By Kieran Martin
T was a kid who lived next to Jake. He hung around with us a lot, but then, he hung round with a lot of people. Looking back, I’m not sure how he managed to fit us all in.
There’s not a thing you could say about T himself. You might only talk about the places you found him, and the people you found him with. I first saw him when he was nine years old. He was in a sandpit with a bunch of year one kids: average age about five and a half. As I waited for my brother to put on his shoes I listened to their chatter, and it threw me: T was much older than the others. He had their babble.
A couple of weeks later I saw him talking with some year seven kids, out by the bike stands. It took me a while to realise it was the same person. This time, he sounded like a twelve year old. I doubt whether anyone noticed that he was much younger, or that the things he said made no sense. He sounded right, and he looked right.
The only time T didn’t resemble those around him was when he slept. And he slept a lot. We had no name for the thing T did but it was clearly exhausting. During the night his mother would creep into his room and put a few drops of cologne behind his ear. It was a strange fragrance to the people who live here: in the mix of smells around a school, from dogs, packed lunches, wet jerseys and sweat. The smell of T’s Baltic perfume was never noticed.
One day T’s dad walked past the kitchen to hear his wife singing a pop song in English. He waited while she finished, then his car backed out of the driveway never to return. T was gone too, and within six months the smell of Baltic cologne left him.
Soon, no one on this earth was able to pick T out in a crowd. Even when that crowd was very, very small.
His dad never intended to take him away. T had fallen asleep in a warm spot at the back of the wagon. He’d been mistaken for the dog.
In later years, T gained some colour and the people around him stamped a shape that didn’t leave him through the early hours of morning.
He became a keen gardener, lying near the raised beds with one arm deep in the soil, slowly leaking colour down to the roots of their yellow and white roses.
Kieran Martin wrote a couple of short pieces 14 years ago when living in a very small town. He also writes lyrics, essays and code. His sons taught him how to narrate; one of the many gifts they came to him with.
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