The Conker

Mary, wearing her rainbow-coloured coat, ambled along the path that crosses Peckham Rye and leads to the shops. On the way she noticed the many conkers strewn among the litter of damp leaves. Without thinking, even in the slightest, her foot scuffed the asphalt and she kicked a conker, and for a beat inhabited a younger foot kicking a ball into play.

An hour or so later, a child called Eliza, pushing a toy stroller with her baby doll strapped in, dislodged the conker from its resting place. Her daddy thought about picking it up and pocketing it for good luck; something his grandmother used to do.

Light was beginning to fade when a crow, from its vantage point on the black poplar tree, spied something shiny, a ripped crisp packet. It dropped down and strode around the silvery bag, assessing the best way to peck at its contents. In doing so its wing, like Batman’s cape, shifted the conker.

Darkness fell suddenly, uncannily, as Ulysses, pedalling his 20-speed bike, sped towards the pub where he worked. He was humming a piece of music as the first crash of thunder erupted. Next thing his front wheel hit the conker forcing him to swerve towards a woman in a colourful coat.

Mary was dashing to buy the cheese she’d forgotten. But when hailstones cascaded from the blackness, she turned for home.

Ulysses sailed on.

Joan Byrne