Side by side they went down the road, the hedgerows crowding in as if eavesdropping on a private conversation. Clouds the colour of curdled milk sat threateningly over the heads of the man and the boy, the rain within contained by a thin membrane like the skin on cold porridge.
When do we get there?
Soon, soon. We’ll get there soon.
And what do we do there?
We’ll see, we’ll see.
The road went on. And, having no choice, so did the man and the boy. The road contoured round the rising hills like a hand gliding over a lover’s breast. In the far distance, a sunbeam broke out as if on day release and plucked out diamonds sparkling in the sand banks. The gleam couldn’t last and soon the gloom crowded in on the land again, the once lush fields brown and ragged like a sepia photo of tenement streets.
I’m getting tired now.
Don’t worry, its not so far. I think I can see the turnoff.
The road dipped, a polite bow before rising toward the horizon where further down a turning showed itself, shyly peeping from behind tall granite gateposts guarded by griffins prepared to shriek at unwary interlopers.
I don’t think I want to go there now. I want to go home. Please. Take me home.
We can’t, remember? I told you that. We talked about this only last week, don’t you remember?
Two magpies launched themselves from the trees, laughing in unison while the hooded crows looked on muttering oaths at having their silence disturbed. The trees swayed in the wind, holding up their branches as if to shield themselves from a punishing blow.
I’m scared. I want to go back. Take me home. Mammy will be missing us.
Ssshhh, ssshhh, don’t get upset. Wipe your eyes and blow your nose. It will be alright, don’t worry. Everything will be fine. Besides, Mammy isn’t there so we can’t go back.
Why not? We could always go back before, couldn’t we?
Not this time. This time there can be no going back. But don’t be scared, I won’t let anything bad happen to you.
The sound of gentle crying accompanied them as the road turned off onto the gravel driveway. The large house looked on in disapproval as the car drew up to the granite steps leading to the dark canyon beyond the oak door. Two starched-white nurses helped the old man up the steps.
Bye dad, I’ll see you next week.
The boy jumped back in the car and drove away.