22 – DARK DAYS

22 – DARK DAYS

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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THE LIFE AND LOVES OF ANNIE GRABLE - 22

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The thrush looked at her quite inquisitively.

He really thought that,” sighed Annie, “he really thought that a painting of a garden in which the artist had painted me disappearing into a bright future had something to do with foretelling or prophesy. But the autumn scene was painted years ago, and I was younger too.

Maybe the foretelling had come to fruition when I agreed, so spontaneously, to marry him and maybe he believed his whole future could be read from the brush strokes of an artist’s dream. It was the painting that Ralf had created, bless him, an autumn garden and an image of me from a pose in his studio. But the finished picture, beautiful as it was, was really just what it pretended to be, a pretty picture of a pretty garden with a possibly pretty girl walking across it.”

The thrush might have said, but you were pretty and there can’t have been any possibly about it, and the autumn garden was dying… gardens do, you know, and winter comes along to finish them off…

But then there’s the spring,” she sighed, taking up the theme, “bright colours and sunshine, and then what of the girl? She’s a mother, and her breasts aren’t what they were.”

And the thrush might have said, but she’s still pretty.. but in the lock down silence of her room it remained just a thought, just an idea of what the bird might have been thinking if it was thinking at all.

She wandered into the kitchen and put the kettle on. “I think I’ll have coffee,” she called to the bird, “it might wake me up a bit. This lock down is driving me insane with weariness. I can’t sleep at night properly, nothing’s right any more, and it’s just going on and on for ever… an old lady like me wasting the last precious months of her long life being locked down, isolated… thank heavens I’ve got a bird to talk to.”

She returned to her chair and smiled at her avian friend.

Klaus did it,” she sighed, “he took my son, Daniel, and the two of them went to live in the new house he was struggling to afford. And I knew he must be struggling from his frayed shirt collar and the way his curtains didn’t fit properly. But it was his bed and he was brave or big headed enough to lie on it! Daniel seemed all right, though, happy and bright like he’d always been, and doing well at school. Maybe it was right for him to go with Klaus and leave Elizabeth to me, because the girl wasn’t easy.

She’d lock herself inside herself for hours, sometimes, sit there mutely as if she wasn’t in this world but had a space of her own in some other place. Klaus had thought that she was being insolent when she did that, but I knew she wasn’t and bit by gentle bit and moments at the time I moved ever closer to her world. I pushed at the door, but I never got in, though, I couldn’t, but I did get close enough to realise it was a dark place without the ring of laughter anywhere in it.

I took her out of school when I found out that they punished her for being who she was. She simply couldn’t attend to any lessons. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to but that she plain couldn’t! That, to me, was the height of cruelty, smacking a child for being herself and not making the least effort to see what there is in her world that she needs to spend so long with. It didn’t matter one jot that she couldn’t tell you what five times six was because her world had no numbers in it, just shadows, and anyway I knew then that multiplication was a complexity she’d never need to use however long she lived.…

So Klaus moved out...”

She shook her head and Mr Thrush shook his back at her on the other side of her window, still single-glazed and consequently not quite the obstacle to the world outside that it might have been..

At first I thought it would be lonely, but it wasn’t,” she whispered, “and I was beginning to reap the rewards that Ralf had promised me years earlier, if he sold a picture with me in it. You see, Mr Thrush, he’d painted quite a lot. He’d said back then that I was the sort of girl that people would want to look at, especially young men who might be dreaming of what their future sweetheart might look like… some of the pictures showed me displaying a leg a bit suggestively, or the hint of a breast, nothing wrong, nothing dirty. And the proof came as Klaus’s gallery started to sell them. He even had prints made of them so that lots of people could have me in their dreams at home, and for every one sold Ralf paid me money. And as the pictures became more popular the sums of money became larger. I didn’t have to work!

And that’s how I spent the first half of the fifties. Caring for sweet little Elizabeth, trying to educate her myself, I’d had a discussion with the school and in the end they’d agreed that it was the most sensible course, though they didn’t like it. I suppose teachers like to believe there’s not a problem they can’t solve, and they might have gone on believing that but for Elizabeth.

But we tackled some of the simpler things with a gusto and she even began to read simple things, and tell you how much change you’d get from sixpence if you spent tuppence! Mind you, shillings stumped her.

And she was slowly leaving the shadow world inside her head behind and gradually joining ours. Then nineteen fifty five, I think it was, came along and Elizabeth discovered an anthem for her life. It solved her problems, it seemed, though I never properly knew what those problems were, but when Bill Haley sung Rock around the Clock she was hooked. I suppose it was the rhythm and the relatively simple lyrics, but all she wanted to do was rock around the clock herself. Not that we had the kind of clock a girl could rock around! But for a painfully short time this house was filled with joyous music. And then, on the actual eve of my fortieth birthday Elizabeth rocked round one clock too many, on the landing at the top of the stairs, and she tumbled down…

I’ve often wondered where she thought she was when she fell. Maybe some magic garden where only kindness and love abound and where a girl could dance and dance and dance for ever...

She lived, though that wasn’t the right word, in hospital, for two days after that and I’d love to believe that those two days were filled with rocking round clocks, but I don’t think they can have been because the doctor told me, before they switched the life support machine off, that there could be no doubt: her apparent life was merely the result of that machine pumping her blood and making her heart beat and, inside her head, she was brain dead.”

Mr Thrush understood every word she said. She could tell by the way he shook his head and, she was sure, tweeted, the agony of parenthood and I knew there and then that he’d lost more than one chick to that damned one eyed cat from next door.

That was the start of a very dark period for me,” she sighed, “and if you’re a good bird and behave yourself I’ll see if I can pluck the strength up to tell you tomorrow.”

© Peter Rogerson 21.05.20




© 2020 Peter Rogerson


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Added on May 21, 2020
Last Updated on May 21, 2020
Tags: rock 'n' roll, music, Elizabeth, disaster


Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
I am 76 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..

Writing