Archive for November, 2008
She sat in the in the vast expanse of the yard, her burgundy and silver paint glistening in the hot December sun. Martin’s jaw dropped as he saw the price tag affixed to her window but she was the stuff of his dreams. A 1976 Rover 2000 coupe, low mileage, one careful gentleman owner, meticulously serviced by a reputable garage for the 20,000 miles of its life. He had the money. God knows his life had finally turned for the best. His latest book of short stories had sold in the millions and the advance cheque for what was to be his second novel had paid his mortgage, allowed him to buy his mother a retirement home and left him with enough money to live comfortably for several years. Having the car of his dreams would hardly make a dent in his windfall. He opened the door and immediately his sense of smell was invaded by the odor of warmed leather and that new car smell. The front seats were worn enough to have that cracked leather look. The walnut dash was festooned with oil, water, and ammeter gauges with the obligatory speed and tachometer. Black switches protruded from every crevice and the marques distinctive crest took center stage. Martin turned to the salesman.
She stood in the driveway of the garage. Finally his. He shook the chamois and wrung it out and admired his handiwork. She gleamed as if she understood the affection that Martin felt for her, this inanimate object.
His writing had not been going well. He had thought that, if he had a sustained period of financial independence, it would translate into sustained creativity. Instead, he had found the opposite. Without the demands of a day job and the plethora of people surrounding him he had little to stir his craft. His days degenerated into long periods debating the merit of getting out of bed, then prolonged hours reading the daily newspaper with its diet of doom and gloom. The television that he had purchased only filled his head with second rate plots and dialogue and yet he could not remove himself from its influence. He thought of a drive in the car but a switched channel suddenly promised something interesting. He
Had begun reading Camus. A pile of books by Sartre, Dostoievsky, Solzyeniskn, and Kafka, built up by his bed.
A passerby would have only briefly glimpsed the car and thought to himself that something was vaguely amiss but couldn’t quite put their mind as to what it was. The normally immaculate car had missed a weekly polish, or maybe the offside tire was bald or the windows strangely uncleaned. He would have sped past and within a hundred yards not thought anything more. Indeed, the car had not been driven for several weeks and that journey had been through dusty and muddy roads ands Martin had just slammed the door sand left the Rover parked in the driveway in the hope that he weather would wash the grime away.
Martin realised that another day had passed when he had not gotten out of his pyjamas. He stood at the window and looked out across the street. Lately the shed across the road from his house had seen a lot more activity than it was accustomed to. Trucks and a range of cars drew up outside and bodies disappeared into a small green side door. Men shook hands and departed and a curious smell filled the neighborhood. Apart from Martin’s house the area was mostly unpopulated. Just a few senior citizens. Martin saw his gaunt reflection in the window. He hurriedly drew the curtain.
He was becoming fixated by the shed. What were they doing in there? What was that man doing on the roof and what was that tool in his hand? And what was that smell?
The traffic policeman squinted as he tried to make out the objects that lay scattered around the Rover’s interior He could only make out vague brown shapes littering the floor, books and paper intermingled with food wrappings. On the back seat he noted an expensive laptop computer. He checked the warrant and registration and noted that, although current, they both had only months to run. He also noted the angry scratch down the passenger door and the broken wing mirror. He saw the matching gouge on the exterior of the garage door. Having nothing to write down in his book he moved back to his vehicle and departed.
Martin turned the letter over in his hand again. He had inadvertently torn the return address when he was opening it and could only make out Claudia …. PO Box 3… Welli….ton. The signature on the explicit letter was indecipherable. Claudia Samuelson or Samson or and Sam, he couldn’t work it out. She had spoken of a mutual acquaintance named Kristin but he had only known one Kristin and he had known her and her alone. Claudia talked about meeting again in a resort town. Was this some code? Was someone telling him something? He didn’t recognise the writing but the intrigue and tone of the letter were distantly familiar to Martin. He looked out the window. The shed shimmered in the afternoon sun.
She had driven past the car many times and had admired the craftsmanship of an elegant English vehicle. Now the car looked forlorn. One mirror hung from its mountings and the other had disappeared. Rust marks had appeared on the once immaculate exterior. The front light was smashed and the bumper hung askew. The driver’s quarterlight window had a crack in it and the paint had started to fade. She briefly wondered what might have happened in someone’s life for his or her vehicle to deteriorate like this. She drove on and in a few hundred yards her attention had transferred to the lovely display of daffodils in the local shop window.
