My Picture Book Days

by Robert Leeming


You lined up empty metal film canisters, like bullet casings, across the glass dresser top and filled each one with paper scraps ripped from your notebook covered with bits and pieces, patterns of thought, observations of endless fields through train windows, nothing special, nothing particularly revealing, just little written trinkets ready to be given away.

After each one was loaded you would pass a dozen to me and keep a dozen for yourself and we would duck below the wooden window ledge of our fourth floor room in the Bristol Hotel and toss the canisters out as gifts to the city. Christ Almighty people don’t half kick up a fuss when confronted with the milk of human kindness, consumed by the unruly nature of the presentation rather than the contents, hammering at the door, summoning porters and night porters who would flee their elevator homes throwing back the cage doors with a flourish calling for explanations and room keys.

You were all frowns and vapour in the wardrobe mirror as I threw you your overcoat and you threw me back an inflatable beach ball and you told me to let it down or leave it behind because we couldn’t move quickly with that and I decided to let it down.

In the street I slipped on our own canisters and you cursed me with one of those words you’d picked up while working the zeppelins in that brief period during the twenties when you could make an honest living checking tickets up there.

And I seemed to be recognised in the street, you weren’t, but I seemed to be, everyone seemed to be looking at me and I didn’t know why. Perhaps they recognised me from my television days? My radio days? My Kinetoscope days? My picture book days?

You waved your hands and gestured towards me to hurry up and I did and then I fell backwards and I slipped away again.

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