Neighbours

A brilliant question came through my internet feed this afternoon. It was asking me what three things went well today.

I answered with FOUR reasons why my day went well.

But the best part of the exercise was focusing on what I’m grateful for.

My answers included that I woke up. Many people, each morning, do not.

Then, I mentioned how smoothly my morning disappeared into the afternoon. How I returned home from work to take care of myself and my chores.

Although it was third on my list, spending time with my neighbour was the most important out of all.

This member of the Silent Generation and I, have become fast friends over the years. She has been invaluable and now I have a chance to give back… for her wise counsel, beautiful cooking, and endless cups of tea and conversation.

So… from my own life to yours… just something that may help…

Reach out to your neighbours.

In my experience they are a treasure indeed.

Trees

“Can the trees talk, Pappa?”

His innocent face was frowning, dark honey coloured eyes staring at me from underneath his brows.

I looked down.

Sunlight streamed through the canopy, lighting the green grass tussocks at our feet.

“Well…”

I hesitated, arthritic hands on the weeding implement that I had been using. Crouching down next to my Grandson, I was now at eye level.

“Maybe. Why do you ask?”

“Because when the wind blows through their leaves, I can hear whispers. I was wondering if it was the trees talking.”

We were in my back yard, out near where the garden became the forest. Little Dylan had followed me out and was now accompanying me as I weeded this section of yard.

There was something magical to my little Grandson about the natural world where I lived. He never ceased to dream and wonder about the land around us.

This was his most recent question.

“The trees tell each other stories, much like how I tell you stories.”

“What do they talk about?”

My knees felt stiff, so I stood up. Dylan stepped back, grasping my fingers and trying to help. I gently pushed him away.

This one I had to think about, or else I’d be in trouble. My daughter in law didn’t believe in playing make believe, and I was walking a fine line.

In the distance, a loud deisel engine sounded, growling even louder as it roared up the hill before our driveway.

The sound died down as the car braked in front of the family house. A screen door slammed, as voices greeted each other. And then my wife and Sally appeared on the back step to the yard.

“Mummy,” cried Dylan, his old Pappa forgotten now that his mother was present. He ran to her side, throwing his arms around her legs.

“The trees tell each other stories, Mum.”

Sally kissed him on the forehead as she picked him up.

“Do they really?”

I held my breath.

But today, she was smiling.

Alistair

Ice and snow filled her vision.

Feeling more alone than ever, she scrambled further up the winding mountain pass.

“As long as no Mountain Trolls see us we’ll be fine,” said a voice from behind.

Mitch trudged upwards too.

Diana heard him slip and turned around.

A full year younger than her, Mitch was her brother and best friend.

“Are you okay?”

Mitch was looking over his shoulder, a scared grimace on his face.

“Trust me, there is no such thing as a Mountain Troll,” Diana admonished him.

A soft swear word was caught in an echo, the sound gaining momentum before disappearing into silence.

The mountains this high up were unforgiving. Snowflakes began to spiral downward.

Mitch after catching up with his sister stared at the sky.

“Diana, that doesn’t look good.”

Through the white landscape, a dark smudge indicated a ledge in the rocks ahead.

“There, Mitch. Can you see it?” She pointed towards it.

Squinting, Mitch set his face in a stubborn scowl.

Silently now, both sister and brother climbed towards it. As they neared, a tunnel reaching further into the mountain became visible. The two teenagers continued past the entrance.

The tunnel was high and roomy, with enough space for the siblings to walk side by side easily.

Warm air drifted through the tunnel towards them. Walking around a bend, a rosy glow greeted them. Going in further, the rosy glow became a cheery fire.

“Hello strangers. Welcome.” A little creature, the colour of sandstone and with a hide just as rough and hard, was sitting by the fire, waiting for them.

“My name is Alistair. What’s yours?”

The little creature beamed.

“Err…” Mitch turned to his sister and whispered, “what is it?”

Before Diana could answer, Alistair cocked his head to the side, still beaming.

“I’m a Mountain Troll. And this.” He swept his arm to take in the cosy room.
“Is my home.”

Babylonian time

Time. It’s a resource we’re always short on. But where did measuring it come from?

The Western method of measuring time, using 60 seconds to a minute, and 60 minutes to an hour, is Babylonian in origin.

This is some trivia I picked up from a documentary. The rationale is that 6 is the lowest number divisable by both an odd and even number.

It’s fascinating how history influences our modern lives.

Ancestor

The swimmer kept doing his laps. The ocean pool, cemented into what was once a rock lagoon, was bitterly cold, and the icy wind only made it more so. But it reminded him of home, and of Neptune.

