Jack and Auruope


J ack is bored. The droning flight is long.

On the screen, the leaping orange and yellow flames and the billowing black smoke from the exploding cars had diverted his attention briefly, but he had already seen the movie at home on DVD. He feels now that he should have re-run that scene in slow motion and savoured the flailing stunt man with the burning back.

The air hostess and her narrow trolley appear again.

"Just a diet coke," he murmurs.

Jack understands that this is not the place to shake the can and see how far the cola will spurt in the air. If he were at home, he could compare it with the height he achieves peeing against the wall of the garage.

He releases the carbon dioxide with skill and expertly sucks the seeped cola between his upper lip and the aluminium rim. He gauges with accuracy the height from which he can generate a short-lived but satisfying froth, pouring a measure of the contents into the new plastic cup. He finds he can squeeze the plastic and make the liquid rise, fall and rise again. Bubbles spill over the top, onto the glossy surface of the in-flight magazine. The sticky cola circle encompasses the words, ‘The market leader in airport hotels and car parking.’

His father glares at him and sighs.

Jack looks out of the window and sees nothing. There is no cloud, nothing but blue, boring blue.


Thirty thousand feet below, Auruope is thirsty. He looks up to see the tiny silver bird high, high in the sky.

There is no cloud.

He is waiting. Everyone is waiting.

He folds his arms tightly against his chest, turns his head a little, lowering his chin against his shoulder, tucking his mouth and his nose under the shawl against the hot dry wind. Grains of sand and grit strike his face. Dust smarts his eyes. His mother is standing lean and still, her shawl, blowing towards him, long, thin, transparent, horizontal, as if it were her one black wing.

Auruope knows she is biting her bottom lip. She does that at times like these.

He lowers his lids, drinking in the familiarity of her narrow feet, her long toes and yellow nails.

He decides to turn his face away from the wind.

He hears a bleat. The kid is nuzzling for a teat, but the nanny-goat’s dugs hang withered and loose. She stands patiently, her yellow eye unblinking, listening.

The thorn bush, the sand and the distant hills of promise are brown.


Above, Jack shuffles past his parents’ knees. His father sighs loudly. His mother asks, "Going walkabout, Jack darling?"

To relieve the monotony, he locks himself in the lavatory to play with the cistern. He watches the screen digits on his mobile phone intently, counting the seconds between each flush.

Watching water is entertaining.




More stories