Who knows where the time goes?


Another evening drew in and the low November sun had been unable to warm the coastal breeze before it wrapped itself around the man walking up Duke Street. He pulled his threadbare jacked tight around himself and looked up to witness the new birth of Venus in the cloudless sky; the only bright point in the heavens able to penetrate the slight darkening of the oncoming night. “It’s going to be a cold one tonight, Emily.” He said as he watched the Canadian Geese fly over, heading south for the winter in their V formation. A vacation away from the dreariness of this place, he thought. What makes them leave, what makes them suddenly decide that it’s getting to cold to stick around? Lord, compared to where they’re going it’s always too cold. He followed the mournful sound of church bells calling across the old fishing town like loons searching for a mate over the lake. Although the Angelus conversation was one sided, all across the village the congregation would be preparing for evening prayers Mid way up Duke Street he looked down at his watch; late again. He thought about a vacation and how much he needed one. It had been a tiring year and he wasn’t getting any younger. “Maybe in the spring,” he said. Let’s start the New Year with a holiday. He always thought of spring as the new year, the rising of the daffodils, the new green on the trees, all more important than the dancing at midnight and singing ‘should auld acquaintance be forgot…’ He guessed that was the problem; old acquaintances, there weren’t so many of them anymore, they had all moved on. They all knew that it was their time to leave, just like the Geese. He thought about Patrick Carr, his old friend from school, they’d been inseparable pretty much since they were born. But he’d seen the change in Patrick last spring, his eyes were duller, lacked the characteristic rejuvenation of the New Year. “Gerald,” Patrick had said. “I need a holiday, or I need a change, the batteries aren’t what they used to be, the overnight quick charge just doesn’t cut it anymore.” He left in the summer. That was the last time they spoke.

The slight incline of Duke Street was taking its toll on Gerald; sweat beads collected around his forehead. He took out an old hanky and wiped his brow. He felt a slight twinge in his chest, a skipped heartbeat, and a moment of silence inside. The calm before the storm, he thought. Ok, I’ll take a rest now, if I must Emily. He knew Patrick would be laughing at him if he could see him now. “Come on old boy!” he’d say, “We used to eat this hill for breakfast as lads.” That was true, they certainly had. Breakfast back then was double PE in the morning, and Duke Street used to make up the opening course, the first mile in their cross country run. Patrick used to always stop around here though, so he can’t be so smug, this was where he always took his first cigarette break during the run. They were out of sight of the school by this time and going solo. “Ciggy?” Patrick would ask every time despite knowing that he didn’t smoke. Hadn’t smoked then and never had since. Pie and a pint in the evening after bingo was his only vice now. He leaned against the farm style dry wall and looked west to where the sun had almost lost its grip on the day. Duke had always been a great vantage point to look across the bay and watch the sunset over the water. He often stopped here, took a moment to take in the evening. Sometimes he felt that was what the pain was for; his own internal alarm clock reminding him to stop a look around and watch the beauty of the sun burning the sea. Gerald looked at his watch again. Only a few minutes since he’d looked at it earlier, but it seemed like a long time. “Well, this isn’t getting me home to my coal fire.” Who knows where the times goes, he thought as he continued his journey along the road. A few hundred yards later, Gerald turned down the alley that connected Duke to Drake Street. A small path barely wide enough for one, with the overgrown bushes and the skeletal trees. For a moment he felt lonely, maybe not for that exact moment more for this time in his life, but he was quick to suppress the feeling. He had Emily and as long as she was around that was all that mattered. She was always with him so he couldn’t really get lonely.

He was stopped abruptly by the movement at the end of the path; a fox startled turned and eyed him quickly before bolting into the undergrowth. He watched the fallen leaves disturbed by fox for a short while, thought about how the foxes had intruded on town life or more to the point how town life had enforced itself on the fox’s habitat, and then carried on his way. He only had to walk another fifty yards before he stopped to read the inscribed plaque on the oaken gate blocking his route. The plaque was tarnished and in need of a polish, he rubbed it with the sleeve of his coat and unearthed the name Sara Hill, but the rest was beyond his cleaning skills. He opened it and passed through. Two large Yew trees towered above him like sentries at the gate, in full garments they looked at him quizzically, as if demanding the password. He looked down at the bare ground below them, suppressed flora unable to make its mark above the stoic trees. “It’s all right boys,” he said, “It’s only Gerald; my shroud of white stuck all with Yew.” That seemed to be enough as he passed through them with only a slight movement of their sombre foliage, either in answer or from the breeze. He left the gnarled trunk trees and walked across the well kempt grass heading for the wooden park bench on the far side. The grass was always good at this time of year, the last cut before the winter would generally see it through to the new growth in spring. Sitting on the bench he took a few deep breaths, his lungs rasping as the cold air was forced through them. “Well,” he paused and took another breath, “we made it again Emily.” He looked around, “Another cold evening and I managed to make it here,” cocking his head to the side and wrinkling his dull eyes in intense concentration as he listened intently; the early call of the tawny owl, the late dik-dik-dik and warbling flute like song of the blackbirds. “Yes I know that I should come during the day, but it seems so much prettier here as the sun drops.”

“I always liked this spot,” he said taking out his handkerchief again and wiping the tears from his eyes. “I know I need a holiday, I feel ready for it now but maybe in the spring as the birds are heading home.” Gerald shuffled on the wooden bench and caught the plaque. This one was clean; this one never had the chance to succumb to the elements; not with Gerald cleaning it almost every day. He gave it his customary wipe with his handkerchief and looked proudly at the inscription.


He looked at her grave stone opposite, folded his arms, and dropped his chin into them. As he closed his eyes he mumbled “Yes, I’m ready for a holiday.”

That night, Gerald flew south with the birds.

Written Without Prejudice
written without prejudice
Stories to go to bed with
stories to go to bed with

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