A woman stood on the shore, a collection of seashells in her hand. By the make up on her face and the blue wig covering a tightly wound bun, she could have been an Actor.

Finally, the swimmer pushed himself up onto the ledge that ran the perimeter of the ocean pool. Looking up as he vigorously rubbed his body dry with a towel, he saw her. A wave and a smile greeted her, and then he was on the footpath winding its way back to the beach.

“Kevin, aren’t you cold?” Brown eyes gave a troubled look at the scantily clad man, as he approached.

“Yeah. A coffee will heat me up.”
Kevin smiled at Katherine, as he started towards the black Volkswagon.

Later, Katherine sat at the Cafe, 2 lattes sitting on the table infront of her.

“They’re cold now. You took too long.”

Kevin’s golden eyes crinkled as he grinned. He pulled out a chair and leaned back.

His eyes were unusual, she had always thought. And so was his obsession with swimming that ocean pool. Katherine had resigned herself to never understanding.

The red headed man across from her, raised the mug to his lips.

“This tracksuit is too warm. Mind if i take off my jumper?”

“No. There’s no one here to see.”

A head emerged as the navy jumper fell to the ground. With his chest bare, he could have been a Greek God.

Sighing, Katherine met his gaze. “You’re crazy. I swear you’re part Mer-man.”

The golden eyes crinkled again as he smiled.

*If only she knew my father* But his smile hid his true thoughts.

Romeo

My heart throbbed, as I stared intently into his eyes. His courage had been astounding, and all I wanted was to drown in the ice blue of his gaze.

Success had been his. He had won my Father’s heart; Not a small feat. And I knew he was the one.

All of 16 years old, I was convinced I knew my way around the world. Travelling to Sydney for the first time, one night from the country, I had met him. My train stop had arrived too suddenly, and I had missed it. And my current Love, had helped me when I became lost at Central Station.

Spending every free moment in Sydney together had been bliss. He had even bought a ticket and caught the train from Sydney, back to my home with me. We had alighted and a taxi had driven us to my family’s house.

Darren had entered through the front door, while I waited on the driveway.

” Dad said he liked you?”

The icy blue stare dazzled me and I felt weak at the knee.

Until..

“Yeah. I told him about us.” Then his icy blues dropped their gaze.

“What did he say?”

“Well…”

He scuffed his toes into the dirt.

“He wanted to know if I’d buy him a slab of beer.”

“And?” I couldn’t express my excitement.

“Well, you see. I spent the last of my money on the train ticket.”

“And?” This time my voice was full of alarm.

“When I told him I had no money left, he said no.”

My face must have betrayed every nuance of shock. I thought Darren would pass any test Dad gave him.

Darren smiled. “On the upside,” he announced. “Your Dad did give me the money for the return trip.”

Backwards

The Baroness was in fine fettle. She had just finished reading the abridged version of my book, and I was glad it was up to her high standards.

“I love how you explained what a Matrix was.” She leaned forward on her chair, a smile teasing her lips.

We were sitting in the drawing room of her mansion. The chair she sat on had heritage colours embroidered into the material, and my chair echoed the same design. I was her Repair Man, and she had decided, on a whim, to take an interest in me.

“I’m glad you liked it.” I smiled back.
This could be my lucky break. What she didn’t know was I was also a Time Traveller, and the book had been inspired by my foray into the future. With clocks being expensive and hard to come by, I had “borrowed” the Baroness’ clock. She’d never notice, I rationalized to myself.

“Except the bit where you mentioned a computer.”

Her smile stopped and she looked sad. Hastening to cheer her up, I felt the need to explain.

“I’m also an Inventor.”

“Aha, then you’ll be able to fix my clock. It seems to run backwards.”

Scapels and science classes

“That was gruesome.”

Tom was pulling a face as he spoke.

“Yep. I don’t like that section of the Library either,” I said under my breath.

The Librarian put another book on the shelf between us and the exit door.

Curious, we had visited the science display in the school library. Glass jars held the innards of different disembowelled creatures. Mice, frogs and fish with their entrails clearly suspended in liquid, stared glassily at students passing by.

Science was next. Not my favourite subject. Desperately, I was hoping I wouldn’t be adding to the collection of glass entombed animals we had just seen.

A perfectly shaped girl came bouncing around the corner as Tom and I entered the science laboratory. Tracey, the most popular girl in the school, beat us to the door.

I dropped my gaze, then wished I hadn’t. In her hand, Tracey was carrying a scapel. It meant only one thing. We were going to disembowel some poor creature.

