Hello All, time for the final part, yay. It’s Fiction, so feel free to skip this post if that’s not yer thing! This piece won tiny accolades in several small writing competitions here in Australia, although it’s a few years old now. PART ONE is here, and PART TWO here, so please read first.
A few readers commented that they’d prefer a longer read, to sink into it, so I decided to post a long one, rather than make it another two posts…
I hope you enjoy it, and thanks so much for reading!
In gratitude for words, G xO
“Roadside”- Final part
‘I can’t believe we have to find a way to live through this.’ She pulls at leaves that want to tickle her shoulder. ‘And I am a nightmare.’ A twig is snapped. ’You don’t deserve this.’
A cluster of leaves is wrenched and dropped, with fresh tears.
Around their homemade seat, the plants in her garden push back attempts to contain them. A palette of colours ramble. Daisies nudge native grasses, roses dance with succulents. An indecent blend that always draws a crowd to the garden Open Days.
Again he strokes the silver waterfall. ‘What’s happened happened. No reason. No purpose.’ A deep breath. ‘None of us deserved it. All we can do is keep breathing, keep eating, keep learning and loving. That’s all I’ve got Lu. I just keep hoping it’s enough for you.’
The hot tide rises again in his eyes.
Eris had used his best two pieces of wood and neatest copperplate writing. Did it straight away, first thing on the Monday morning.
She looks into her lap at the wrinkled hand holding her own. A recent memory slips in, of Eris dancing to his favourite Curtis Mayfield Motown song. He was in the kitchen, and hadn’t heard her arrive. His eyes were closed, body spiralling, lip-syncing the lyrics like a geriatric drag queen having a make-up free day. He was a boy in that moment. The boy who took ballet lessons from age eleven, until he discovered the complete freedom of improvised movement. Even now, at sixty-five, he was a regular at the weekly freeform dance classes held in the heart of the city. He went every Wednesday evening, at peace in his long blue nylon leotard, always returning content. Despite the knees. She had never gone, although she would love to. But she didn’t want to steal anything more from Eris.
Lucy’s response was slower, less practical. She watered the wildflowers every week, while her aching fingers stroked the tree’s marker: ‘Callahan family. Lost here. Gone home to God. Sunday Feb 7 2005’.
Friends have called her resilient, dealing with loss as she has. Two generations of family erased in one accident. Daughter, son-in-law, and only grandchild, a precious girl. But this afternoon, she’d recoiled from Eris’ headstone request as though it stung, and not even beloved cats or favourite cake could soothe the arrival of the rains inside her.
Sitting close on the bench, she squeezes his hand. Feels the hairs on the back of his fingers, and suddenly thrills at the passions they have shared. She remembers clasping him, pulling his hair. Remembers trying dirty words, then giggling together, under the pant of loving breath. She smiles. She can’t help it.
‘Thatta girl Lu. We’ll be okay.’
‘God, I must be crazy. After all that’s happened today, believe it or not, I’m feeling a bit cuddly,’ she says.
A laugh snorts out of him. He shakes his head, and pats her hand. ‘I don’t honestly think I could rise to the occasion, honey.’ Pause. ‘I’m still very upset about that lovely cake, and not finishing twenty-five across.’
They chuckle as the last sun warms their faces. A paint shop of tints jostle for sunset, eager to start. She helps him stand, while he brushes her hair away over the bare shoulder. Walking back along the garden path rubs them between lavender and lemon myrtle, scenting the air, but she’s hobbling a little, as is he. A lone bee rushes home before curfew, like a teenager.
‘You can’t get a limp too Lucy. That’s my signature movement.’
‘Again with the telling me what to do. Now is that wise? Haven’t we been through this already today?’
A perfect duet of smiles.
‘I’m surprised you didn’t dent that bus y’know. You hit it pretty hard.’
‘But I went with it y’see. Our motion became “as one”. You’ve taught me a lot Eris, with your dancing and prancing around all these years.’
Another duet as they reach the backdoor. He naturally pauses to let her go first, but she stops. ‘No, you go ahead darlin’. I want to get a look at your cute bum.’ She pats him on the rear, and he laughs out loud, creasing eye corners and cheeks.
The screen door closes behind them, and soon the sound of a kettle whistling floats into the garden. The tinkle of cups, saucers and plates becomes a chandelier draped from a nearby tree. Crystals of conversation decorate the shrubs. Wood smoke begins to flavour the air around the house, and ss dusk fades the scene to shades of grey, it feels like a contented breath is drawn.
Through the window, Lucy’s outline examines the dreaded crossword. She presses an icepack to various bruises. A plump cat crashes through the cat flap, too early for dinner, but meowing at her just in case the rules have been amended in its absence. Eris moves back and forth, readying tea. He clicks on the radio, and its sound is added to the chandelier outside. His face softens as he begins to hum and then sing along to a tune, body unable to resist a jig or two. His wife slides glances at both his face and wiggling rear end.
‘I love you Eris. I don’t think I tell you enough. I know you know, of course, but I think I need to tell you more.’
He stops pouring the tea, and puts the knitted pink cosy back over the pot. Both hands cradle it for a moment, feeling the warmth passing through the wool.
‘I know you love me Lu. You don’t have to say it.’ He winks. ‘Now make yourself useful, and finish that bloody crossword.’
Friends have called him courageous, dealing with loss as he has. Two generations of family erased in one accident. Daughter, son-in-law, and only grandchild, a precious girl. Used his best two pieces of wood and neatest copperplate writing. Neat, white, firmly nailed into the trunk. First thing on the Monday morning.
They have called him generous of spirit as well.
He never once held it against his wife that she was driving the car.
(c) bone&silver 2018