“They’re just stories,” she scoffed, throwing the book down upon the table contemptuously, “they don’t mean anything.”
The corners were dogeared already, the leaves withered and yellowing from age, the letters faded. Countless thumbs had turned these pages, each owned by a narrator of their own secret story. The book could tell more stories than merely the words it contained.
Tears tumble like vinegar down the deep trenches in her face, streaming over the crevices of her faded old skin and splashing onto the face of the dried old photograph. It was a haunting mirror, only half true now and stuck desperately in the past as she looked on at the handsome young couple smiling back at her in smudged black and white.
A tear for every year.
She sniffed back the flood and accepted a terrifying peace in feeling closer to him today than she had since he drowned in the trenches seventy years ago.
I was destined to be set free, and that’s the extent of my destiny.
They say ‘what ever will be will be’, but that’s not the same as destiny.
I say ‘whatever will be will be when you make the decision to make it be’.
So look where you like if you like what you see, since that’s up to you and that’s up to me.
The wallpaper is of a style beyond an era I could name, and yet the condition is perfect; no tattered edges, no curled corners, no scuffs, scratches or scrapes. It doesn’t have the same old-person smell that so many of the others had either, nor even that taint air of alcohol gel and cleaning agents. It just seems fresh here at WestAcre Care Home.
A bronzed light falls through netted windows of a large west-facing room. It’s filled with chairs not strewn randomly around the room but placed intentionally and with care so as to nurture conversation. The faces are varied. Some wrinkled, staring wistfully over the grounds at the setting sun, other soft and smiling, engaged in quiet conversation over a cup of tea and a hand of hearts. Their conversation drifts through the air like music in a next-door room, audible but not invasive; I catch little bits here and there as we wait at the door, and I know this is the right place for him. His tales will go down well here, and I know he will receive theirs eagerly.
“And what did we learn today class?” There was smudged ink on his hand and a flake of minestrone in his moustache. His cheeks were red; though not with shame or anger.
There was a muted shuffling. Eyes flickered towards the clock. Feet slipped into shoes. They sat. For the first time in the afternoon, silence ruled.
“Well?!” he bellowed at blank faces. “Nothing?!”
Now his face had cause to be flushed.
His bellowing was drowned by the bell, and nobody stayed to listen to him rant. He was left huffing at the blackboard, picking up paper plans and pen lids.
“Those blasted kids never bloody learn!” he mumbled into his mug.
“It’s been a long time!” he exclaimed, his smile wide but his eyes muted.
“How have you been?” I asked, loosing my tie and setting my pint briefly on the corner of the table. Perhaps he could see through the feigned interest, but he played along.
“Very well indeed,” he went on, “I’ve been travelling. South Pacific mostly; New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa. I spent a long time moving around urban Australia – you know – Sydney, Brisbane, taking whatever work came my way, seeing whichever girls came my way!” His grin was very broad, but still his eyes betrayed him.
“Anyway, I only flew back in yesterday and I’m exhausted. I probably should get on my way.” As we shook hands I looked for the sun-stricken tan line beneath his watch; the freckled skin; the bleached tips of shaggy hair. I like to think of myself as pretty perceptive, but I found none. He was always like that at school.
I haven’t written a oneword for a while, I think it’s about due.
I like language, I think it’s fun. Homophones are my favourites. Especially how they’re not always homophones depending on your accent.
Due know what I’m talking about?
I hope you due.
Burning torches and red faces, but no hoods, no balaclavas. We have no shame in this, no secrets. We sweep the streets like a slow stampede – calculated and considered but no less catastrophic. We don’t scream, we don’t shout, but the sound of smashing windows is drowned beneath the beat of marching feet.
Storm strike the city streets; united swarm; swamp assassin.
Together we swell to fill the space, together we stand beneath city hall steps.
Together we rise.
Late. Easy. That’s an easy one. I’ve got loads of ideas, loads of stories, loads of examples. I know exactly the story to tell, though there are so many to choose from, and exactly the words to describe it. And you’ll love it, too, I know you will. It’s just the best story, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll sympathise. I know how to tug at the heart strings, I’m kind of an expert (if I do say so myself).
Right, I suppose I ought to get cracking.
Oh, too late.
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