tania Hershman writes short and very short stories. Commended by the Orange Award for New Writers, her first collection, The White Road and Other Stories, is published by Salt Modern Fiction andwas reviewed by A cappella Zoo. Her stories have been published and are forthcoming in print and online in journals including Smokelong Quarterly, elimae, Dogzplot, Riptide, Mad Hatter's Review, Eleven Eleven, Issue 5 of A cappella Zoo, and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Tania is the European winner of the 2008 Commonwealth Broadcasting Association Story Competition. She founded and edits The Short Review, dedicated to bringing short story collections into the spotlight.