Penny is walking up Carrington Road with her guitar case with her ipod on. She does this a lot in a deliberate strategy to use the drama of the music to elevate her small life in status. Actions like walking up Carrington Road, which is steep in some spots but really no big deal, are rendered heroic by the moody strings and sudden booming brass of a full orchestra. Penny likes to use some pretty good classical stuff like Vaughn Williams or Elgar, especially the Cello Concerto No 1 played by Jacqueline du Pré if she is in a melancholic frame of mind, but she favours film scores the most. Morricone or Danny Elfman or Hans Zimmer or Mark Isham actually, he’s really good. Or Philip Glass, if she’s in the right mood. Right now she’s listening to Thomas Newman’s The Road to Perdition starring Tom Hanks, she is pretty sure. The music is perfect and she lengthens her stride, stretching her hamstrings. She is called to adventure and she’s feeling ready for it, but she doesn’t need a co-star damn it, and Tom Hanks is messing with her head.
Astrid is on her back. Astrid is in the park, under a tree. Not quite under. Enough for shade but not so much that she can’t watch the clouds, which is exactly what she is doing. The clouds are those feathery ones, spread across the sky, she thinks, which reminds her of Prufrock, but they are not Prufrock clouds at all, she’s pretty sure of that. But what is the name of these clouds? The proper term, the Latin scientific name. They are not cumulonimbus or stratus and she can’t remember any more names from Year 7 Geography. Watching the clouds and not knowing their names makes Astrid feel uncomfortable. It’s hard to relax when you feel so ill informed, and that’s why she has come here, to the park, under the tree. It’s depressing, she thinks, Year 7 kids all over the country know this and I don’t. Astrid’s head fills with a stormy fury that the clouds seem to mock. The clouds scatter across the sky, cheerful and efficient, like they are trying to get an even spread. Like diligently buttered toast. No, not like toast for goodness sakes. The clouds spread and the tree smirks while Astrid lies beneath them both, like a patient etherised upon a table.