The sticker on its smooth pink surface read "offer applies to stickered items only" and I saw that more stickers were stuck on other items, on many different things, but not on what I wanted. I wanted trams and pies. "Trams and pies, please," I asked the sales girl and she blinked at me. "Trams and pies, please," I repeated, a little louder in case she was caught with the deafness, "and I'd like them with stickers, please, the stickers that mean that the offer applies."
"I ..I, you… you," she said, her lips rounding, and I saw she was caught with a case of the stutterings and I smiled for they say smiling unconfuses loopiness and perhaps her words would smooth out if she were smiled upon. She was sweetness, the sales girl, and concerned for me, I could tell, wanting to assist me in my need for trams and pies. She was all concern, and she was concerned only for me, not for all the others in the shop, all the women with their small shiny handbags and the firemen and the policemen and the truckdrivers and mechanics and the boy with no hair on his head holding the hand of the ever-so-large lady with such a sweaty face I wanted to offer her handkerchiefs. No, this sales girl had eyes only for me, as if she were the daughter, and I the mother, and she wanted to help only me, for why does a mother need a daughter if not for assistance with her daily needs, someone to set the alarm for six and make the tea for her when she wakes up, and a shoulder, when the daughter comes of age, a shoulder for the mother to weep into, and an arm to hold onto as she shuffles.
"T…trams," this unfortunate girl, whom I was beginning to view kindly as a daughter, as my child, said and her face became questioning. "Trams is not here, sorry madam. Trams is in the trams section. And pies, they're not here, we have no pies."
"No pies?"I responded cheerfully. "Why, that can't be true!" I was all encouragement and smiles, showing my belief in her, that she would find the strength and stamina to look about her and supply my desires. "Of course you have trams and pies, just look about you child, and you'll see it's as clear as day and night, as black and white, that I am in the correct place for them, if they are anywhere."
Another expression came over the girl's face.
"Madam," she began to say and I could see she was turning wilful, as daughters are wont to do.
"Madam…" and before she could finish, I seized her sleeve and pulled her towards me.
Gently, I hissed into her ear so the crowds around heard nothing. "Trams and pies, I want, missy," I hissed, "and I thought that given what I am to you, you would have rushed to find them. If cats could sing, I'd build them myself, I am predisposed to being quite a tram- and pie-builder, but animals are mostly dumb, apart from songbirds and the like, and so I need you to help me to them."
The ungrateful wench pulled her sleeve from my grip and walked away. I stood for a moment, half believing that she was fetching me what I had asked for, but when I saw her walking, no, striding, back in my direction with two large mechanics and the small bald boy, I understood that my mothering was not wanted. She was not the daughter to me and I was not the mother to her and she was striding in that way that non-daughters stride towards their non-mothers, with mechanics and bald boys, and strong words in their hands. No trams nor pies were they bringing me, no meeting of my wants and desires was going to come, and there were tables around, stickers on things on the tables, people in between the tables, and just me, with my breathing in and out, as they came to me.
I cried then for my mother, and for the trams she made me and the pies she found for me, and I cried, "Mother, come and get me!" But Mother couldn't come from the ground they had put her in, buried without her things, taking her tram-and-pie secrets into that ground. "Mother!" I cried as the mechanics came to me, one on each side, and my non-daughter was nodding her sad head up and down. I bent towards the small bald boy.
"Trams and pies?" I said into his ear on his hairless left head-side. "Bring them to me, child, and you and I will be mother and son forever, forever and four days more." And a sticker I had unstuck from an item on a table I gently slid onto his head, his shiny pink bald head, and I whispered "the offer applies, just to you and me" and waited for him to be mine.
Life was small. It was tiny even, so tiny it was hard to see it sometimes. Life curled up to make itself even smaller, to fit into the kinds of holes that insects crawl into to get away from bigger insects. Life was sad. Life didn't want to be an insect. Life was getting backache from the curling up. It wanted to straighten out, stand up tall, shout out to the world. But it had been so long, Life wasn't sure how to.
