Dove sei? by Angela O’Connor

Dove sei? by Angela O’Connor

Sunday morning, at least it was not pouring down. The miserable wetness of this time of year was magnified by the slate timbre tone of those around me. To crack a smile would literally crack their faces. The dourness they embraced was in stark contrast to our shared workplace. I had given up trying to make light of weather, badgers, Corbyn, Brexit or climate change.

Moving the perennials into the new display area, I held a Verbena leaf in my hand. Not long now before these hardy purple beauties would be saving that empty patch in many gardens. Bees would sail through the air targeting their cylindrical head and drink from the fruitful flower.

Hopefully by then I wouldn’t be here, escaping the maddening spring and summer planting clubs. At the bottom of the pallet lay some rubbish, the usual crap – Wispa wrapper, squashed Coke can, two ciggie butts and a Greggs bag. In the Greggs bag, poking out like a stamen, was a dirty A5 piece of paper.

I turned it over. It was his. Definitely his, the handwriting was unmistakable. The quirky ‘w’ that only Italians do. Although stained with water, dirt and snail marks it was legible. A list of necessities; passata, onions, garbage bags, dishwashing liquid, toothpaste, sensitive foam (gilette), milk, crema e gusto café and a goodbye card.

Even with a list you always forget one thing. Four months had passed since we last saw each other. I don’t drink prosecco anymore.

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Anne Frank-alike by Michael Healy

 Anne Frank-alike by Michael Healy

I gave a great yawn and turned to my wife,

‘I soon get so tired in this new, retired life.

‘I think I will go and have a short rest,

Half an hour on my bed I am sure will be best’.

 

I went upstairs and settled down

In no time at all I was sleeping sound.

But after about an hour I disturbed,

My bedroom door opened, and someone entered

I lay still and said not a word to the intruder,

My wife, I thought, must have brought me a drink

 Ann Frank intruder

I heard the door close as the person departed,

And sat up smart to find what they’d brought,

Nothing was on my bedside table

Except a length of white lamp cable

How very strange that did seem

What did the noises I heard mean?

 

I decided I might as well get up,

And went down stairs in trace of my cup

I asked my wife why she came to my room?

Not me, she said, I was out in the garden

I related to her what had occurred,

‘You must have been dreaming with what you heard’.

‘No, I think not’, was all I could say

Let us see what happens on another day.

Curious and curious.

 

A few weeks later I was awoken by banging.

I put this down to a noisy old crow

Something we have had before, making a show, (see 1.)

Next day I was out of bed quite early, a journey to make.

When I returned some hours later,

My wife was anxious, almost shaking.

‘After you had gone, I heard a huge bang,

I have looked all over but not found the source’.

By the way, there is no hot water.

 

I went upstairs and felt the hot water cylinder.

Sure enough, it was completely cold

 

I called our friendly local plumber to explain,

About the lack of hot water, (not the sound)

He said, as soon as he could, he would be around.

 

Next day came a knock at our front door

I opened the door and there stood the plumber,

Tony, please do come in, we need your help.

‘A new boiler and its heaters is needed, as you have a leak.

I will have to drain the cylinder and the cold water tank in your loft.’

‘Of course’ said I, ‘but when? Give me two days to get the equipment.’

As good as his word, that was when he arrived.

 

He explained he needed to go into our loft to empty our cold water tank.

‘Fill a few saucepans and kettles’ he said, ‘so you can have a drink.’

‘First I will drain the hot water off and get at the heaters.’

I left him to it and the banging began. And then he went into the loft.

Quite soon I heard him come down the stairs,

He came to find me, he looked worried.

 

‘I will have to disturb the room you have in the loft I’m afraid.’

Room in the loft? I was puzzled. We do not have a room in the loft.

Well I am sorry but you do. Come and look. I followed him back

Upstairs. ‘When did you last go up here?’ he pointed to the loft.

‘Probably a couple of years ago’ I replied. ‘Lead on’.

 

I followed him up through the loft entrance and gasped as I entered.

My eyes must be lying. Before me was a furnished lounge¸

then a bedroom, and even a small kitchenette. How, why, WHO?

Never had we agreed to anyone living here, nor converting it.

‘Have you told my wife?’ ‘No.’ ‘Then please don’t. Just get on with

the job as normal.   Remove anything that gets in your way.’

 

My wife was out with her craft group that evening and after Tony

had gone, I had my tea and then went inside the loft and hid myself

and turned off the lights.

 

I must have dozed but suddenly there was a noise by the loft hatch

Then light came flooding through from below.

A man’s head poked up and he then, athletically, pulled the

rest of himself through.

I waited until he came towards me but he then sat in his lounge

area resting.

‘Good Evening’ I said and pulled myself out of my resting place.

He was clearly very startled, but I held my .22 rifle steady.

‘Please, do not do anything stupid. I just want to talk with you.’

