TROUT   [5]

Chloe  Gordon

  It wasn't the moss that annoyed me most about the old church. There was a lot of it, creeping through the gaps in the stone walls like sinister broccoli, but that wasn't the worst thing. I'm not, nor was I then, a religious person, so I guess that merely being in a church should have been annoying in itself, what with all of the pictures of Mary and shining suns and the huge wooden carving of Jesus on the cross. Christ was staring at me from the front of the room,. His wooden eyes drilled into me and he looked vaguely accusing. Leave my church, fiend. Believe in me or leave. I was scared, so I apologised to him in my mind, and after that he didn't seem as threatening. The carving of Jesus on the cross wasn't the worst thing either.  A colourful yet colourless Mary was looking slightly melancholy  despite the birth of her son, and even though the sun shone through  the glass of her face as if she had eaten a thousand sunbeams, she  looked as sad as ever. Mary didn't annoy me, though I did pity her,  having moss growing out of her surroundings in all sorts of strange  places. Aside from that - no, she wasn't a major part of the  irritation factor.

The pews were really uncomfortable, angled and  wooden and obviously crafted for the people of wooden flesh, of whom  there seemed to be very few. I tried sitting in many different  positions, trying to relive the dull ache in my buttocks, but it
 wouldn't work so I had to be content with a growing numbness and the  knowledge that I would have pins and needles later on.  I was sitting  on the end of my family's pew, and I was tracing the intricately  carved patterns of the arm with my own fingers, when Ma tapped my  shoulder and shoved a song book in my face. Then we were standing and  the organ was belching out a long, slow melody. I wasn't that good at  reading, or singing, so I decided to just look down at my feet and  think about Addy. 

She'd been a good girl, even with all of her petrol  bombs and jokes about our teachers at school. She put the two  together once and burnt down our history teacher's outside lavatory.  It was a wicked thing to do, but at least she did a good job of it.  She used to drill holes in Ping-Pong balls, then fill them with  petrol and attach a fuse made out of whatever she could find.  She'd  light the fuse and roll the bomb towards her target, and sometimes it  would leave a trail of flames, like a forest fire in insect land, and  she liked that. It was wicked, it was, but pretty nifty. I admired  her technical skills, if you could call them technical. Mr  What's-his-name came shooting out of his pokey little house and went  ballistic and the sight of his blackened toilet, standing alone in a  garden of ashes. Addy said later on that if he was going to pee his  pants with rage, that would have been a pretty convenient place to do  it in. 

The thought made me laugh out loud; Ma elbowed me hard and  told me to have some respect. I looked up at the huge organ. I know  that organs make a lot of people think of vampires or hermits or a  play I once saw about a man with a white mask, but they always made  me think of a big skinny choir. Especially this one. I tried to count  the skinny people with their sad, down-turned mouths, but I wasn't  good at counting either so I gave up when I got to five. Five is a  nice, firm number, but after that I used to get all muddled up. I  could never remember whether six or seven came first, so Ma told me a  way to remember: "Just think that 'six' doesn't have as many letters  as 'seven', so it must come first." But that just confuse me more  because 'six' has three letters and 'seven' has five, so I always  stopped at five. Anyway, even though I was having trouble counting,  it wasn't the organ that made me dislike the church. 

There was a man  standing at the front now, the skinny choir had stopped. He was  wearing white, not black like the rest of us, but he still looked  very sad. I don't think Addy would have liked him because he was  saying a lot of things that she wouldn't have understood. I got a few  of the words, like 'holy' and 'love', but the rest of the speech was  a mystery to me. He was probably a very nice man, and he wasn't the  annoying part of the church. I heard him say 'Addy' and it made me  pay more attention to what he was saying. People were looking at something that was on a stand in front of the old man; something I  hadn't noticed before. The old man finished saying something and lots  of people were taking flowers and necklaces and putting them on or  beside the box. It was a big box, and I was pretty sure Addy was  inside it. That was what was annoying me. Addy was my friend, and she  was inside that box. All closed up. They'd told me that she had died,  and I knew what dying was, but I was still angry that Addy was inside  that musty old box. 

I balled up my fists and shoved them in my  pockets, my teeth were digging into my bottom lip. I clenched and  unclenched my fingers as people cried and blew their noses.  Unexpectedly, my fingers closed around something rough. It was a  piece of sandpaper that I had found the day before, and I had put it  in my pocket because things like that always come In handy. I pulled  it out and ran my fingers across it, thinking about what I could do  with it. Looking up at the coffin, I realised what was really  annoying me about the church, and how I could fix it. I slipped out the end of the pew and slowly made my way to the front of the room,  to Addy's box. As I walked, people looked down on me with sympathetic  eyes, as if I was walking into a trap and they couldn't help me. I  reached the coffin and ran my fingers along the corners. They were  too sharp. Ma realised I was doing something when I raised the
 sandpaper to the corner of the coffin. She was starting to make her  way towards me. I pressed the sandpaper against the wood and rubbed,  rounding away the corner that was too sharp, too sharp for my round  friend Addy. 

  © 1998