Wednesday April 28th, 2010

A Selection

small-islandFrom Small Island by Andrea Levy:

Then I stepped on to the ladder of the shelter and that was when I looked down. Blow me, Arthur had been out there day in day out and he’d not dug us a shelter: he’d burrowed a tunnel. I swear I couldn’t see the bottom. I climbed out again as Mr. Plant passed by me, and Bernard managed a look of confusion behind the mask.

“I’m not going down there — we’ll be buried alive,” I told him.

“Come on, Queenie,” he said, all agitated.

“Not on your life. They’re not meant to be that deep.” I knew it had taken Arthur a long time to dig it, coming in night after night mucky and excited as a boy from a sandpit. Bernard would help at weekends. “How’s it coming along?” I’d ask him. “Fine,” he’d say. I didn’t know they’d dug half-way to Australia. “I’m not being buried alive, Bernard. I’ll die up here, if you don’t mind.”

And I though I heard my husband say, “Suit yourself,” but it might have just been the mask. He started to climb in but then the all-clear sounded. The half of him still sticking out of the ground reminded me of a worm. I took my gas mask off to giggle.

When I got back inside I talked to no one. I went straight to our bedroom, shut the door and turned the key in the lock. That raid was the most exciting thing that had ever happened in this house. Tingling with life, that was how I felt. I took two steps and leaped up on to the bed. There was no doubt about it, I was looking forward to this war.