Tuesday, 29 October 2019

A Knee, an old van and pancakes.

Burning down the ....

Sunlight bounces off the glass of the open window and reflects on the surface of the mirror as Jack leans towards it; he is looking at the wrinkles around his eyes.

The sunlight makes them appear deeper; at least deeper than he remembers.  He no longer trusts his memory anymore of course, not for things yesterday in any case, though he still knows all the words of The Lord’s Prayer.

He used to recite it every Sunday in the church, back when with his sister Lottie he sat on the wooden bench at the back of the balcony whilst their parents prayed.

It has been a long time since he sat in a church; even longer for Lottie whose funeral marked the last time that they were both there together; his memory of that day was fading too.

“I feel old.” His sigh is audible and his daughter laughs.

“You’re doing it again. It’s your new habit.”

They had been running together earlier, through the forest before breakfast and now his knee was stiffening. He had tried to hide it from her but she had seen him limping; he had stopped on the hill home.

“I’m going to walk from here,” he said. “You go on ahead, I’ll see you there.”

But she had stopped too and walked alongside him and that had made him realise exactly how old he was; three score years and ten.

“Time to bow out then”, he too is smiling now.

“You look younger when you smile. You should do it more often”, she  is almost singing as she says it.

“You ALWAYS look young”, and he sighs again.


They are in the bathroom; Jack is standing by the mirror, his daughter is sitting on the edge of the toilet; the window is open and bird song from the street as well as sunshine finds its way inside.

The flat is small, on the second floor above the newsagent down the street from the station; Jack moved here two years ago, stepping down from the train that had brought him from the city with only his memories and an old suitcase that contained a few clothes, his swimming stuff and a book.

He hadn’t known at the time that there was a canal at the other end of the street from the railway, nor that the canal lead through back streets to the river’s edge; he had only hoped that there would still be an opportunity to swim every summer.

When he swum his knee felt better, it was an illusion probably but if he could he would choose to reincarnate as a fish. 

Each time Daisy visited and Jack was not at the flat she knew to look by the river; if it was winter or autumn he would be sitting on the bench by the oak tree waiting, if it were spring or summer she would find his clothes piled carelessly on the roots and she would sit and wait for him to return; from downstream in the spring, from up stream once the summer heat had lowered the waters.

She had never thought to question why but once he had told her: “Mum was the same.” She was none the wiser.


Daisy’s mum had been a dancer; Paris, Berlin, Budapest, she stopped when daisy was born.

“No regrets,” she had often said, “Just a few kilos more.”

That had become the name of the tea and cake-shop her and Jack had opened shortly after – A Few Kilos More. Even then they had been European.

The cake shop had kept them alive until the first of the riots when it was burnt down by angry racists, thereafter they travelled together in the old van from which they sold crepes to anyone that would have one.

There were many that did.

formerly published in The Archives.

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