Part 1.17

Joe returns with two pints of Doombar ale, and sits down heavily. We’re at the Spotted Dog, the only decent pub in Islington, and one that tends to draw a different crowd from the usual hoard of lager louts that frequent the bars and pubs in this area.  The pub is quiet, and in the hearth a large fire roars to ward off the bad weather.  I like to imagine that we are not in Islington, but in a little Norfolk country pub. 

Before he died, my father would sometimes take us with him to his local, where we’d sit staring quietly at the flames.  Joe was with foster parents at the time, having been abandoned as a baby, and he loved my father dearly.  I knew that my father, though a man of few words and even fewer overt emotions, had a soft spot for Joe.  An intensely practical man, he owned a small boat engine repair business in Stokesby.  He was trustworthy and honest, so did good trade.  Joe and I often helped him over weekends in return for some pocket money, and through this we grew to share my father’s wonder of mechanics. 

“Are you going to take the charity gig then, lover boy?” said Joe, interrupting my reverie.

“I think so,” I reply, ignoring the jibe. “Just to try it out, mind you.  It all feels a bit sudden.”

“At our age there isn’t time to be measured,” he says. “Go for it, Aaron.”

I smile, knowing I will, and that my hesitation is fooling no one.  I am clearly smitten by the little Elsbeth, and spending more time in her presence is a no brainer.  I have been alone for too long.

The bell rings for last orders but we drink up and head our separate ways.  It’s raining heavily so I walk home as quickly as the old knee will let me.  A group of hooded youths loiter around the entrance to my block of flats, talking in low tones, but they step aside to let me through.  I am filled with an unfamiliar fear, but try not to show it, passing by without speaking.  As I walk up the stairwell I hear them laugh out loud and am filled with anger at my timidity.  Old age is a cruel business.

At my flat, I find Harry curled up outside my door.  When he sees me, he comes to nuzzle my legs.  I reach down to scratch him behind his ears.  “Hello, fella, nice to see you.”  We enter the flat together, and I give him a saucer of milk before I head off to bed. Soon I am sleeping, and my dreams are filled with piles of endless junk that need sorting out, hooded figures lurking in the dark, and memories of long ago.