A Collection Of Dual Carriageways

Nicki Minaj…

Little Mix…?

Katy Perry!?

Taylor bloody Swift!?!?!

Ah well at least there’s no…arghhhhh!…there is, there bloody well is… Justin fuckin Bieber!!??!?!

Simon scrolls through his iPod, a look of disbelief contorting his features. The kind of look only achieved by someone scrolling through a list of music previously, and unknowingly, sabotaged by a current or former partner. Not content with ending things out of the blue, for no decent sodding reason, she has to go and infect my iPod with this garbage. Bitch. He settles for the Shuffle option, choosing to take his chances rather than make any kind of informed decision, his mind once more awash with all the memories, anxieties and self-loathing that comes with the end of a relationship. He sighs and looks up, bright slithers of sunlight creep in through the stainless steel cladding surrounding him. People, young and old, distracted and determined, mill around him. ‘HEAD UP’ reads the sign across from him. He catches a blurred reflection of himself in the steel, his shaggy overgrown hair protruding from his pale, unshaven complexion. He glances down at the glossy, folded leaflet clutched in his hand, reading ‘…in some case kelpies would take their victims into the water, devour them and throw their entrails to the water’s edge…’ before losing interest.

The Kelpies eh, he thinks, a work in progress for so long, everyone watching on from afar, gazing in awe at this ‘incredible’ creation as it grows, the anticipation, the wonder and then, now that I’m here, it doesn’t seem all that worth it. Beautiful to look at yes, but bugger all else to it. His eyes narrow as an Olly Murs song blasts unwelcomingly into his headphones. He hits the skip button with far more force than is necessary. Come to think of it, he decides as he looks up again, the Kelpies are a bit like Mhairi; gorgeous to look at but hollow on the inside, nothing much to them. A sinister smirk appears briefly on his face before falling away again just as quickly, disappointed as he is with the clunky metaphor he’s just used. Hardly befitting someone getting set to study English at University in only a month or so’s time. ‘Fuck it’ he announces to himself quietly, deciding for roughly the twentieth time since the break-up that he is over it. This draws slightly baffled, with a touch of offended, looks from those perusing the structure beside him. Simon only slowly realises that one’s perception and grasp of the quiet–to-loud ratio often becomes somewhat distorted with headphones lodged in one’s ear. A swift rush of embarrassment begins to flood through him as he decides to quickly step out of the Kelpie and back into the afternoon air.

 

Bastard.

Lousy bastard!!

Fucking lousy fucking miserable bastard! Fucking…!!

Jenny’s eyes well. A small tear escapes from her left eye, slowly abseiling its way down her cheek before dropping soundlessly onto her green summer dress. A tear born more of anger and frustration than sadness. She’d told herself countless times, as had her friends and family, not to constantly scroll through Facebook, checking his feed, seeing how he was dealing with the split. But here she was. Scrolling through Facebook. Finding herself boil with rage, with betrayal, as she see’s the pictures he’s posting from Magaluf. Or ‘Shagaluf’, as him and friends keep hashtagging at the end of each post or picture. Tarts, slags, sluts. Draped around him. Him around them. One blonde in particular, in countless pictures; kissing him, sitting on his lap. The lousy fucking bastard!!! She has to stop herself from screaming out in anger, reminding herself that she’s here with her family. Her parents, her little brother, her Grandma. Plus there’s the rest of the kids and families swarming about the place. They’d hardly appreciate a 17 year old girl screaming and hurling ‘fucks’ and ‘bastards’ at her iPhone would they. Not on such a rare and beautiful summer day like this. No, not at all. Especially when they’ve chosen to spend such a beautiful sunny day staring at a couple of giant bloody horse heads!?

She closes the Facebook app down and walks into the ‘HEAD DOWN’ Kelpie, shuffling slowly a few yards behind the rest of her family. Her disinterested eyes darting everywhere except towards the mass of steel now encasing them. She opens the Facebook app up once again. Automatically, a force of habit and need. She doesn’t even need to scroll down this time. There he is. Right at the top of her feed. Bleary-eyed, grinning as THAT blonde sits astride his lap. Jenny grips her phone, squeezing, clutching, her hands burning, her knuckles whitening, threatening to burst through the skin. HE SAID HE WANTED TO BE ON HIW OWN she screams internally. He broke up with ME. He didn’t want a girlfriend, he didn’t anyone, he was moving up north to work on the rigs and it wouldn’t be fair on me if he kept stringing me along, only being able to see me once every month or so. Wouldn’t be fair on ME!? Well how is this fair!? Eh!? How is this fair!? She feels her eyes start to well once more, the urge to hit or throw something pulsing through her veins. She closes the app down once again and turns, rushing out of the kelpie. Her family glance round at her quizzically as she exits, the sound of her rushed footsteps echoing around the hollow structure.