He had crept out as the black of the night was slowly turning to a new day. He tried to open the front door of the shed but it was heavily padlocked and Martin’s feeble attempts at opening it failed. He moved to the side windows but they had been painted over from the inside and he couldn’t make out what was inside. The smell was more intense as he rounded the back of the shed. A mixture of alcohol and chemicals with a hint of something he failed to identify, but which made his eyes water. He saw a ladder leaning against the rear of the building and he moved it so that he could climb to the rook. Martin saw a skylight halfway across the flattened rear section of the shed and he crawled over the slippery surface and looked down. He could only see drums lining a wall, a bench, some sacking spread over the floor, and some trolleys. He craned his head left and right but nothing else came in to view. Martin heard a noise and saw a light come on. He crawled back to where he had left the ladder and scrambled down. Heart pounding he rounded the front of the shed and he saw on of the trucks that frequently visited the shed. Martin put his head down and hurried across the lightening street, past his car, and into his front garden. Breathless, a headache starting, his hands slimy with perspiration, Martin gulped a cup of cold water, and drew the curtain aside and looked back at the shed.
The Rover sat on the side of the road, its tires deflated. The driver’s side had a large rent in one of the panels. The rear window had a hammer size hole punched in it. The once pristine leather interior now smelt of damp and mold. The walnut fascia faded and peeling was missing a number of its important gauges. The temperature warning light hung from its aperture as if someone had ripped it out in a frenzy of ill temper at its message. The floor of the car swam in a mixture of water and soggy cardboard. She stunk.
Martin hadn’t meant to follow the truck at first. He had just got into his car with the vague thought of going for a drive; making up for the times he had neglected the car. Then he saw the truck of the weeknight before. He turned around and started to follow. At first, it was easy. Then the truck driver must have realised he was being trailed and his speed increased and he started making turns at every intersection. Martin, at first scared that something might happen to him, dropped back. Then, realising that it was broad daylight and things like he was imagining only happened on the white screen or the pages of a book, he maintained his old distance. Soon, they were in the country and the thoughts that Martin had before now returned. Suddenly, the truck swung into a muddy side road and disappeared from view. Martin tentatively turned the Rover down the road and followed. At first, he couldn’t see where the truck had gone to then he emerged in a clearing where the road abruptly stopped. The truck was parked and a man stood to the side. Martin frantically threw his vehicle into reverse and swivelled around to peer oiut the back window. Thre was loud explosion and Martin’s face was showered with glass. The last thing Martin recalled was his door being wrenched open and strong hands pulling him from his seat. Martin awoke in his car outside the front of his house. He looked around the interior of the vehicle. It was a shambles. He looked at his hands. They were covered in blood, glass, and scratches. A hammer and screwdriver lay on the seat beside him. The interior of the car was littered with fast food containers.
The young man’s head swiveled as he drove past the Rover with his companion. He urged her to stop and reverse back in order to get a better view. He had recently come into a bit of money, a legacy from a distant uncle. A car had affixed itself to the back of his mind. The “for sale’ sign didn’t say much. “As is, fair mechanical condition, offers, apply within’ with a red arrow indicating the gateway to the side of the garage.
I’m a fly fisherman. There. I have said it. I don’t know what happened in the first fifty-three years of my life but I came to fly fishing after half a century of scorn of men and women in chest high rubber and intense concentration. My first and second wives would turn in their graves if they could see me now. Up in a back country river, flicking a small, smelly, grizzly, concoction of dead rabbit fur, feathers, string and copper wire into a pool of seemingly empty water. I have two stories to tell, that I hope will tell why I have come to this watershed in my life. They will tell how I came to meet Catherine and how I lost her love. They will tell how I finally lost my son.
I met Catherine at fly-fishing school. A strange assortment of people assemble to learn the art and science of fly-fishing. Young boys – dropped off by flummoxed parents keen for a few hours of respite. Young men, looking for something to bring them into contact with someone who could end their years of solitude. People like me. Aged, used up, bored, looking for something new to challenge them. Re-invention, re-invigoration, realism. And people like Catherine. Some women hold themselves in way that shows their inner strength, their vulnerability, their breeding. She was first to try the difficult long cast. She waded into the ice-cold lake and tried the impossible roll cast. No one laughed at Catherine, even when her line was full of wind knots. She did that to people. I fell in love with her by the second class.
