Saturday, May 22, 2010

a short walk

So in the late afternoon, in spring sunshine, they stood together outside the market, Annie hefting a tote bag overflowing with fresh produce from her stall, carrots and celery, as well as cakes and biscuits and coffee beans, the blended aroma lending her the air of a suburban Ceres, while Danny was burdened with his encased laptop, a shoulder bag of books and papers, and a jacket he'd brought against a change of weather. Like many indoor types he expected the worst of the environment, only to be pleasantly surprised and slightly shamed.
'Where will we go?' Annie asked.
'What do you usually do after work?'
'I catch a bus home, or sometimes a taxi. Or I get a lift.'
'I don't have a car, at least not here. I only live a couple of blocks away.'
'Ah, that explains why I see you here so often. Shall we - go to your house?
'Ummm. Sure. I... I live alone. It's just down here.'
She strode off, and for a moment Danny was rooted to the spot. She turned and queried, 'Okay?'
'Sorry, yes, fine,' he beamed, catching her up.
'I suppose this seems a bit strange to you? You think I'm being a bit forward?'
'Well... you're being a bit more forward than most girls. Which is a good thing. I'm generally a bit backward myself.'
She laughed, her head tilted back, her teeth neat and perfect, her auburn hair cropped short to reveal her slender neck. His proximity to all this made his head swim.
'And why are you so backward?'
'I'm shy with women. I love them too much. Well, not all of them.'
'Well...' she said, and hesitated. 'Let's talk about something else. The Catholic Church?'
'I've not had anything to do with it personally, but it aggravates me every time I hear the Vatican - pontificating. I reject everything it stands for. No offence to you, I hope all your experiences were good.'
'I wasn't abused, but I'm probably no more of a supporter of the Catholic Church than you. There were good teachers and bad teachers. I don't know even if they were all Catholic. So what does the Catholic Church stand for, in your view?'
'Well, something known as revealed truth, which equates with Church dogma. Usually spelt with a capital T in papal pronouncements, also known as papal bull.'
'But we're not Catholics, so can't we ignore all that stuff? I mean, it interests me, but it doesn't affect my life.'
'No, well we're living in a relatively secular age. A few hundred years ago - if you look at the documents from, say, the sixteenth century, you'll find them saturated with references to God, or the god called God, as I call him. And if we were talking to each other back then, well - our way of thinking would be so different.'
'We wouldn't be walking down this street. There wouldn't be a street. Or a country called Australia.'
'It's good to look at history. Things that seem permanent and solid now, you come to realize how fleeting they are. Not just these buildings, but political systems, religious beliefs. They form and they fade, and when they're at their height, people fight for them and kill and die for them.'
'Wow. Heavy shit.'
'I live on this street. See that great monstrous mansion thing there?'
'You live in that house?'
'No, I rent a little flat behind it, in the grounds. The old servant's quarters.'
'I'm jealous. I just live in a fairly dull old flat in Ovingham, with my boyfriend. Or my ex-boyfriend, who doesn't live with me.'

Friday, May 21, 2010


He stayed writing for another hour or so, focusing down into the subject, writing well, with more ideas than he could possibly capture, his clumsy fingers punching the keys, his mind light as thread. A sense of youthful renewal, a fillip to the senses. Occasionally he was aware of her flitting on some errand, a ripple of shoulder and backbone. Perfect posture, a dance of life. When he packed up his laptop she was back behind her counter, serving a brace of customers. Surely each of them was struck by her grace and beauty, struck by longing or a need to worship - or was that just his peculiar weakness?
Waiting for her to be free, he began writing his web address, then crossed it out and wrote 'Just google this.... it will come up first on the list,' and he wrote his name, Daniel. A few minutes later, he handed it to her. 'Thank you,' she said, and he detected a new air of confidence or decision. 'I'm finishing up here shortly, if you'd like to wait.'
'We could go somewhere, and talk'.
'Okay, I'll wait for you. I always have a book to read.'
'I've noticed,' she smiled.


So he sat, trying not to watch her, and often succeeding, focusing on formulating the next sentence and trying to limit and shape the sentences that might flow from it, but what a superb specimen she was, though he recognized that the term 'specimen' was a distancing device, a way of bringing into ironic control the sexual emotional responses he sometimes wished he didn't have and loved having.
For a few moments, longer than usual, he lost himself in what he was writing, until a voice hovering just above his right ear said 'you're interested in the Catholic Church?'
He looked up, already knowing it was her, seeing first the smooth elegant young arm reaching for the small plate and the drained glass before him, her skimpy gingham top, the bone beneath the pale skin, her scapula and shadow. Her face wore a quizzical, tentative, ironic expression, as if she too was trying too hard to play the 'specimen' game.
'Oh - the Catholic Church - it's a blog I write. I'm not religious. I sometimes like to focus on the Catholic Church, it's about knowing your enemy.'
She smiled, a wondering smile, and slowly began to wipe the little table, moving directly in front of him, aware, he knew, that he was no longer staring at his laptop screen, but at the beauty she was modestly flaunting.
She straightened and their eyes met, smiling, a mingle of warmth. 'Well...', she said, and he saw the familiar struggle with words.
'You're not a Catholic are you?' He was surprised at how easily he spoke, but then he was the elder, by far, and he needed to take responsibility - or he felt she wanted that.
'I went to a Catholic school for a while, but I'm not a Catholic.'
'Yes, that seems to be a common experience, or situation.'
'It was a good school, academically, but I was lazy. So, what else do you write about? I notice you're always writing.'
'Whatever takes my fancy. Not much personal stuff though. I write about the world. History, politics. Science.  How things work, how I'd like them to work. To get out of myself. Though of course it's all about myself.
She nodded and lingered, swivelling slightly, balletic. 'I'd like to read your blog. It sounds interesting. Focusing outside yourself's a good idea. Just what I need to do. My name's Annie. I have to get back to work. Let me know the address of your blog before you go. Promise?
'I will.'