 

‘Stunning, Simon? Don’t you think?’

‘Eh?’ he looks up as his Dad approaches, the rest of the family traipsing behind him.

‘The Kelpies! Stunning aren’t they?’

‘Yeah…well…they’re ok I suppose, aye.’

‘They’re better than okay, Si. They’re art.’

‘Get your backside off that grass Simon, it’ll be soaking!’ Simon’s Mum arrives on the scene.

‘And hello to you too mother…’ he pulls his sunglasses down a touch.

‘Dinnae play smart wi me Simon, get up so I can put a blanket down.’

‘It’s boiling hot!? Probably the hottest this country will get this year. The grass is fine.’

‘Aye but it was dinging it down yesterday young man so c’mon, up!’

Simon grumbles under his breath, nudging his sunglasses up again. He discreetly tries to wipe the back of his jeans which, annoyingly, are a tad on the damp side. His Mum catches him doing this and offers the briefest of ‘I-telt-ye’ smiles.

‘Aye,’ declares his Dad, ‘it’s about bloody time Central Scotland had something worth shouting about. It’s always your Edinburghs, Glasgows, your Borders that get the money chucked at them. Never the Central Belt. What did we have before? The Falkirk Wheel and a big bloody petro chemical plant. Brilliant. But this…these, I should say…makes you proud to be from the central belt so it does. It’s a great wee thing for a great wee part of the country.’

It’s a crap wee part of the country retorts Simon in his head. All it is is a collection of bloody dual carriageways. A bunch of concrete-swamped little towns, drained of any hope, cobbled together by road signs, roundabouts and a shared sense of lifelessness. The kind of towns where you’re sure to spot an Asda or Tesco trolley abandoned about a mile from the nearest Asda or Tesco store. That’s all these Kelpies are, in fact, the architectural equivalent of an abandoned shopping trolley miles from anything of significance. Doomed to be forgotten over time. He looks at his grinning Dad, pride etched across his face. Embarrassed almost by the depth of his own disdain for the place.

‘Yeah’ he agrees half-heartedly. ‘It’s about time. I like the water surrounding the Kelpies. It’s a nice touch.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, y’know, the whole association between Kelpies and water. The mythical creatures?’

‘Oh…aye. Aye, aye, aye. Nice play park for the weans aswell eh.’

His Dad turns around and empties out a plastic shopping bag, sandwiches wrapped in cellophane and bottles of juice tumble out onto the newly-laid blanket. Simon digs into his pocket and pulls out his headphones again, pressing play on his iPod as he does so.

‘Oh for f….Rihanna!?’

‘Wit’s that son?’ his Dad looks up at him.

‘Nothing…na, nothing. Listen I’m going for a wander around the place, it’s too hot just sitting here, I’ll grab a sandwich once I’m back.’

‘Fair enough Si. And hey…’ says his Dad, ‘cheer up eh? Plenty more fish in the sea as they say, or eh, or Kelpies eh? Haha.’

‘Aye ok Dad.’ He batters the skip function on his device once again as he walks away.

 

‘The equine creatures were known to be able to entice victims onto their back with their ethereal singing…’ reads Jenny. She tosses the leaflet down on the grass next to her. She sits for a minute or so watching her parents and Grandma playing with her brother on the monkey bars. Twelve years age difference. Maybe that’s why I’m taking this so hard. If I had a brother my own age or older I might have had some clue as to what massive bastards men can be. No, not men, he’s a boy. A stupid little boy pissing it up in Magaluf. Letting his hormones run wild. That was all he was after anyway. It must have been. Bed me and then dump me, that was it. Just in time to go and spread it around on holiday. Well she can have him. Bimbo bitch! She thumps the grass beside her with her fist. Pain rushes through her arm. Fu…fu…fu…arggghhh!!!

She looks up at the Kelpies, the massive structures towering over her as she sits in their shadow. What’s the point, she ponders. They’re beautiful, yes, but what’s the need. People talk about this area needing help, needing improvements but how is two huge horse heads going to help? People always talk about wanting to leave these towns, something like this isn’t going to stop them is it!? ‘Oh yes I was desperate to leave this life of teetering on the poverty line and lacking in opportunity but those two massive horse heads next to the motorway have convinced me to stay.’ Likely. She takes a drink from her bottle of water once the pain in her hand subsides. The pain replaced by that familiar itching feeling. An itch only ever scratched by the seamless unlock- phone-open-up-Facebook manoeuvre.

