The rosepetal path
“Just straight,” said Francis, “and in about five and a half steps there’s a bench to your right side. Maybe we can sit there and finish lunch.” “Thank you, dear. A sit is nice, yes, sit on the bench and we can hear what you have to see for ourselves.” Early Autumn belongs to the woods here. The simple burgeons of Spring and the rampant thirsts of Summer now passed into a vibrance of orchestral colour with each more rapid dusk; Francis is saving for a new bike. “So how did you go blind Mrs. Watson? What happened? Are you always not going to see?” “I could see once” replied the nodding form on the weathered bench in the failing light weaving weakly through the pointly denuded branches. “I was with someone a long time ago, and something happened. I can’t see now. That’s why I asked the people to send you, you see.” “I hope I can help. I’m sorry, but I hope that we can bring something for you. I’m new.” “They told me. That’s okay.” --oOo-The park was to the south of a quiet city, with busy people who tutted gently when their work woke them to Monday; who settled happily into comfort when it loosed them unto Friday granting some pattern of weekend; half had a mind to try for better work, in the north perhaps, half-heartedly though, things being not so bad, really; the other half were quite happy to settle with their given comfort not seeing a month as two stretches of ‘five-and-two-plus-five-and-two’ days, rather a collection of possible comforts and regular works hopefully, with joy&trouble sandwiches sometimes interspersed, and maybe love, or children, or a new house, a different car, a dog called Blue. Rose Watson lived in a room around a large chair where she spent her day, surrounded by what she chose. In the corner was a small pale collar with a worn copper disc, once engraved; its thin leather was cracked now, the once-red strip a
brittle bacon of disuse. The agency would send people round now and then to see her, to check her levels, talk with her, to listen supportively—actively—to her stories of the past. But Sandra, the centre manager told new recruits “She’s not to be tidied up after that one, nor washed up after, nor spoonfed nor mollycoddled. That bloody woman is the tidiest I’ve seen in all my years in this place. Not a single knife is upside down in her spoon drawer, and she opens the curtains at 8 and closes them at 8, and never falls because all is in place in her place, that woman. I’ve tried to sell her more services for nigh on 11 years, but all she says is “I just need eyes, not services.” “I just need eyes, you see” said Rose, shifting warmly on the faded bench, “just tell me what you see,” and settling back in her thick, quilted coat, rings sparkling on her fingers and tightly clasped around one pearlescent-painted thumbnail. “Tell me what you see, dear.” “Okay, I see trees, a lot. About maybe a hundred? Or fifty, all tall. About five times my height, maybe six. And they are like, bald, they are throwing their leaves out…“ “Throwing their leaves out!” interrupted Rose with a laughing start, “how lovely. Go on.” “Um, okay the leaves are all on the bottom of the floor, they aren’t wet today, all colours, and. And there’s a white dog coming down the path.” “A dog? What dog?” asked Rose. “A white one, small, curly.” “That’s a nice name. No dear, that was a joke. Tell me. Tell me what you see.” “Well, there is a black fence over there, I mean, about twenty metres in front of us. And an old poster on it, with a clown face.” “Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns dear, did you know that? You should tell people. It’s important. And circuses, you should tell them about the elephants.” “It’s an old poster, I think it’s been maybe ripped off, or maybe bats ate it.” “Never mind. I’d like to go home now.”
Francis gave the crook of his right arm to Mrs. Watson, who leaned up to the trees and let him guide her from the bench, until they both stood amongst the gloaming richness of that moist-coloured concert of branches and their falling orchestra. Twelve weeks of Autumn had almost passed, and the mulch underfoot was a soft tone of flatulent comedy in the daylight hours, crisp deliverer of fractures in frosted midnight falls for the uncareful. Francis wondered if he would get the job. “Mrs. Watson, what will you tell the agency…” he started, not sure to bother with a polite face to his blind companion, “will I get the job?”
“What else do you see, Francis?” She had stopped and turned back to the bench their visit had constituted, gesturing with her unchaperoned arm. “What else do you see?” Mrs. Watson smelled like nice soap, Francis had been thinking before she launched this sudden interview curveball question. “A bin. A bush… our sandwich bags on the top of the bin, some burger wrappers…nothing,” he replied. “That’s fine. Let’s go on then,” and they walked the darkening pathways by the streetlit way to the quiet sidestreet where Mrs. Watson let herself into her silent door, turning her farewell in thanks to the candidate who might help her, might earn his pence from the blind. “Goodbye Francis, thank you dear.”
Before spreading herself back down into her chair, Rose Watson lifted a bound album from the shelf and turned to the middle pages, where old photographs lay fixed behind plastic. A decade and more before, her shoeboxes and moving boxes and shopping bags of clutter and certificates of somethings and all had been lost, long after she had called them clutter but never having wanted to part with any; this heavy album on her lap would never leave. Beside her chair, to the left beneath a book of proverbs she once promised her childhood friend she would one day learn by heart, Rose Watson kept a bedside table, an eccentricity the people from the agency sniggered at behind her door; it was a simple, welded box, flat-panel metal, a cube on legs, she called it.
The sheet steel had been folded into form and given solid riveting at all eight corners; it had a steady welded beading like a wedding confectioner’s. All of this a collective testament to a crafted duty of care, years prior to its popping into Rose’s life as a gift, after a visit to a Design Week exhibition, somersaults in her past. The rust had been smoothed out but not obliterated, cherished corners now shining with a mute brown smile of “just fine, thanks.” And reaching into her cube on legs she lifted out a box made of rectangles, as would hold tissues or somesuch in bathrooms; adorned by flowers, its cuboid cute hinges creaked a code that complimented opening, complained closing. This box of painted petals from long ago had only been used for one thing by one person in one place for so long that only Rose had ever heard its hinges sing, and it dutifully creaked open to its audience of one once more. Rose took out her glasses and put them on. Switching on the light, she turned to that page she always looked at before bed, and smiled. “They still haven’t repainted our bench blue, dear. And this one called your rose plant a bush.” --oOo--
©Gerry Black 2012