Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The builder

The builder calls. It has been fifteen years since he was here last. Then he came to remove a redundant chimney breast from Hodmandod Minor's room, so there was more room for the cot. Our children are the same age. Sometimes we used to see each other at the school plays and fetes; then, later, we used to nod at each other in the parents evenings at the senior school. Now he comes to work out how much it will cost to block up an inconvenient window in the bathroom.

We look at each other. I wonder what he sees in my face. Does he notice the same slackening of flesh about the jaw, the same crazing of skin around the eyes. His hair is gone, any middle-aged thinning swept away with a barber's razor; whereas mine is as long as it was, a few white hairs richer, the end of a cycle from 'pixie-cut' to shoulder length bob to long again.

'It's upstairs,' I tell him and run up to show him that really nothing's changed. The person you see is the person I was.

Outside again we stare at the wall then he turns his light eyes fixing onto mine. 'Hundred quid? OK?'
'It won't be me. OK? I've got some lads now.'
I smile. Before he was on his own. Before he came alone and was as mean with words as he is now.
Then suddenly I'm telling him stuff: about the guttering that's not quite right, about the pointing that needs replacing, talking and talking as if I don't want him to go, as if, by talking, I could go back in time and everything would be as it was.


Blogger chiefbiscuit said...

I can SO relate!

Thu Apr 03, 06:30:00 am  
Anonymous Clare. said...


Thu Apr 03, 10:27:00 pm  
Anonymous Eric the Blogless said...

Clare, did you used to feel more companionable with the builder? You express a certain nostalgia, but I can't decide if there is something you miss, or something you wish had happened, or merely that you are more aware and thus, regretful, of the time passing.

BTW, I see you mentioned on Debra Hamel's blog quite frequently. She thinks you are a genius.

I concur.

Sun Apr 06, 11:59:00 pm  
Anonymous Clare D said...

Hello, Eric the Blogless - that is such a fine name, rather Nordic, it seems to me. Such a kind comment - I don't know what to say, really, but thank you, I'm very glad you like it (but I'm not, of course).

Anyway, about the piece...well, I suppose I do like to leave my pieces deliberately ambiguous because that's what I like to read myself (I do lead a very quiet life, though - so that's the clue).

Mon Apr 07, 12:56:00 pm  

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