Then, I noticed a length of white lamp flex leading to his table lamp.

He saw me look. ‘From my bedroom’? I asked.

‘Yes, I am sorry, I did not realise you were in’.

I sat down in one of his chairs and rested my rifle on my lap.

‘Now, I want to go through this whole matter in detail.’

 

The interrogation lasted almost four hours, in between he had

made us a cup of tea. The story was fascinating and one day it

might make a book, as I recorded every word on my small

dictaphone. Suffice to say he was an educated man who

had read the story of Anne Frank. He was mesmerised by the

young heroine’s story and decided to see if it could be emulated

today. For a while it had worked but now it was over.

He had chosen our house as it had one of the he largest roof areas

in the village, in which he could squat.

‘May I go? ‘ he asked, at what seemed a natural end to our talk.

‘Collect your things, go, and never ever come back’.

He collected a few books and his razor and things, and

Climbed through the trap door, straight into the arms of my good

friend, Chief Inspector Taylor, and a dozen of his best officers.

I almost felt sorry for him, but only almost. After all, my wife and I

had worked very hard over the years for our home, not to share it with a squatter.   

 

  1. See ‘Intruder’ by Michael Healy,

On Retwords, July, 2014

 

 

 

 

The Envelope by Michael Healy

The Envelope by Michael Healy

the envelope

 

There it sat where it had been, for the last five days,

Unopened on my desk, at the edge, as was my way.

In a bright ring of light when the table lamp shone

Clear, on the back, the name of the sender printed on.

I picked it up and looked it over again, as I had so often before.

 

I fingered the quality paper of the envelope, and weighed it in my hands

The addressee was clearly me. I picked up my paper knife and waited, poised, as respect demands.

I started an incision at the right hand corner of the paper flap.

My hands began to shake. I carefully returned knife and envelope to the table top

I still had to complete that opening. Tomorrow, yes, tomorrow would be so much better.

 

I opened my briefcase, took out the file of papers within, and started work.

It was dark as I finished. There sat the envelope in a pool of light.

I closed my study door. Bed. Sleep if I could. Forget that envelope.

 

 Next day I awoke with my bed all tousled, and that envelope on my mind. I had to open it, I really must. But not now, later, after work.

My day was busy and my mind was on my job. Time soon went by, so now it was time to go home.

Usually I delight at the thought of returning to my comfy home,

But I knew what awaited me on my study desk; that blessed Envelope.

As I drove home I felt determined, today it would be over.

 

Dinner was ready as I walked in, so my task must wait a little longer

My hunger satiated I went to my study and sat at my desk

 

This was it, no more procrastination, I had to complete the opening.

I picked up the envelope and read the hospital’s address on the back.

Then there was the name of the consultant for urology and oncology.

I breathed in deep and picked up my paper knife.

Quite rapidy I finished the cut and pulled out the contents.

I held the page before me, and read:

‘Herewith are the results of your recent prostate biopsy’. I read and read and read it. It was clear. All this time of worry and I need not have worried.

And then, I caught my breath. The name at the top of the page was not mine. The realization dawned;

I had held someone’s results and still knew not my own.

Next morning I phoned the hospital and asked that my results be sent

This time I was ready for the envelope to come

And be opened straight away!

 

You see I had asked for my results on the phone, all clear.

That coming envelope held no fear.

Michael Healy

AUTUMN LEAVES by Cynthia Smith

AUTUMN LEAVES

She had always loved this time of year, Autumn. From her window, she enjoyed the changing panorama of the trees as they turned gold, russet and red. They reminded her of other Autumns, long ago; collecting chestnuts with her father; marvelling at The Fall colours in New England, on holiday with her husband.
The next day there were fewer leaves on the trees, more on the ground. She recalled running through fallen leaves as a child and the unique, crunchy sound they made. She wished she had someone to share the colours and run through the leaves with now. But she was alone, and housebound.
The woman continued sitting looking out of the window, as she did much of the day. She liked to watch the birds as they hurried about their business, and if a cat appeared her heart was in her mouth in case it caught one. She loved the squirrels, sitting up eating nuts or chasing each other. They always brought a little smile to her face.
Leaves Falling on the fossIt had been a windy night and next day there were not many leaves left on the trees, just a few stubborn ones clinging to the lower branches. The weather was turning cold and her pain felt worse. The autumnal colours were gradually fading to greys and browns. But the woman remains in her chair in front of the window. She does not move. She will never move again. Pale golden light slants through the trees as the sun sinks slowly towards the horizon, a crimson orb heralding the end of daylight. Soon the naked trees are silhouetted against the darkening sky.
The woman in the chair will not see Spring; but she is no longer suffering. She has moved into that soft, dreamless sleep that lasts for ever.
Autumn leaves. And Winter takes its place.
Cynthia Smith   31. 3. 15

(Photo – Falling Leaves on the Foss – Littlebeck, Whitby by Kevin Murphy.)