Doubling over, I groaned. Mr Pearce, our Science Teacher, glared at me as I staggered to the entrance of the laboratory.

“What’s the matter with you, Richard?” he all but growled at me.

“I don’t feel too good, Sir.”

“You better sit in the Sick Bay. The Flu has been going through the school. Looks like you better stay there for now.”

Turning, I suppressed a grin as I strolled towards the Sick Bay. I had done it. I had managed to avoid hurting any poor animals.

Obediently, I sat in the Sick Bay, until I heard the bell. Then, I walked back down the corridor, heading towards where the buses picked us up.

Along the way, Tracey flounced in the opposite direction.

“Hello, Richard.” She smiled at me.

“Will you help me? I’m trying to stuff this cushion with the stuffing from this teddy bear.”

She thrust an old ragged teddy into my arms, and then used the scapel to cut him open. As the soft white wool came bursting out, Tracey gathered it and pushed it into a lovely patchwork cushion.

“Why weren’t you in Science today?” she asked me.

I stopped and thought for a second, deciding to not answer.

“Did I miss out on much?” I tried to sound casual.

“No. Not really. We were just doing revision before our exam next week.”

Tracey peered into my face. “Are you okay?” she enquired.

I could feel the smile on my face.

“So… the class just did text book work?” I asked her.

“Well. Yes.”

“And this scapel is from Craft?”

An odd look crossed Tracey’s face.

“Yes.”

I had been wrong. No poor creature had been harmed at all. Once he found out what had happened, Tom would never let me live this one down.

Birthday cake

“Steve?” I asked him.

“Yes, Toni.”

“The instance that Mum finds out, we’re in deep trouble.”

My older brother nodded. “That’s okay.” He winked at me. “We’ll just have to make up some story.”

It was our Mother’s birthday. We had been in the kitchen, and had decided to make a cake out of some eggs we had found in the back yard. As soon as I had cracked one, a terrible stench had cleared us into the outside.

“Hey, you two,” bellowed Mum. “Come back here and clean up your mess.”

“Too late,” I informed Steve.

“Sis, why don’t we climb this tree? Mum will never find us up here.”

“Okay,” I said reluctantly, as I followed him amongst the branches.

I don’t know how long we had been up there. It seemed like ages, before the sun dipped below the horizon, and the mozzies drove us down to the ground.

Tip toeing, Steve opened the door to the back of the house. We entered the sunroom, relieved that the smell seemed to be not as strong.

Cautiously, we next entered the kitchen.

“Well it’s about time you two came inside.”

Mum had her hands on her hips, but the kitchen was clean once more.

“Next time you want to bake a cake for my birthday, please use the eggs from the fridge.”

Bedmates,

“Potatoes,” swore Tommy. He was standing next to the little dragon that guarded the garden, his face scowling. His blue eyes were focused on the sky.

I lay down the twig I had been using when sparring with him earlier and stood next to him, trying to see what he had noticed.

He said we were bedmates. My word was Lovers. The difference in words was significant to me for one important reason. It was said that a curse had been cast on the family a long time ago, that if anyone caused a fiasco, there would be an attack by a Gargoyle. And the term Lovers, I felt, would cause less trouble.

Something shadowed us, and we both looked up. Bat-like great wings, and an ugly faced creature swooped low.

“GET DOWN,” Tommy yelled, pulling me to the ground. My hands dug into the garden where I landed, crushing my Mother’s crysanthemums.

The creature missed, but I could hear its wings beating the air. Gasping, I felt wind against my face as it came for us again. My blonde locks fell across my eyes.

Suddenly, it squealed. I realised then, that I had closed my eyes. Opening them again, and blinking the hair away, I was surprised to see a little dragon in the sky, as the bat-like creature disappeared towards the horizon.

The little dragon landed in the garden and became a statue, right where the garden ornament had been.

Tommy reached out his hand and helped me up. It was then I noticed a black and white photo in his other hand.

“What’s that?” I asked him.

Grinning, he handed it to me. There, staring out at me, was the little dragon, identical to the one now innocently sitting in the garden.

“See. I said we could use whatever words we liked to describe our relationship.”

My eyes met his.

“This is a photo of the garden when my Grandfather was alive. He told me a family legend that *our* family is protected from evil by this little dragon.

Hugging him, my eyes pricked with tears.

He hugged me back, tightly, and I realised he’d been scared by the Gargoyle attack too.

“Maybe I can call us Lovers instead of Bedmates,” he murmured into my hair.
“That was close. And I don’t want to risk losing you again.”