This assignment is in response to Foreshadowing, Writing101.
ON a remarkable day that midsummer it was about as hot as a baker’s oven and as the sun sucked itself up to full heat it was just about then, as she would tell her little group in the tea shop, it was just about then that she almost died. Rightly, to say ‘almost died’ might be over cooking things a touch. But then old women will tell their stories and anyway, Flora Livingston was just so very old that in truth doctors would say she must have been almost dying almost every day.
In this case her near miss was unremarkable. She struggled out of the shop with her bags, two each hand and weighted evenly enough either side so as not to topple her, and wandered into the road, wondering if she’d remembered the eggs, or the flour, or the sugar. Flora never saw it coming: she only heard the screeching tires grappling the hot tarmac, and her slow heart dropped briefly as her bags spewed home-baking goods onto the road.
The driver of the skidding car should not have been so alarmed to see the old lady up ahead crossing, oh so slowly, but by a superfast process of electric impulses he had nervously managed to successfully avert a collision course. This evasive action was just so successful in fact, that the car had screeched to a halt a full 10 metres clear in advance of the old lady who, it seemed, was still alive and breathing, though scared witless by the not-so-near miss.
Anyway it was the screech that had made her drop the shopping bags and now the eggs were probably done for. The driver got out, spilling out apologies, full of sorrys and are you oks. He began to help her refill the bags.
“I’m sure the eggs are probably done for,” she said sadly, as the young man in a localized white puffy cloud tried in vain to doctor an exploded bag of flour.
Andy heard himself offering to take the ancient woman home, that it was the least thing he could do, and, as she just wouldn’t give no for an answer, he could see no way out of the situation.
“I am glad of the lift Andrew, my head is just about to burst with this heat, it’s so close isn’t it, there’s just no air, no air, I hope you weren’t going anywhere out of the way and that bus would have all but done for me, and the eggs, well the eggs certainly are done for, but there you go, into every life a little rain must fall I suppose.”
The open road yawned concretely into the distance. Andy drummed his fingers on the steering wheel.
“It’s not to my own house I’m going,’ said Flora, breaking the silence. ‘It’s to my daughter’s, to see my little grandson, my first would you believe, and oh my, it’s well overdue, at my age, but he’s such a lovely little thing, and…well, I think I have some photos here in my bag, I can show you while you’re driving – nono, it’s no trouble. Now. Where did I…oh, here they are!”
The Happy-Good-Luck petrol station was just about as busy as a farmers market as Flora sat in the car, in the parking area by the forecourt. An awful racket was softly blaring from the wireless, which Andy had left on to keep her company while she waited on him to pay for the gas. After a short struggle, she managed to wrestle the window-winder into submission and let some of the noise out, and some air in.
As Andy walked back to the car, his attention was momentarily caught by the tragedy of a child and his fallen ice-cream, which lay delicious and useless in the dirt as a young couple tried to console the little boy’s grief. On the car radio the lunchtime DJ was talking to an expert about the life-changing benefits of transcendental meditation in between songs about pain and love and dreams and starlight and sitting in parks in Paris, France. Andy clicked the dial to off and coaxed the engine into verve with a gentle growl. This trip was taking a little longer than Andy had expected: he had things to do, people to see.
“Is it very far to your daughter’s house Mrs. Livingstone?”
“No, not in the least, it’s just over the bridge. Not this next bridge but the next next one, it’s not so very far. You see it’s her birthday today, my daughter Lilla, did I mention that? And she won’t be in just now but that’s just the point you see, it’s to be a surprise. I’m going to bake a cake, and have it ready for when she comes back from work.”
“I’ll take these bags in for you Mrs. Livingstone shall I?” he asked.
“Flora, it’s Flora, Andrew. And yes, if it’s no trouble. Honestly, I feel quite…” Flora trailed off, feeling frightfully breathless. “Leave those in the kitchen would you Andrew, it’s just through there thanks, and do make yourself at home. I’m just going to cut some of these roses to put in a vase, just to, just to brighten the place up a little.” She gave him a tired smile and stepped outside, shading her eyes from the brightness of the light in the garden. Slowly, very slowly, she lowered herself to one knee, then two. Clip. She held the first rose in her left hand, the secateurs in her right. Clip. A thorn cut easily though her papery skin, and sent a dizzying rush to her head. Not yet bleeding.
Once inside, Andy unpacked the bags onto the worktop to save Flora some little effort; she looked just about done in after all. Doesn’t stop her talking for two, he thought, and looked out the window.
A cold numbing spread down her right arm and the springy clippers, suddenly too strong for her hand, jumped out of her grasp.
He saw her busying about, trying to please her daughter. It crossed his mind suddenly that it’s hard to fill the gaps in the loneliness of life. As an afterthought he flicked the kettle switch to on, and turned to take out two cups.
“Andrew! Andrew…” came a soft call from the garden.
“It’s Andy, Mrs. Livingstone, just call me Andy,” he called back. No reply. He wandered through towards the garden, and the sprinkler system fwooshed into action exactly as he stepped outside, spitting an artificial mini rainbow through the sunlight into the air.
Flora lay half on her side, mid-rosebush. Water showered onto her in drops she could see falling down but barely feel touching her.
“Where, she wondered inertly, has the rain come from a sky that blue?”