Friday, October 29, 2021

A short story.

   Lockdown has led to me having much more time on my hands. I still manage to work ... mostly online, but I do not get to go to Auckland. I miss the big smoke, but only for short times. I like the solitude of this small town. I manage to get most of the things I need, down here in  Thames or get them online. I connect with clients isn't too bad via ZOOM, the phone, or other platforms.

    I keep busy. There's my voluntary work, pottery, playing my new Piano (It's electric), and learning new skills that are kind of technical. I have continued to write. A new Ebook It will be published on Amazon Direct Publishing as an Ebook, but be available in print form on demand. Voices in the Mist is a story set in two time periods; 1862 and 2021.

    I am enjoying writing short stories. Some I enter in competitions, just to keep me going. Here is one I did a while ago. I will keep putting them on my blog.

 This one is called CONNECTED



    Some people have a ‘face’ that you never forget. Time does not impinge on your recall, even if a name fails you. There are wrinkles, or age spots and the hair has changed colour … or diminished to the point that a brush is just a habit. Connections are made, across the years, on many levels; forged through childhood fights, games, shared adventures, and tears.

    On a spring day in the main street of Thames, the sun plays games, promising warmth and light one minute, then hiding petulantly behind clouds that belong in a former season. If the wind blows, it drives me inside the café beside the bookshop, which means my ‘forever friend,’ my Jack Russell, Perdy, gets bundled into the car, to observe from the parcel tray at the back. She doesn’t mind, so long as there’s activity on the footpath, two-legged and four … and those in between.

    Sometimes Perdy barks; whether it’s to attract attention, send a warning, or to let me know that she intends to join me on the footpath, once the sun returns. She recognizes people, ones she has sniffed, kissed, jumped on, or sat quietly between my feet as I discuss stuff … from Trump to books, the latter not usually in the same sentence! For a Jack Russell, Perdy exhibits a fair degree of patience. I guess she has become used to my regular visits to the café.

    I love sitting at one of the little round tables, sipping coffee and nibbling the occasional slice or sandwich. I am rarely alone. People notice Perdy. Invariably they want to stroke her, not just the younger ones … some oldies bend, to the point of falling, to greet her, probably remembering the special friend, now residing beyond The Rainbow bridge. I can see it in their eyes.

    People make the mistake of thinking she’s a puppy. Those eyes and her perpetual ‘innocent demeanor,’ invite attention. Conversations flow, connections are made, and children discover a trusting life-form that promises something special. Perdy senses something about some of the younger ones. I’m not sure what it is, but she seems to lean into some but pulls back from others … maybe the ‘insect-squashers’ ... or worse. She KNOWS!

    Connections reach out from ‘before’ … as people stop, look at me, then move off, but glancing back over their shoulders. A week later they may pass again. This time a smile and a quiet ‘hello.’ They move on, one, stopping by the bookshop, sifting through books on display outside by the main door. Some of the books are ‘reduced to sell.’ I wonder when one of mine will appear there … a sure sign that it has been around too long.

    I take notice. Something about her is familiar. The way she walks and holds her head as she sorts through the books, and that glance … furtive, yet searching for the link. I felt it. She hesitated as if she was going to walk over to my table but stopped. I could almost hear her breath out, before returning the book to the pile and slowly walking away.

    The following day, the wind is brutal. Winter is slapping Thames as if to say … ‘I ain’t gone yet.’

There will be no footpath observations today. The door to the café remains stubbornly closed, but the welcome inside is just the same. Warmth permeates the little café, spreading to the bookshop that connects. It’s more than a heat pump. Several people occupy the tables, one reading the local newspaper, another engaged in animated conversation with the owner, and the other … the woman from yesterday. She is sitting by the window, watching paper scuttering along the road. She mumbles, ‘stick it in the bloody bin, you oaths!’

She glances at me as I enter. ‘Oops … not you … I meant … oh bugger. Hey … I know you.’

I sat at the table next to her. ‘Just a coffee and a cookie, mate,’ I say to Rex.

    Rex smiles. ‘No Perdy?’

    ‘She’s in the car. Stuffed if I’m sitting out there … in that.’

    While he’s making my coffee, I think, ‘I know that lady from somewhere. She’s wearing a mixture of styles, spanning the 70’s through to the 2000’s Op-shop, an eclectic almost eccentric look.

    ‘You look familiar, but I can’t quite place you,’ I venture. I didn’t suggest she looked about my age. ‘Did we go to Training College together … back in the early ’70s?’

    ‘What … me a teacher?  Hell … I would have skinned the little buggers. I don’t have that sort of patience with kids.’

    Perdy started barking in the car. Even with the café door shut I could hear her. ‘I better go and check her. I think she may be tangled in her leash.’

    I left as Rex placed my coffee and cookie on the table. ‘Won’t be a second … better check on the boss.’

    I opened the back door of the car. Perdy was straining to leave her prison. She kept looking at the lady. ‘Do you know her, girl? It’s too bloody windy outside. How about I bring her out when I leave, eh?’

    Perdy whined as I returned to the café. My visit was going to be curtailed, the coffee hurried, and the cookie wrapped in the serviette, for later consumption.

    ‘What’s wrong with Perdy?” the lady said.

    ‘You know her? … mind you … half Thames does, given her escapes and adventures on Facebook.’

    ‘I just remembered,’ she said. ‘I know your little one from Onehunga Bay. I used to walk there, a few years ago. You were always with a group of ladies. Sometimes,’ I joined you.’

    ‘Oh … do you live here now? I escaped a couple of years ago. But … this is a bit embarrassing … my memory seems have gone the way of the gold around these parts.’

    ‘She smiled. I’m June. I had a black Labrador. He’s gone now … and yes. I moved here too.’ She took off her beanie. What little hair she had, was flat against her head. “Yeah … the big ‘C.’ I just had the last of the chemo. They reckon they got it.’ She sighed.

    I pictured the walks around the bay … the group of ladies and the crazy dogs. It was quite a gathering. Hell … it had even inspired a book … “TALK TO ME.”

    ‘Yeah … I remember. I miss that place, but I get back there from time to time … not always with Perdy. She knows you. She has a better memory than me.’

   We talked for a few minutes then I returned to the car … with June. She leaned in the back seat and what followed will always stay with me. Perdy kissed her, in that way that repels some, but is endured by others … wet kisses!

    I drove away, promising to meet June for walks at the ‘bay down here,’ at Kurinui.

Connections … are made and remade, over and over again.


Neil Coleman