Monday, August 02, 2004

One Day I'll Fly Away 

“Are you going to do it then, or what?”
“Don’t rush me. I’m not ready.”
“But you keep looking all set to do it, and then you don’t.”
“I can do this. I’m just composing myself.”
“You’re very beautiful, by the way.”
“Thank you. My name’s George, if you were wondering.”
“Like the Beatle? Very good.”
“Yeah, hilarious.”
“I’m Tim. But you have lost your nerve, haven’t you? You’ve bottled it.”

Silence. All you could hear were the birds singing and the insects humming. Then after a few moments, he or she (I’ve no idea which) said, “So what’s that you’re reading?”
"It’s Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. It’s incredible. I’d recommend it to anyone who can read.”
“That excludes me then. Thanks a lot.”
“Sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to… It’s just a really excellent book, and I only ever seem to read books when I’m on holiday, so...”
“Yes. I’ve noticed you around these past few days. You’re not from round here, are you?”
“No. A friend has lent us this house while they’re on holiday. It’s really peaceful, isn’t it?”

Silence again, a lovely, easy silence, except for the singing and humming, which was wonderful too. Even in the shade it was hot. The sun sneaked round the trees and burned my feet while I wasn’t looking.

“George,” I offered, “if you’d like me to give you a lift…”
“I can manage perfectly well, thank you,” he or she replied, a little indignantly. “This is what I do.”
“Suit yourself.” And I carried on reading.
George crawled down the page, onto my arm - “That tickles!”, “Sorry!” - onto the arm rest, under the arm rest and out of sight. Ten minutes later I saw him or her descending the chair leg and slowly and very deliberately boarding a blade of grass.
“Sorry to go on about this, but you’d have been much quicker flying,” I said, but when I looked, George was gone.
“George? George? Where did you go?”

Girlfriend came out with two more cold beers. “Who’s George? Who are you talking to?”
“Oh, nobody. Well, you know, just someone I met on holiday.”

She looked around, but saw only swallows and swifts, finches, blackbirds, butterflies - tens maybe hundreds of butterflies feasting on resplendent buddleia, bees and wasps, ladybirds, tiny flying creatures too numerous to name, too bloody annoying to contemplate, the only signs of life for mile upon mile of this most breathtaking countryside.
There was a rustle from the clematis clinging to the walls of the crumbling old house. Maybe it was the walls that clung to the clematis. Who can say? Two house martins scurried out and chased each other across the unblemished sky, playful as children, agile as lovers.
Girlfriend patted me on the head, pecked me on the cheek, muttered something about imaginary friends under her breath, and with a book in one hand and a beer in the other, climbed back up to her tree house to sleep the day away.

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