Gathering wood

February 14, 2017 § Leave a comment

She won’t listen.

She’s almost out the door before he’s got his shoes on, and halfway down the drive whilst he’s still wrestling with an inside-out coat sleeve.

Says she needs wood for the fire, says what’s left won’t last the evening, and it’s too cold to go without. It’s too late to put in an order with the log company now, not for delivery today, and she won’t let him drive to the garage, not just for a bag of kindling. She still thinks he’s fourteen, or seven, or ten, some age where the balance hasn’t yet tipped in his favour, out of her control.

She’s setting a fair pace, he’ll give her that much, tottering along on that seized-up foot. She won’t have a stick. Says mechanical aids are the beginning of the end. She won’t give in. Even that fall six months ago where she lay in the dark for hours, too proud to call for help. Two days to find her and she was in a state, a proper state. Up at the hospital, when they’d cleaned her up and straightened her out, a well-meaning woman came by full of leaflets and advice. Half an hour of recommendations, none of it taken. The walking stick the hospital gave her, he found it in the cupboard by the front door, in amongst the broken umbrellas and old tennis racquets. She wouldn’t even talk about it when he asked her.

She’s marching up the lane, eyes straight ahead, oblivious to that woman calling an out-of-control dog as it hurtles across the field. This man here with his bouncing labrador. The young man glances at the owner, who stares back as if trying to place him.

She’s in the woods now, stumbling over rocks and roots as she makes her way up the slope and into the thicket. Brambles snagging on her worn out trousers. There’s all sorts up in the woods. You’d be surprised. As soon find treasure as trash. Punctured deodorant cans scattered across discreet clearings; branches stacked to form makeshift shelters; an old mattress or two, obscured by leaf mulch. Drugs, too – he’s seen the headlights late at night, the faces that don’t quite fit a woodland meander. Barking dogs and raised voices. Tiny plastic bags discarded.

Not here, though. Not in this bit. He finds her sitting on a broad stump, catching her breath as she scans the ground, searching for likely kindling.

The black dog appears as she is bending down. It rears and snatches with bared teeth at the stick she has just picked up. She shakes the stick but the dog won’t let go. To the animal, this is a game. The woman’s sudden snarl suggests otherwise.

The young man pauses, hangs back, uncertain as to which might be the most vicious.

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