Saturday, 4 January 2014

Chapter One of the year.

This is where he lives.

At the end of the village a small path crosses the rocks, it is marked by small splashes of yellow paint that someone put there a long time ago.

At the end of the rocks the path climbs up into the pines and from there it follows the curve of the bay before tumbling down through the sage and thyme that grows wild.

It is mild in the winter so the old man stands outside looking at the sea, though to be honest he is rarely inside except for sleeping.

He is thinking about the past, it’s a safer place than the future, which worries him in the small hours when he can’t sleep and he is too afraid to go outside.

He rubs his hand across his chin, he has not shaved for a couple of days and the skin is rough and feels like the sandpaper that his father used when he too stood outside this house, before it had been built and the timbers that he gathered from the flotsam still needed treatment before they could be called a home.

“I should shave”, he says out loud and the sound echoes back to him from the pebbles that form the beach between home and the ocean.

He looks down at them and one catches his eye, maybe the late evening sun sets it apart a little, maybe it is the shape, which smoothly calls him to caress it.

He stoops and picks it up.

It is warm, the sun has left her touch and he rolls it between his palms. He feels the gentle strength within and the years of surf that have glazed its edge.

From his pocket he takes an old piece of silk and begins to polish it.

From above in the pines the sound of a voice reaches him. Someone is laughing. It is distant and reminds him of bird song.

He looks up and sees a woman struggling through the sage and thyme, she had slipped and this had started the giggles.

She looks down and her eyes meet his, they are blue like the ocean, his are green like the sea.

She waves.

He is startled and doesn’t know what to do, so he just stands watching as she climbs down the steps, and rocks where there are none.

“Hello”, her voice is strong but her eyes are hesitant; “what a beautiful stone.”

The old man looks at the stone, it is, and not knowing why he holds it out to her.

“Would you like it?” he asks, “I seem to have many” and he shows her the beach.

But no one reaches for it.

There is no one there.

And once again the old man realises he was lost in the memory of something that seemed like yesterday, but probably really happened before these pebbles were formed.

He sighs an finishes the polishing, then turns and sets the stone onto the wall with the others.

Then he walks across the beach, stopping once to pick up another, this time random, pebble and pausing only to slip of his shoes he stands in the cold December water.

Just for a moment.

Just for the thrill or the shock, and then he steps back and stretching wrist, arm, shoulder and back he throws the pebble in a high rushing arc and watches it as it plops beneath the  surface.

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