They get up, rumpled, a little worse for wear. take a look, hold each other, flinch.
All that clutter.
The humble vessels and instruments of the night before, that wrought such alchemy on a lowly leg of lamb, packaged parsnips, carrots; followed by a serve of dried apricots and flaked almonds, soaked in brandy, all generously washed down with an aged red. Or was it two?
They were in a little cottage out the back with nothing to write about on a dark and stormy night. Delia, a tall, strapping, Scandinavian woman, with long greyish blond hair down to her waist, had just given them, a small group of seniors, fifteen minutes silent writing during the class on short story writing. You should be able to come up with something, she said,almost despairing of her hopelessly floundering flock. This was the second session and still not a word had been written. The thunder boomed and lightning flashed helpfully as if to provide prompts. Delia paced up and down out the front working herself into a froth.
Just then, as if on cue, the door flew open, and a drug-addled man with straggly blond hair and black tank top stormed in, neck and arms swathed in devil tatts, shouting obscenities in a strange guttural language, throwing chairs around the room thankfully with no one in them, and then with his anger quenched, stormed out again. Where’s Security when you need them, fumed D who immediately phoned the police. Suddenly everyone started furiously writing. Delia could not stop them.
It always come down to this: Did he see it or did he not?
Warren goes to the Children’s Hospital to see his daughter who’s been run over by a car only he gets lost in the maze of corridors. He panics, opens doors at random, many without signs. That’s when he sees it, the thing in the cage. It’s humanoid, hairy,stands upright and rattles the iron bars. It looks him in the eye. A stricken, get-me-out-of-here look. Warren is horrified. What is it doing in this big white room? In a Children’s Hospital? Warren backs off, fumbles for the door handle, and races out, down the corridor, any corridor that leads to the light. What had he seen? Was it an experiment? Was it top secret? Had he seen something forbidden? He retches for air.
When he steadies himself, he goes back to Reception, makes sure of directions this time and finds his daughter. He does not say anything about what he has seen. He knows he has seen something he should not have seen. Or maybe he had seen nothing at all. Frenzied phantasmagoria. He keeps quiet. He talks to his daughter about home, about how she is, about when she is coming home. They talk and talk and talk and he holds her closely. .
When people ask me, did you have any inkling in all that time you knew him, I say, not really, then I think of the incident in the restaurant,the one that slipped beneath my notice in what was meant to be a piece of devilish fluff in ‘No Sympathy ….’
It began in the third line: Hey! Is that a glass of water you threw over me? That’s when autobiography took over and followed us out onto the sidewalk where I was shoved to the ground when my back was turned and my mate who had turned rogue did a runner.
So did I know? Did I suspect? I sure did: in those moments he unleashed diminutive, haiku-sized bursts of anger, I could feel the embers of a conflagration 18 years before that the forensic squad, armed with new evidence and methods of detection, were sifting through and building a case.
His mate, Dale , who let him stay on his property at Second Valley in a caravan while he got his life together, fell victim to Adrian’s wrath.
All that time Adrian proclaimed his innocence, He was the only suspect. He lived at my place for a while, He rode a bike, did the gardening, spoke to the kids, Everyone loved him. A top bloke, they said. Then the night ….
Once my friend was charged with the cold case and sentenced, he finally admitted to us: Just think, he said, 15 years for five seconds of madness.
That little haiku of a revelation warned me that of all the affairs we have to manage in life, our temper comes first.