Prelude 80

Aaron gazed dreamily at the rolling waves crashing endlessly like a nagging wife on uncaring rocks, battle after battle only briefly interluded by the sea’s sulky withdrawal. He liked this place: desolate and alone, it was unfrequented by all except that occasional startled cormorant, and he came here to escape, to think. He sat hunched over, braced against the icy wind, drawing his knees together below a great white beard, his deeply creviced face crumpled in contemplation around two intelligent eyes that shone like forgotten pools of youth in an ageing desert.

Prelude 79

Aaron woke with a start and listened, his body immediately taught with war-trained anticipation. A soft clatter sounded from the kitchen.

Fiona stirred next to him, but he put his hand gently on her shoulder.

"Shhh," he hissed, throwing off the covers and getting out of bed. "It's that neighbour's cat in the kitchen again - I'm going to get it this time and wring it's blasted neck"

Fiona giggled sleepily. "Looking like that?"

Aaron looked puzzled at first but then saw his naked, pale, moonlit frame standing in the cupboard mirror. He stroked his long beard thoughtfully, examining the lean, muscular lines of his body with not a little satisfaction.

Then he grinned defiantly back at his wife. "Definitely!"

He crept out of the bedroom, along the dark passageway towards the kitchen, careful to avoid the familiar creaking floor boards past the girls' bedrooms. Finally he reached the door and paused, listening to the further clanking that could be heard. Slowly he crouched, preparing his body like a coiled spring, then with a mighty roar he leapt through the door, waving his arms like a great white bearded banshee.

The "cat" turned out to be a solitary man wearing a dark balaclava who turned to face him, his face full of panicked incredulity, before dropping his bag of stolen silverware and fleeing, screaming, through the open window.

Prelude 78

Aaron pushed the reluctant door to his new home open to reveal a wall emblazoned with startling graffiti: "Fuck the counsel", presumably written by some embittered and illiterate previous tenan1t.

"Fuck the counsel!" screamed the graffiti emblazoned wall, the enraged residue of the previous evicted tenants of his new home, a "room with a view" according to his sardonic soup kitchen mate - very funny.

The door opened fairly easily, revealing a debris-filled room - the discarded remnant of previous tenants' lives - surrounded by walls emblazoned with foul graffiti and dimly lit by a dust encrusted window that opened on to the alley below.

Aaron surveyed his new home with a wry smile; this littered, graffiti besmirched hovel was the "room with a view" his soup kitchen mate had mentioned?

Prelude 77

Aaron clutched his crumpled shopping list in his hand as he waded through the sea of shoppers. Why? he asked himself. Idiot! How could he have forgotten it was Saturday! Any day of the week was his for the taking - one of the few benefits of being unemployed - but he chose today. Complete muppet!

The aisles were jam packed with hapless trolley pushers entangled in commercial confusion. Aaron lifted his basket above waist height and wove his way through purposefully. Right, he thought, gritting his teeth, let’s get this over with. Just a few things to get: spaghetti, canned tomatoes, mince, bread, milk and perhaps a bit of cream for Harry, his new feline room mate. And of course, the wine.

Ah, yes the wine. Ever the wine. Sparkling white in the glass like a harlot’s promise: the ruin of all who yielded irrevocably to its charms. Aaron paused, for a moment fighting the memories and the tears, his wrecked marriage, his ruined career, his estranged girls, until suddenly, he was painfully nudged by a trolley.

“Excuse me!” spoke a harsh voice.

He turned to face his antagonist, a lean woman of uncertain age dressed in an unlikely white track suit, large golden earrings and hair tied back tightly to produce the effect of a DIY face lift.

She glared at him and snarled, “Are you going to stand there all day?”

Aaron considered for a moment beating her to a pulp with his empty basket, but instead smiled apologetically and let her pass, watching her bony hips sway from side to side, exuding a terrifyingly militant sexuality that made his stomach churn. He sighed, and turned to walk in the other direction, soon filling his basket with customary male efficiency. He did not understand the concept of browsing, he thought. “Veni, vidi, vici.” I came, I saw, I bought. No dilly-dallying.

It was only when he had started queuing in the baskets only till, with six people behing him that he remembered the wine. Cursing he left his treasured place, the space closing hungrily behind him, and strode towards the drinks aisle. He headed for the Specials shelf, the only wine he could really afford on his State handout, and was not surprised to find the shelf was mostly empty, apart from one lonely but pleasingly reduced bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. He reached forward thankfully…

“Excuse me!” pierced a familiar voice, followed by an equally familiar trolley that barged him out of the way. “I was going to get that!”

He stopped and looked incredulously at the dusty heap of tracksuit clad angles before him, his anger slowly rising. “I don’t think so,” he growled.

But she stood, unyielding; her hands perched on her hips like a vitriolic teapot.

Aaron sighed. He had done enough fighting with women for one lifetime, and what had come of that?

“You have the wine,” he said, turning and walking back up the aisle. “I didn’t really want it anyway.”

Prelude 76

“That one over there looks like a poodle,” said Mollie, pointing at a cloud that ambled along slowly, amidst a tumble of contented friends, watched under the cerulean sky by a radiant summer sun.

Aaron squinted at the cloud. He hated this game. It was a cloud, and it looked like a cloud not a poodle, because it was that – a cloud.

“It looks like a fish to me,” he replied sardonically.

Mollie raised herself up on one elbow, her curls falling like a shower of amber around her pale, freckled face.

“Aaron, you’re impossible,” she said sternly.

He laughed heartily and pulled Mollie forward to kiss her. She struggled with mock resistence but they soon were rolling, laughing amidst the gay daisies and wild, sweet-smelling long Norfolk grasses.

The poodle cloud gave up the attempted charicature and morphed into something more becoming a cloud of its ambulatory pace, and doing so briefly cast a brief shadow on the oblivious young lovers below.

Later, Mollie lay cradled against Aaron under her grandmother’s patchquilt picnic blanket, her soft, pale naked body a strong contrast against Aaron’s lean, weathered frame. She stroked his hair gently, tousling it with her fingers. He lay with his eyes closed, his breathing causing her to rise and fall gently. She was happy, her happiness only slightly tinged with the sadness that he, her first love, would be off to university tomorrow, too far away for her liking.

“I love you, Aaron,” she said, snuggling up close for comfort.

“Uhuh,” he replied, his mind far away, day dreaming of journeys, university, and a future that waited with bated breath for his arrival.