You feel the soft movement, whispering along the stained strips of old oak. A fluster of dust curls and settles like a breath. If ever a secret was laid to rest, this is where it would sleep. The room waits dark and forgotten. Forgotten, until sweet, rose cheeked Tom, 46 years old, discovers, in the last will and testament of his estranged and terrible father, he is now the owner of a small cottage, nestled near the banks of the Langollen Canal, North Wales. See him now, nervously tapping his chipped and chubby fingers on the crumbling table of the stumbling, ever stopping train. Watch as his arrival in the village goes unnoticed, not even a shop assistant to frown and wonder at his puffed and glowing jowls, as he buys Tesco Sushi, paid on Credit Card, and nods to the reassuring and judgement-free sound of the self-service lady.
Follow him down the mile or so of winding lanes in the afternoon sun, as he hums and the wind whistles along. Perhaps for a time he is happy. Gone is the distant drumming of the London crowds, the computers incessant clicking keyboard, the lonely bell of the 3 minute microwave meal. Sit with him as he rests a while, enjoying the view of the hill backed canal side, warm from his exertion, but not, for once, exhausted. Onwards now, to the call of something else. He feels it clutching at him, tugging, step by step, until. There.
Hear, as he stoops through the overgrown bushes, soft sighs surrounding him as he sweeps through the grass, thigh high and sweet smelling. In the dimming flicker of dusk, the cottage seems to glow. The creeping ivy clings and climbs, the crumbling brick, slips and sags. But the faded mousey door creaks hello, as it swings inwards.
As if by an instinct that he has never known existed, he potters into the kitchen, to light the stove. With the strike of the match, he is struck by the thought of his father, alone here, making his tea. He tries to imagine what his father would think of him now, but it has been too long an absence and the dark memories cast him little light. Instead he cleans a cup, scrubs the sink and sweeps the floor. How many years of dust have happily lied undisturbed here, to now shuffle off into the deeper cracksto rest.
He bends down now, drawn by an urge to feel the old oak beneath his hand. His creaking back and his tired knees do not stop him and he sits. He finds to his surprise that he can still smile. Once more he pictures his tiny shoebox flat, dug into the bottom of a soulless city house. He tries to remember what had happened to him and then realised that nothing had. In a moment he has slipped through 5 decades of life, unnoticed and unliving. He is sure now that, that was not him. His fingers tap, tap along the boards edge and he remembers something more. Something hidden under the surface. Something buried beneath the boards. His hand sweeps across their edges. The timeless wrinkles and crevices each tell their own story. Hold your breath as you wait for him. There is a secret here he thinks. He can feel it flowing across him, a touch on his stooped shoulder, a brush against his ever-red face. And then he names it. Peace. And he plunges, wholly and happily into its arms.