I SEEM TO BE
getting a name for myself in this small town. To the benign I’m an amiable eccentric, to the less charitable (Or more perceptive—Ed) I’m the muttering head-case they cross the street to avoid; you know, that old berk always talking to himself … arguing with himself sometimes, which is worse; or losing those arguments (often) which is even more worse. Quite barking, in fact.
I can understand why.
In this province other than netball in winter or tennis in summer there’s not much entertainment, a vacuum I happen to fill by involuntary accident. As just this morning for example, on my knees in the front garden mercilessly savaging weeds when I sensed the unsubtle aroma of a good shag on the morning air, from quite close by. Too close, dammit—
“Mecca be the other way, Lad.”
Wonderful. Alone no more, my cup runneth over. And he sounds quite chipper for once. In other words: trouble. For me. I prefer my own private Sage to be of more sombre disposition or desperate for rum. Anyway, the sun’s not over the yardarm yet—
“It is in the Caribbee, Lad.”
I’d glare at him if he’d come out, but he’s staying invisible for now. Sod him—
“Hah! It’s no good, you know. After that last time when you scuppered the whole crock The Spouse wouldn’t speak to me for a week. I got her to hide the replacement—if I don’t know where it is, you certainly won’t.”
At last. He’s making himself visible. Sort of. I can see his outline, but others can’t. Just as well, an ancient seadog in a sou’wester in my front garden would be even harder to explain than talking to myself. A foraging early bumblebee flies through his head but he doesn’t seem to notice.
“Y’ Spouse’s Christmas box, Son. What’ve we got her?”
“Aye … she’s seein’ me quite clear these days and I don’t make her nervous no more. Walked right through me the yesterday—”
“She didn’t mention that. She can be a forthright wee minx—”
“I’m flattered. When they walks through you it’s a sign ye’ve been accepted, like part of the family.”
“So in as much a y’ was me once anyway—what are we getting her?”
For such a blasted know-all he doesn’t know much.
“I bought her that ring you put me on to, remember?”
“Aye, Lad, that I do. But that were last year. Somehow it just don’t seem relevant.”
Okay, I haven’t started my Christmas shopping yet. Sue me. Wait—
“I’ve got her a few bits—”
“Yes! BITS! Oops …”
The mail lady is struggling desperately to squelch all the mail through the little slot for letters. She seems in a huge hurry this morning, all she’d have to do is reach around and put the calendars and junk and things in the boxy part that in earlier generations sufficed for milk bottles but she’s panicking. Southlanders, panic or not, are very determined people. A last desperate crunch compresses the mail into the box and she applies feet to pedals, as she rockets away with great gusto I’m showered with gravel and for some reason a dead mouse. Oh look, bikes can fly … I never knew that.
“Is there anything I could give her, Lad? Some small service perhaps? You’d have to write the card though.”
A thought enters my mind, grabs my brain by the neck and pounds it against my skull. I think it’s trying to get my attention.
Worth a try …
“No, I’ve got it covered for both of us … wait; are you any good at divining winning Lotto numbers?”
There’s an intangible snort followed by what sounds like genuine regret. Regret? Is he mellowing? Naaaa …
“There be very strict regulations against that sort of thing, Lad. Not allowed to tell you anything an intelligent mortal couldn’t figure for hisself—”
Score one for the spook, but he didn’t have to relish that ‘intelligent’.
“—but if it helps at all the numbers y’ using just now will come up—”
“—all y’ have to do is hope it’s in y’r own lifetime.”
Bugger. Score two for the spook. Bastard.
Down the street I observe a young couple pushing a three-wheeler containing a smiling infant cross back again from the other side of the road, having none-too-subtly detoured around me on a wide arc. Word obviously gets around.
I creak to my feet. My pile of freshly slaughtered weeds is impressive enough to justify a coffee.
Anyway, there’s a whole herd of wholesome ‘Heritage Trail’ walkers striding this way and I already have enough of a reputation for being different. The last thing I need right now is a bronze plaque on my letterbox flagging up our home as a local landmark. I have a reputation to get rid of …