We were learning to tie flies. For those who don’t know this dark art, you have to imitate or mimic a likely food source that your wily opponent, the trout, is feeding on. Some say an exact replica does the job, others, something that attracts or interests. I painstakingly constructed a fly that looked like an emerging nymph. A fly that could lure a trout to the surface. A fly that would be gulped as the poor insect struggled to leave its watery home for a few hours of brief, aerial, life, where it would ultimately mate and die. Catherine presented her fly to the rest of the class. This time, colleagues could not suppress their mirth. My love for her deepened as I felt the depths of, what for me, would have been humiliation. Catherine seemed oblivious and wryly smiled. Her gaudy attractor fly was a maze of fluorescent tape, feather, rubber, and ribbon. It looked like a birds nest on steroids. We were expected to test our inventions.
I came back from two hours of flicking my perfect replica of a nymph with barely a legal length brown. I emerged into a clearing where the ten other class members were grouped together, silently staring at something on the ground. They surrounded an obviously glowing Catherine. Before her, beside the gaudy birds nest, lay three perfect rainbow trout. The birds nest looked spent, bedraggled, raped, and violated. It had done the job asked of it by its creator.
My second story comes from a time closer to the present. I have children from my previous two unions. My son, Justin, still lives with Catherine and I. He also shares our passion for fresh water fishing although he is not as obsessed as me. We had decided to fish an inland river before it meanders across a plain, now largely given over to dairy farming and thus consequent pollution of pristine fishing water. This portion of the river has deep pools separated by rapid patches of fast flowing waters. Pools where fantails will swoop from the surrounding bush and dance at the end of your rod, then suddenly, descend on an insect gliding by. Here is where you may have your fishing interrupted by a disgruntled rabbit or hare who has been basking in the sun after a night of feeding and now dashes across a paddock to a hidden lair.
We had decided to separate and slowly fish different pools over a stretch of the river that backed upon itself. This way we would eventually end up at the same place. I had tried a Hare & Copper and then a Conchu d Bundhu rather unproductively and had finally decided that a snooze on the river bank under the mid autumn sun. Then for no apparent reason I decided to find Catherine and watch her fish. The day had suddenly turned cold and that may have influenced me in some way. A soft mist had rolled in and it hung around the yellowed willow dripping in the river. Scrambling around the riverside sheep tacks I came upon a two tiered pool where Catherine and Justin fished, standing side by side. Although they weren’t entirely intent on the large dimple I could plainly see at the top of the pool, Catherine was casting badly in that direction. I suddenly saw why she was so distracted. Justin moved over to her side and gently stroked her cheek, then lovingly inclined his head to hers and brushed her lips with his. I could tell by the look in both of their eyes that I was being cuckolded by my own son. That thought flashed through my head, and then I thought of other explanations, then came back to the same conclusion. Caroline was so distracted that her back cast met the water each time she presented her fly. Suddenly her reel screamed as a fish at the opposite end of the pool took her back cast line. I watched as she expertly played and landed the fish. A fluke catch and I wondered if she would call it that but my musings was overshadowed by the enormity of what I had seen.
I started all this by saying I had two stories to tell. Actually there are three. Picture me sitting before an open fireplace, stockinged feet, a woollen hat on my head. My jersey has holes in the sleeves and I have the beginnings of a beard. I have not washed nor shaved for three days, my skin has a grey pallor. I am crying silent tears. My heart feels like a lump of cold coal. I have been sitting before this pale fire since last night. I have been sitting here long after Christine finally told me the truth about her fish but not about her adultery. I looked into the yes of my son but saw no remorse or regret. What I saw was contempt. A pine cone softly exploded and red embers pepper the wooden floor. I no longer care enough to brush them away. I feel empty, I feel broken. I know what I should do – I have prepared myself for what I will do. It is said that a veil of peace descends at moments like this. I don’t feel anything.
Horatio wolfed down the last of his vet approved chicken pieces. His fawn, brindle and white coat shone with good health that came from the nightly baths in milk that his grown-up gave him.
That bloody obedience whistle. One day he would ‘lose’ it when his grown-up was out to work. Sometimes it seemed that she blew it for hours on end. Yelling – H-o-r-a-t-i-oooooo, in her shrill scream, and he was supposed to roll, beg, fetch. And worse. She sometimes really hurt him with that wrapped up ‘Marie Claire’.
