The sky’s a hard, ceramic blue, and the late afternoon so hot and close the park reached capacity long ago, filled with Frisbee throwers and skateboarders and people sleeping on the grass or drinking on the benches or just sitting looking around, while those still hurrying purposefully from work flow in an unbroken stream to the station, or stand staring down at their mobile phones in lines at the lights, waiting for direction, pedestrian or otherwise.
A man dressed as Super Mario in blue dungarees, red neckerchief and flat cap runs through them all, one arm working like a piston, the other bent up with his hand flat on his cap to hold it on. Suddenly he stops and leaps up, scissoring his legs. A builder leans out of his van in the queue of traffic and shouts something I don’t catch. Super Mario does though; he waves his cap in the air, shouts Wa-hoo! then carries on running.
You could say that Ella’s been drinking to celebrate the sunshine, like everyone else in the park. Actually, she celebrates most days that way, the only difference today being not the weather but the fact that she fell over when she finally made it home, cracking her head on something solid in the kitchen. Her family called the ambulance.
Ella has already put herself to bed. When we prod her sufficiently to get her to talk, she sits up suddenly and irritably, beats a bunch of pillows, then peers out at us all. I think I recognise her from somewhere. The corset, the wide, painted smile, the smudged makeup, the deranged peak of her hair. Surely it’s Ursula from The Little Mermaid?
‘How are you feeling?’ I ask her.
She leers at me, rolls over, and pats the bed beside her.
‘Come here and I’ll tell ya’