‘No…’ she announces out loud to herself. ‘NO!’

She shoves her phone in her purse and pulls out her iPod, untangling the headphones cable. She flicks through her playlists. ‘Night Out’…no; ‘T in The Park 2013’…na; ‘Date Night xxx’…..she freezes for a second, battling within herself not to click into the playlist. That itch desperate to be scratched once again. She stares. Continues to stare. And then deletes it. Quickly backing out from the playlists option and clicking on ‘Shuffle’. The opening bars to ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry kick in. Jenny smiles to herself, relieved, liberated even, in however small a way. She pushes herself up off the grass and turns to walk back towards the Kelpies.

 

The searing afternoon sun beats down on the two giant stainless steel horse heads, scalding the surface, small heat mirages sporadically dart around the structures. Beneath them families wander, sit, eat and play. Children scream in delight, in faux-horror, in boredom. Muddied knees and reddened cheeks race around the wood-chipped play park. The water surrounding the area ripples only slightly thanks to a feeble excuse for a breeze. It disappears sheepishly, unwanted, back into the afternoon heat.

At the edge of the water two figures slowly, and unbeknown to one another, walk towards each other. A male and a female, both in their mid-to-late teens. The female has her head down, the male his head facing up, sunglasses covering his eyes. Both have a set of headphones in. The male is singing gently to himself. Lyrics from a Taylor Swift song creep from his vocal chords into the afternoon air. The male’s eyes, it turns out, are closed in a dreamlike slumber all the while. Still the two figures close in on each other, still neither aware of the other’s presence. Until the female, in between songs on her device, hears a gentle singing. It confuses her, entrances her, she’s baffled by how close it sounds. She looks up. The two figures collide. Both throw their arms up in shock. Both are off balance. The female is sent tumbling backwards into the water. The male decides he should panic, or be heroic, or panic, or be heroic and panic, or…the male’s decision is made for him as the female, whilst flailing desperately, grabs a hold of his arm as she plummets to the water. They both fall in.

A multitude of splashing ensues. Both frantically waving their arms. Only then realising the depth of the water is minimal at worst. Both are drenched. The female’s green summer dress clings tightly to her shivering body. The male’s shaggy indie hairstyle now resembles an old wet mop. Both clamber to the water’s edge and pull themselves up onto the path. Both forming puddles beneath their feet as their clothes drip relentlessly. Others take notice of this scene. Some struggle to stifle laughter, others fail miserably. Some move towards the male and female, a look of sympathy or concern on their faces. The two figures are hunched under the weight of the cold now gripping their bodies. Angry looks and words are exchanged by both. And then silence. And then laughter. They look at each other, lingeringly. Smiles are exchanged. As are gentler, softer tones. ‘Your iPod will be ruined’ murmurs the female. ‘It’s probably for the best,’ answers the male, ‘it was full of rubbish anyway’. More laughter is exchanged. The female struggles to take her sodden shoes off, spontaneously she leans her hand on the male’s shoulder for balance, for support. He smiles. With her head down, struggling with her shoe, she only just grasps the sequence of events. She smiles aswell. Others arrive, asking if the two are ok. Do they need anything? What happened? Do you need a towel? The two answer that they are ok. They both say their families are just over this way and over that way respectively. As the crowd slowly disperse, satisfied with the answers given, the male and female smile at each other nervously, neither sure what the next move should be. Eventually they exchange pleasantries and apologies and begin to slowly walk away in opposite directions. Both their smiles disappear instantly as they do.

Both drenched individuals continue to walk slowly back to their respective families, both preparing their stories for their soon-to-be no doubt-bewildered relatives. The female turns and sneaks a look back. She notices the male does not. Disappointed she turns back and continues to walk away. The male stops, turns and looks back at her. He notices that she fails to do likewise. Disappointed, he turns back and continues to trudge away. Cars speed by on the nearby motorway as the sun continues to beat down. Almost in unison the two figures stop, one at the far end of the ‘Head Down’ Kelpie and the other at the opposite end of the ‘Head Up’ Kelpie. Both slowly begin to turn around. Excruciatingly slowly. Both afraid of what they might not see once they do turn. Eventually they turn. They catch sight of one another. Slowly, beneath the looming shadow of the Kelpies, both begin to walk towards one another.

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