He didn’t like men. His grown-up uttered a little shriek every time one stopped to touch or admire Horatio when they were out for walkies. She lectured him when they got home.
“Don’t jump on men. Dirty. Bark when they came close.”
She rewarded him with very tasty morsels, venison, fresh mountain trout, liquorice, when he growled as one glided past.
The last ten days had flashed past in a blur. There was the fight with the big Spaniel, chasing that bloody cat and the hurt to his foot, the embarrassment of the possum, and finally the ignominy of nearly hanging himself from that piece of barbed wire. And being cut down by those men in black hats and the red truck, laughing as they pulled and poked him. And what did all those signs with Scotties dogs with big red arrows through them mean?
But it hadn’t been all bad. A palatial residence called Felines Retreat where big cats worshipped the sun on gracious loungers. A curious castle-like residence with a large sign out front showing a dogs head adorned with a golden crown and the words BarkRoyal Dog Lodge. His most intriguing find was a building called the K9 Bath House where he could hear the excited yaps of his brothers cavorting in water. The world was a wondrous place.
He stopped outside the shop that served as butchery, grocery and betting shop. Sometimes, the kind lady gave him food. To his horror there was a picture of himself pasted over the front door. He knew what he looked like because his grown-up had posed with him in front of the mirror many times gently cooing
‘”who’s a lovely boy then, who’s soooo gorgeous then, who’s my little baby then?” before she squeezed his nose or neck and then planted a big sloppy kiss, scented with lily-of-the-valley. He kind of liked it but sometimes her big round glasses hurt his head or her dangly earrings brushed his eye. If he could have read, Horatio would have noted that beneath the picture, in bold, 46 point, Times Roman font, were the words ‘Reward Reward Reward. Anyone reporting the whereabouts of my fawn, brindle and white 7 years old Whippet will receive $1000. He answers to the name Horatio and is kind and affectionate. Contact 8762319 anytime night and day.’
It was dark. All Horatio could make out was the glow of the light that illuminated the small house at the bottom of the hill. But oh! – the smells. It was like the tinned salmon that his grown-up sometimes gave him. But it had a sharpness, a tanginess, an out-of -this world flavour noise that he had never experienced before. He edged forward. Had Horatio knows his gourmet cooking he would have realised that a dish of mountain oysters, or sheep’s testicles, were being gently soused in a white wine sauce. Horatio edged nearer the door. Finally his gastronomic conditioning overcame caution and he leapt up and yelped. Inside, the lady owner looked up from her newspaper and spotted the funny looking dog at her back door window, She looked at the newspaper, the dog, and back to the newspaper.
Horatio was finishing the last of the mountain oysters in white wine sauce when he heard the unmistakable sounds of his grown-ups Peugeot pulling up outside. Should he run or should he hide? He really had had enough of this running stuff. What he wanted was a nice long sleep on his favourite chair.
He turned his tired old head from the depths of the velvet cushioning and spat out the pip from the olive. Bliss. His grown-up looked over at him and whispered
“Hey little guy, get with the plot, concentrate on the nuts”.
A small child stands at the edge of the stage. She is dressed in a garish white costume made from flimsy material with many ruffles and bows. She wears white gloves which come nearly to the level of her elbows. Her hair is blonde but the dark areas near the roots suggest it is from a bottle. The hair is also decorated with bows. She wears shear silk stockings and the traps on her silver shoes make a metallic clang as she shuffles to the middle of the dancing circle. She is outlandishly made-up to look like an adult but she more closely resembles a clown. The band in the orchestra pit starts a fanfare and she robotically starts her routine. She seems to have left her youth in that still caricature at the edge of the stage. Powdered, rouged, she is totally absorbed in enthusing her dance with a level of flirtatiousness Far beyond her years. The middle age members of the audience shift uneasily in their seats. A woman, possibly her mother, stands with her hands covering the O of her mouth. It is not clear whether she is positive or negative about the girl’s performance. The girl throws out her hands and wiggles her hips, then extends one hand with fingers suspended in a parody of a homosexual flirtation. She ends her performance and bows to the audience and suddenly she is transformed into a child of twelve or thirteen. The watching woman stands at the corner of the stage and wraps her daughter in a coat as she flees from the stage. She whispers words of encouragement in her ear.