Helena Kane is a retired teacher from Galway city who loves writing and has attended a number of Creative Writing courses with Susan Millar duMars and Maire Hughes. She has had a few pieces published in The Galway Advertiser and also in a teachers’ magazine. She has recently completed her first novel entitled ‘The Long, Long Road’ which she is now trying to have published.
By Helena Kane
The old man walked the lane. It was his lane. He had walked it many times. May sunshine poured down. Dandelions bunched under the hedges while above them birds chirped cheerfully. The air smelled fresh and clean. The lane was dry and rough and he felt the ache in his back.
There. The spot beside the whitethorn bush where he had collapsed with the worst pain he had ever experienced. A heart attack, they said. But that was two years ago and he felt great now. He climbed the low rise to the main road and crossed over to his son’s house. He should be home from work by now.
He went in by the back door. They were having their tea, boiled eggs and brown bread, pizza for the young ones. They all looked up at him.
‘Tis yourself’, his daughter-in-law greeted him. ‘You didn’t come up for your dinner today.’
‘No, I wasn’t feeling the best.’
‘Sit down’, his son said. ‘What’s wrong with you?’
He couldn’t keep it in any longer. He was bursting with it.
‘I had the strangest call from Anne last night, Anne in Coventry.
‘What did she want? She never calls you.’
‘Would you believe it, she wants to send Anthony over here for a couple of months.’
‘Anthony! Over here! For a couple of months! Over to you do you mean?’
‘Of course, where else?’
Anne was his sister, Anthony was her second husband.
They gawped at him.
‘What would I be doing with Anthony here all day long?’ he beseeched them.
‘Sure I could hardly send him to clean out the sheds now, could I? How could I keep him busy?’
‘Maybe he could cook for you? Doesn’t he like doing that? ’ his daughter-in-law said.
‘Why would she want to send him here? He’s only ever been here once and he didn’t seem like the farming type then,’ his son said.
The adults laughed thinking of elderly Anthony with his fussy, fastidious ways
The children watched them. They were eight and ten.
‘Did you ask her why she wants to send him?’ his son queried.
‘No. I couldn’t hear her very well and I don’t think she could hear me very well either.’
The children sniggered.
‘You have to get a hearing aid, Grandad,’ groaned the ten- year- old,’ you’re always saying you can’t hear.’
She was right, of course.
‘There has to be a reason why she wants to send him. He’s Russian isn’t he, Anthony?’
‘Yes, something like that,’ the old man said. ‘You’d know by the accent he wasn’t English anyway.’
‘I’m fairly sure he’s Russian. What age would you say he’d be?’
‘Ah, sure, about the same age as herself I suppose.’
‘And what would that be? Roughly?’
‘Well, she’s a bit older than me so I imagine he’d be pushing eighty now.
The son had a theory and that night he phoned his brother.
‘You’ll never believe who Dad had a call from yesterday.’
‘Put me out of my misery’
‘You know what I’ve been thinking?’ he said, ‘it could be something to do with the war. He was in the Russian army, you know.’
‘What has that to do with anything?’ his brother asked.
‘There’s people, Nazi hunters they’re called.’
‘Anthony wasn’t a Nazi, how could he be? He was in the Russian army, you said it yourself, weren’t they were on the side of the Allies.’
‘Who knows what went on back then? People did anything to survive. And really, we know nothing about him. Anyway, what do you think I should say to himself? He’s very bothered about it all.’
‘Well, one way or the other, you said he doesn’t want Anthony coming to stay with him.
‘That’s for sure.’
‘Then I’d say tell him to stay well out of it. Anyway, he hardly wants a bunch of vigilantes with Kalashnikovs turning up at his front door.’
‘Ha, ha! They’re not vigilantes and they’d hardly turn up here. I think that’s the point.’
‘Doesn’t matter. Dad’s an old man. He’s not well. He doesn’t need the hassle.’
His son walked the lane.
In the darkness he could hear rustling in the hedges. Moonlight glinted on the roofs of the sheds. There was light in the window of the old farmhouse. He lifted the latch. His father was sitting by the range his feet stretched out to the heat. The radio was on. His son sat in the other armchair.
‘Well,’ he said, ‘did you think any more about that business with Anne?’
The old man sighed heavily shifting uneasily in his chair.
‘To tell you the God’s honest truth I don’t know what to do. I’d hate to let Anne down, we were great pals when we were kids, she’s nearly the one age to me but the thought of having that dandy hanging around here every day for months is driving me mad.’
‘Don’t be worrying about it. It’ll get sorted one way or another.’
‘I can’t figure out why she wanted to send him here. I’m not getting a wink of sleep these nights with it all.’
The old man walked the lane. The birds sang even louder. Of course, it was Saturday today, there wasn’t much traffic. His thoughts wandered but there was no peace there. He’d have to decide, he couldn’t leave them hanging on forever. He wasn’t looking forward to his dinner.
As always he went in by the backdoor. They were eating. He joined them at the table. They talked about the great weather.
‘Get Grandad’s dinner out of the oven. Use the oven gloves’, his daughter-in-law directed the eldest child. She did. He looked at it.
‘You needn’t worry about that business with Anthony anymore’, his son said.
His father looked at him.
‘Yeah. I phoned Anne this morning.’
‘What did you say to her?’
‘I said that you’re an old man, you’re not well and you’re not able for visitors.’
‘I’m well enough,’ his father protested, ‘you’ll have her worrying now.’
‘At least now you won’t have to deal with Anthony.’
‘Did you ask her why she wanted to send him over?’
‘No, I decided to let sleeping dogs lie.’
He felt obscurely troubled and somehow powerless. His life seemed to be out of his control. Was this what happened when you got old? Still, the dinner was good.