Friday, 29 April 2011

Been out jumpin' fences

The wind shuttled through the long grass behind him like footsteps, and each time it did he looked back over his shoulder, content but still sort of saddened to remain on his own.
For maybe five days every April he brought his old deckchair - faded green and mucky white stripes - out here, the days when the showers didn't come because the clouds were all just the light, cotton-wool kind. He climbed over the fence that marked the boundaries of his garden, paved and without flowers save for a few slinking daffodils and tulips at the edges, and hoisted the deckchair over the fence after him. Every time when he thought he was going to bring it over cleanly, the low ends of the back legs clipped the top beam of the fence, sounding out like a slow ball upon a cricket bat. He looked back at the slabs that now covered that space that had gone bare in the midst of the turf, when his children had still lived at home, still played games out here.
Beyond his garden was a field, belonging to a neighbouring farmer, which was, unlike most other nearby fields at this time of year, untrimmed and without cattle. The chair never clipped the barbed wire when he lifted it over, though his often caught some part or other of his jeans when he followed it. His back didn't bend so well these days and so he couldn't duck and climb between the top wire and the middle one like his kids had used to. Like other neighbourhood kids still did. Instead, he had to wander the line until he found a section where the top wire had sunk in the middle, either with coming loose from one of the hooks that pinned it to the wooden posts, or with one of those posts gradually sagging inwards and off-upright with the shifting of the mud.
When the trespass was commenced, though, he moved without trouble amongst the long grass, which rose to just above his waist, and went to a spot at one side of a small hillock. The spot was west-facing, and the hillock shielded him from the view of the farmhouse, so he could spend a whole afternoon into evening slowly pinkening then reddening then burning in the sun.
Sometimes, when the wind made its false footstep noises in the grass, he thought about how he could probably get fined for such trespassing, but then he thought of how many days there were in a year, and didn't think that five was too many to ask. To sit in his old deckchair and watch the yellow-white jack-ball of the sun lope down behind the beeches and throw fresh-leafed shadows out over the field.
If he sat nearer, he thought, those shadows would reach him and cool his already-peeling skin.

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