They talk excitedly at first. Then there is a moment of silence. In separate ways they acknowledge the time and distance that has existed between them. Not with regret, but with nostalgia, directed vaguely towards a childhood memory or time. Somehow the expanse of those memories had to be desperately retraced in that first instance, and now, caught somewhere between today and three years ago when last they spoke, they feel that remoteness once again, each searching for something on which their eyes could rest, or perhaps a thought.


Choosing not to dispel this world of memory, which seemed to have run it’s course; choosing to invoke it once again, the man sat on the left begins to recall a summertime when they were both still too young to relinquish their childhood freedom, or, more significantly, unwilling to accept a looming responsibility for their own lives, and their own actions. He talks of when he used to fish purely to pass time, and his faint efforts to find work, and that moment when wandering the cooler shaded streets, laid barren by the heat of the sun, they had decided to rob the old woman’s house.


They laugh nervously, recognising something poignant in each other’s apprehensive glances.


As the woman sat on the right stares absently at something in the distance the man sat on the left searches her for some sense of whether this matter seems trivial to her; a youthful prank. He looks away, indicating that he has found what he was looking for.


And now the woman sat on the right begins to recount these details, which the man sat on the left had always wanted her to recount. These details he wants spoken by someone other than himself. His gaze becomes distant as he concentrates on these words, knowing what they are before they are spoken, and letting his thoughts wander around their significance.


She talks of the old woman they had robbed; of her fortune, won on a horse, and of her unfaithful husband, who eventually wanted to come back, and of her children who became so distant, and how the old woman would occasionally be reminded of those separate lives, by a letter barely attempting to conceal its greedy expectant request. She goes on to describe how the old woman retreated into the isolation of her house on the sea cliff’s edge, with pale peach walls and a small maze of trimmed green bushes surrounding a pond and fountain, and a path leading steeply to the sea front. That house named after the horse that won her her great fortune.


She talks of the hoard the old woman collected of tinned and dried food, pickles and preserves, and whatever would last, and of how she nailed wooden boards over the windows and doors, and shut herself away, never to be seen.


Again there is silence. The sound of wind rushing through trees mingles with distant laughter and the faint hum of traffic. They both smile awkwardly, separately, each remembering first peering through the kitchen window; the damp earthy smell; the jagged edge of a tin of baked beans; the array of dirty cutlery and crockery; empty cartons and cardboard packages, torn, scattered, lying on the kitchen surfaces and floor, all partly concealed in the half light of the window.



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COLIN LEGGE

© Colin Legge