Leaves On The Lawn

Wind blew leaves from the silvering tree branches and the leaves fell slowly and settled haphazardly across the grass. In a few days the lawn was covered. Alf saw this. He was watching. There was little to do apart from watch. But he didn’t like to watch people. That seemed a bit personal. So he watched other things. He watched colours change and shadows grow. He watched the seasons pass.

When the weather was warm he sat outside in his chair under his tree and enjoyed the sun on his face. The chair was uncomfortable, but he didn’t think about that, because when he was outside Alf could smell the smells and hear the noises and in his mind he was young again. Young and free and life was full of promise. Outside Alf relived the moments, sort of like a film playing in his head, but inside, in the warm, he just had his memories. It seemed different, different enough, to him.

It was cold now though. Got dark early and there was no chance of them letting Alf go outside at this time of year. At this time of year afternoon simply vanished and evening arrived. They wouldn’t let Alf go outside if there was any chance of him being left in the dark, and it was their decision to make, for Alf was a gent who had tallied a certain number of years, and he used a walking stick, and had to be helped if he wanted to go anywhere. They preferred to position a warm blanket on Alf’s knees to prevent him getting a chill. Alf preferred this too. When he thought about it he wasn’t sure he wanted to go outside after all. It was cold now, and dark, and the lawn needed raking.

He thought about raking leaves and it seemed like a fun idea. Something emblematic of freedom. To be able to stand there, with a rake in hand, changing the appearance of the lawn, tidying it, with your own strength and under your own power, and to rest at the end. To lean on your rake and look about you and admire the result of your labours. That seemed to Alf the very essence of independence. Not needing anyone else’s say so. Not having other people discuss what was best for you, in front of you, as though you weren’t even there. Just going outside and doing it. Under your own steam. By yourself. For yourself, and for others. Alone. Outside. Fearless against the relentlessly creeping up evening and without a though of chills and how to prevent them. This seemed to Alf what it was to be a man.

But he hated to rake leaves. The thought popped into his head. In fact he hated to do most household jobs, which was good because he didn’t have to do them. Not when he was younger. Not often anyway. He hardly spent any time outside. He was too busy travelling for work. Too busy to be at home.

Work involved meeting clients and spending time in soulless dingy hotel rooms, which was a boring existence and unstimulating. And so Alf added stimulation. When he could he found female company to bring back to his room and he injected chemicals into his body which made him happy or calm or allowed him to sleep. He drank a lot too. And when he retired from his job and came home permanently he didn’t just take time to adjust to a quieter life because it was a quieter life. No, he took time to adjust to this new phase because he was slowly getting over his various substance and emotional addictions. In fact he never did get over these things. Not completely. Or so he thought.

He couldn’t remember. What a scourge it was to have one faculty left and for it to be so faulty. Was his life as a travelling salesman who injected heroin ad contracted venereal diseases even a real life, or had he read something about such a man who had led such a life? Perhaps he had. If a story really touched him emotionally he would remember it, and it was possible that he had incorporated aspects of this other man’s story into his own, and mixed up these memories with his true memories. But if this was true then he had to wonder what was true and what was false. The question made him uneasy.

It was completely dark outside now, and Alf saw his own reflection in the window. He examined himself and saw white hair, a check shirt and cardigan, polished shoes sitting up high on the foot rests of a wheel chair. He recognised himself as he looked. Seemed a familiar sight. But now he couldn’t remember what the front lawn looked like. The front lawn he had been gazing at for hours. The lawn with the leaves and the big silver trees and the pathways where residents walked with their families and other guests who had come to visit. He just couldn’t remember.

He felt hands grip the handles of his wheel chair. He began to turn his head and heard a calm female vice say, “Alright Professor Hughes. It’s time for your dinner now.” And Alf was wheeled away.

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Published in: on July 25, 2012 at 8:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

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