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On the day in question, she took the black tarmac path that snakes behind the row of terraced houses. Houses with their postage stamp gardens that are secreted away behind red brick walls. They sit prettily on the edge of the small English market town. Across the width of the path are the allotments. Every forty or so feet of its length are gates, if you stand still enough, you can sometimes hear the squeak and crunch, as rust drags itself across the warped hinges. The home owners can slip out of the doors of their walled gardens, and walk to their patch. Sectioned plots of land just big enough for fruit, vegetables and herbs to grow. Each one has a wooden shed, some are used for hiding Dads from noisy homes, while others are potting and tool sheds. Some, are the holders of secrets, places where illicit pairings take place.
Old Jack, wanders the allotment with a paint kettle, and a blackened gnarled brush. “A ten pound note will get your shed protected” he calls waving the brush. Jack sleeps wrapped in bubble wrap and cardboard; close to the Brazier. Often he rests inside unkempt sheds that he tidys in return. He blows and snorts as he splashes his face at the ice cold pump. You can see where his stained hands are dried on the threadbare seat of brown corduroy trousers. The scent of Creosote wafts around him like midges beside a Scottish loch. Often people smell Jack long before they see him. A harmles but important character of the allotment.
As she walked, she looked at the bustle going on both in and around the allotments. Old men nod in acknowledgement to each other; men with no need to waste words on pleasantries. Years of shared knowledge and friendship, camaraderie and memories have passed between them. Women with their hair covered, and gloves protecting their hands, lean on wheelbarrows and forks. Girls laughing at secret stories. A young woman colours as she looks about; checking she wasn’t overheard. An elderly couple stop what they are doing to smile at each other, and touch fingertips … A shared silent moment. Father’s dig and tend the early veg. Cutting curly spring cabbage for dinner, digging in Manure, sold to them all by old Jack. She scans the scene spotting a damp steamy pile at each shed.
Life goes on around her as she continued on the path. The sun shone on the crisp morning, birds sang and dogs wagged their tails. A boy on a micro scooter passed her; head down. He is furiously concentrating on the pounding of his white trainer against the path. A cough pushed spit from his mouth as he passed her. It slapped against her stockinged leg making her gasp. The woman wiped it with her neatly folded cotton handkerchief, curled her lip in distaste. He poked up a middle finger and snarled back. A moment or two passed before she straightened her collar and went on her way.
The path comes to a halt. Cobbles trail a curve around the periphery of the luscious green patch of neatly manicured lawn. Several keep off the grass signs are the only things to mar its perfection. A dozen impressive buildings stand around the edge like sentinels. Her eyes scan the area and her brisk steps echoed as she looked for the large black door of number 5; the doctor’s surgery.
Old Jack squinted, and blinked. His green eyes followed the woman. Drawn to her composure, he followed at a distance along the track. Something bothered him, like an over-wound clockwork mouse with no control of her speed. He watched until she pushed on the heavy black door.
Inside they were very efficient. Fifteen minutes later it was over, Her chewed raw fingers struggled to push the three oversized buttons through the fastening’s of her best coat. Fingertips twitched, she pressed her palms into the worsted fabric to still them. Silently she tugged on the cuffs of her pristine leather gloves. A sound, a crisp snap made her flinch as the door closed behind her. Standing for a moment, she took a shuddering intake of breath placed her smart shoes one in front of the other. She walked the cobbles in the same manner she came. Controlled, back along the tarmac path. But old Jack saw the difference, he saw her legs tremble, the tightening of her lips. Oblivious, she concentrated on the rapping sound her shoes made against the tarmac surface … Click-clack, click-clack. Holding her head high she blinked furiously a fixed determined expression on her face gave nothing away to the onlooker; the passer-by. So she thought.
All was changed for her. Her world had tilted in a sentence. But life on and around the path continued. Birds sang the sun began to shine as the wind dried her lashes. He watched, until she closed the gate that shut her behind those red brick walls. He listened for the clink of keys opening her door. His view obstructed not by the walls or the door its self … but the clouds in his eyes. Jack shakes his head slowly as he logs another look at life along the footpath.
This is a Flash fiction or short story. It is one that I expanded and worked hard on to post as my first piece of 2020. In the comments I would be thrilled if you , “let me know if you liked it, or let me know what you think happens next”
Happy New Year let’s all be kinder this year.