Emily, forty-eight, have-a-go-hero, unwittingly foils robbery plans of a notorious gang who plotted against our historical village post office. Local councillor and city mayor presents unassuming office worker, with a cheque for five hundred pounds for her gritty nerve, at the town hall.
‘What exactly did you do to foil the plans of the ruthless gang?’
‘I was waiting for the number ninety-two bus home from town, outside the Soup
Spoon pub. I could hear raised voices coming from the air vent in the cellar. The road was quiet, you see, because of the heavy rain earlier; most people hadn’t ventures out yet.
‘So what did you hear?’
‘Everything. I took out my note pad that I always carry with me and recorded their conversation in short hand. I gave it straight to the police the next morning, you see, I wanted to get home to see Harry, my dog.’
I sigh. If only this were true. Nothing remotely exciting happens to me. I get up, walk the dog, have breakfast, go to work, come home, walk the dog, have tea, watch T.V, go to bed, get up…so on, and so forth. Emily Stead’s conveyor belt life, going round and round, with me wanting to jump off and experience another whirl, maybe like a Ferris wheel or the waltzers. I can imagine the latter being an adrenaline rush and the former a little less sedate than my own.
I sigh. I’m in the park with Harry, my Jack Russell, sat on the bench next to the butterfly garden. Anyone observing me now, will know; if they’d being surveying me for months; the exact detail of my every move.
It’s Thursday. It’s summer. It’s ten minutes past eight. Every eight o’clock finds me entering the park, past the car park, towards the playground and the benches by the butterflies. I let Harry run around on the retractable lead for ten minutes and then I sit down and observe the parks members, and pet my dog.
Most days I wear my trademark wraparound dress, cardigan and flat shoes. I do a lot sighing, and pondering about how I can change the predictability of my life. Sometimes I bring a book with me but it always stays in my handbag as I feel too self conscious about reading out in the open air. It’s as if I might get too comfortable on the bench and then scratch my bottom, forgetting where I am. I’ve brought Jane Eyre with me today and it’s well worn after years of rereading; I never tire of this favourite of mine; of her story.
Harry sits patiently by my feet, eager for another round of exercise. I take off my glasses and rummage in my bag for some lens wipes. They don’t need a clean really but it gives me something to do. As I’m indulging in this mundane task, I over hear a brief conversation, as a couple walk along a path high up behind me, towards the lake.
‘What’s that word when you keep saying you’re going to do things but you keep putting it off? Well that’s what you do. I’m sick of it. We are going to do it today. We’ll feel so much better, just you see,’ she said. ‘Come on, say something,’ she encouraged.
‘You’re right. If we just take the plunge we’ll find tomorrow will be much easier. Yes, we’ll do it today. We haven’t been married all these years for us to be tied down like this,’ he said. They trundled past, partly camouflaged in the noises of nature and the far off engine of the plane passing overhead.
I wonder what they’ve decided. I really wanted to turn around but I didn’t want to appear nosey. I bet he’s been procrastinating about moving to Spain as part of their retirement plan. She sounded all for it but had to wait for him to realise it was a good idea.
I should take I little of their courage on board and live a little myself. I’ll make a list of all the things I long to do and just do it. Tomorrow I’ll make an appointment at a hair salon and maybe get some makeup tips and style advice from that department store, too. But I must start with something today.
‘Right, come on Harry.’ I yank at the lead and inadvertently knock him off his feet. He looks up surprised but happy for more exercise, more fun.
‘Do you know? We’re going round the lake today. I know we usually do this on a weekend but I think we could both do with a little change, what do you say?’
I feel good with this new mental attitude and I can actually feel my body relaxing some. Small steps for big changes; that will be my motto. See, even I get a smile back in return from those kids, unless they are humoured by my gawky appearance. No, take it as it is. I smiled and they smiled back. Harry yelps with excitement and rallies between running ahead and patrolling my side. This is good exercise. I don’t know why I don’t do it everyday. It’s a generous walk round the lake which I usually save for our weekend treat. I wonder how far round it is.
We pass mums with pushchairs going the opposite way, in twos and threes, chatting about the latest theories in child rearing. Joggers glide by from all directions in various colours and attachments of water bottles and iPods. There is the odd cyclist and some elderly gentlemen with sticks, taking their daily walk to boast about at the social club.
I let Harry go further ahead on the retractable lead and then he gets out of sight round a curved wall and encounters an obstacle in his path. A man and woman sit on a concrete bench guarding an elderly man in his wheelchair. They appear to be rocking him too and fro when Harry runs in front and gets his lead caught up in the front wheels. He sniffs at the man’s gloved hand and nudges it, leaving it to swing like a pendulum. The woman pulls the chair back abruptly and places the hand back on his lap. He almost appears unreal, like a Guy Fawkes dummy stuffed with newspaper. He seems overly dressed too for this type of weather, but I guess that the elderly do feel the cold, don’t they?
I apologise to the guardians and the man, as I untangle Harry from the chair, but he doesn’t respond or appear to acknowledge me under the wide brimmed hat. When I pat his shoulder, softly and reassuringly, he slumps sideways and a long, deep sigh escapes him.
‘He had a stroke,’ the man said flatly, grabbing his shoulder in a half hug, righting the man.
‘He liked dogs, though didn’t he?’ the woman stated, as if she is remembering how he was. She sniffs.
I apologise again as I shorten the lead and tug it sharply for their benefit. Harry looks up at me, cocking his head to one side, confused, and then trots off close by.
We just near the end of the circuit when a loud splash erupts, causing a flight of birds from the lake. I see a few in the air to start with, but they increase, creating a ripple effect as more and more birds exit the water. Wings beat hard and feet slap on the water, as birds race for space, squabbling as they go. I turn briefly looking up at the long necked beasts glowing white against the blue sky, remembering something my grandfather told me as a child, about swans mating for life. The disturbance subsides and the birds return to the water. Calm is resumed.
I notice an ice cream van and buy myself and Harry a small cone each to eat before we leave the park, eating it by the same bench. Harry doesn’t eat the wafer cone so I pick it up and throw it in the bin by the park map. There’s an abandoned wheelchair fully opened on its side, behind a tree, by the bins, with its large, left back wheel still spinning. I look around to see if I can see the owner, probably that couple left it; they can’t push it over the gravel.
A car reverses slowly creating a loud crunching noise, as rubber rolls over stone, in the sparse car park. I squint as I try to make out the passengers. As they drive off the convertible Beetle roof folds back to reveal two passengers; a man and a woman. She reaches out to the back seat and I think she is waving. I wave back involuntary, but she throws something out behind her.
Harry jumps up and I let out the lead for him to retrieve the discarded object. Harry brings it back, waving his tail at the familiar object. A glove.