I sat on the railings and looked out over the sea. Waves churned and the sun cackled from behind the clouds, and my mother, scowling, gripped the rail with both hands, her hat pulled so far down that I couldn't see her eyes.
"Do we have to...?" she said, and the wind took her words and spun them around so that they arrived jumbled. I didn't answer her anyway. She knew that, yes, we did have to. So we waited.
Life started by unfurling one finger. It felt odd, stiff, unnatural. But then good, freeing, sweet. Life tried another finger, and another. A whole hand, then both. Then suddenly, like a balloon, Life burst out of itself. Life grew and grew, out of the hole and into the world and along and up and outwards.
When I saw it, I had to stop myself from grabbing my mother's arm.
"There," I hissed, and took her shoulders and turned her towards the direction it was coming in.
"My god," my mother whispered. "I never thought I..."
We stood in silence, watching it approaching. I knew, the way I've always known about things, ever since I was little, that we were getting out of here tonight. That knowing rose up in me like holiness and light, air and fire. It lifted me out of myself.
"Come on!" I shouted and grabbed our suitcase in one hand and my mother's arm in the other, and pulled her down the steps to the beach, and we ran towards it, through the waves, my mother holding onto her hat, and the boat coming nearer and nearer.
Life bloomed and blossomed and burst through, feeling as if its lungs would explode with the bursting. And finally, when it seemed to Life that it could go no further, there was a pop and a ringing sound, and everything stopped.
We were about to climb into the dinghy. I was helping my mother—she had one foot in the boot, some big guy was hauling her in, and then there was a loud noise. Everything froze. The waves iced up. The wind was gone. I couldn't move anything. But I could see it, all of it. And all I could think was, 'We were so close. So damn close. Couldn't you just let us...?'
Life looked down and saw a tiny boat with tiny people. Life couldn't remember being that small, let alone as minicsule as an insect. Now that Life was all-encompassing, Life had lost all sympathy with anything that wouldn't grow itself to Life's stature. Life blew a little on the tiny boat. Life watched as the tiny boat swayed and tilted, dipped and dove, sank and disappeared. Then Life turned around and got on with something else.
We just love Art in containers, any sort of glass jars, or Tupperware, even. We adore that sense of containment, the feeling that the Art isn't going to, well, leak out. Or that something else will get into the Art. Art contamination, it's something we worry about a great deal. Some Art, it's terribly sensitive, you know. It's fragile, like a baby, or more like a souffle. The smallest thing can deflate it, like tapping a balloon with a sharp pin. We know about fallen souffles, we are all familiar with that utterly crushing sense of failure, that sudden destruction of all hope, as we gazed upon our Creation, sinking, sinking.
We don't want that to happen to Art.
So we prefer Art when it's protected. A frame doesn't do it. We debated this for a while but came to the unanimous conclusion that frames are simply not enough. A Painting must be encased, preferably hermetically sealed. There are ways of doing it so that you can still see the Painting, of course. We wouldn't want that; Art must be looked at and adored. We did some research and we're satisfied that there are ways.
Sculptures, especially the little ones, work very well in Tupperware. Tupperware comes in so many shapes, it's so versatile, we all know that from our own collections. It has that Lifetime Guarantee as well, so you never have to worry. We have a few early Rodin pieces in different Tupperware containers right now, and we all agree it doesn't diminish their beauty one bit.
Of course, Modern Art, the Damien-Hurst-Let's-Kill-A-Kitten school, must be contained, what with all that blood and other liquid. He's so very good at that. We've had several discussions just about him and his mastery of the containment. We thought about inviting him, perhaps, to lecture on it. When he's not busy, creating, of course. One of us knows someone who knows someone who knows his friend's wife's brother And someone else knows a journalist who could perhaps write about the visit and the lecture. That's important to us. We feel that this subject needs a wider audience. We'd love more participation in this discussion. We would be open to new types of containers, new technologies, new sealing methods. We're a very open-minded group. We're just concerned, and we simply love Art.