The front door and kitchen were on the first floor, level with the road, while a small bedroom and study were on the ground floor, burrowed into the side of the mountain.
Three rooms, one fireplace, a view over the valley. It was enough.
In the winter he grew strong digging away the snow. In the summer he sat on the front step, watched the hikers march red-faced up the mountain.
The locals had been friendly at first, bringing him cast iron dishes filled with of polenta, rounds of Fontina cheese. But the visits had dwindled as his neighbours realised there would be no warm thanks or smiles, no reciprocation.
Some nights he dreamt of what brought him there, the day he turned his own life upside down. But every flagellant knows his own limits and exploring the past was his.
Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we visit the Aosta Valley in Italy. See here to join in and to read the other stories.
Ron’s Bait and Tackle stood beside Ellie’s Just for You for ten years.
Every Saturday, the men would go, furrow browed, into Ron’s to buy line, discuss the best place to catch salmon and wrasse. Their wives would nip into Ellie’s, coo over doilies and fancy teapots shaped like Sydney Opera House.
When the paint flaked on the Just for You frontage, Ron would appear with sandpaper and paintbrush, Ellie watching from the shade, serving tea from a pot with a chipped spout.
As the sun eased into the ocean at the end of the day, he’d sit on his step, roll threads of tobacco into a skinny cigarette, she’d perch on the wooden seat he’d made for her, sip lemonade through a red and white straw.
One day both shops were found boarded up. A sign on the Just for you read,
Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we visit Tasmania, Australia. See here to join in.
Is it me or does the world feel like it’s more messed up than ever?
There was a time when all we had to fret over was nuclear annihilation and whether Wagon Wheels are smaller now than they were when we were kids (Yes they are.)
Now the NHS is on its knees, we’re threatened with medicine and food shortages if we leave Europe, civil disobedience if we don’t.
We’re in the middle of a man made Mass Extinction event, global warming is causing erratic weather patterns that threaten much of life on Earth and we’re liable to choke on our own plastic waste in the coming decades.
The question is, where do you channel the quite justified anxiety caused by these concerns?
A: go full Rambo-style survivalist, build a bunker in your flowerbeds and wait for the coming end armed with a cricket bat and some ancient tins of fruit cocktail to throw at oncoming hordes (I’m in the UK – holding them off with an assault rifle is not an option)?
B: pretend nothing’s happening, keep the worries inside until they form an ulcer the size of a dinner plate?
Hmm. If only there was some useful way to work through these anxieties …
That’s when he’d say anything about those days at all.
Of course, he was wrong. Because you can’t unsee what’s been seen, can’t unremember a thing that’s happened in your own street, at your own door.
Between one neighbour and the next.
You just push it down, away, paste a smile over the grieving as you paint new walls where the old ones stood, plant geraniums in the ashes and hope they’ll grow.
Forgetting’s not forgetting, it’s denial. And denial’s a cancer burrowing at your heart, forming wormy pits in your soul until one day you’re nothing but hollows.
Written for What Pegman Saw. This week we are in Tulsa. See here to join in.
This week’s an unusual one as Josh and Karen, Pegman’s founders, have asked us to write a story on a specific time and place, namely the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921.
Others – Iain, Penny, Rochelle and Josh himself – have made such a good fist of relating elements of the events, I felt anything I added would ring hollow. Instead, I chose to focus on the fact that this event seems to have been largely ‘forgotten’. Not taught in schools, not widely discussed. I considered what this ‘forgetting’ might do to some.
Fourth bench from the oldest stone crossing, when the 101 cast their bills to the west.
My guidebook said the oldest stone crossing was the Meeburg. As for the 101 I hadn’t a clue … Then a flotilla of white darts scudded along the canal, their wake pointing to an egg yolk sky. I smiled – the 101 swans of Bruges, returning to their nests at sunset.
I walked Meestraat, remembering Mother’s words when I told her Johannes was an author and an oil painter.
‘Writers are liars and thieves. Artists are cowards.’
Not for the first time I wondered at her life before marrying my accountant father.
The bench was black with rain, golden with fallen leaves. Taped to the seat was a large cardboard sign.
New York calls me home. Enjoy the canals. J
I hate it when Mother’s right.
Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we are in Bruges, Belgium.
*Being an art history graduate, the first thing that came to mind when I saw Pegman was in Bruges was the Flemish artist, Jan van Eyck (1390-1441) – also known as Johannes. Van Eyck is famous for many wonderful oil paintings, not least The Arnolfini Portrait. He has signed the portrait just above a representation of a mirror. It reads “Johannes de Eyck fuit hic 1434” – “Johannes van Eyck was here 1434”.
We were led along a narrow lane into the backyard of a house. A hosepipe coiled round the base of a banyan tree – emerald green and dusty – an equally dusty tortoiseshell cat coiled on a nearby garden chair.
The gallery was a wooden construction built onto the back of the house, the roof glass, letting in any dappled light that escaped the clutches of the banyan.
Sonny handed his kyats over to the elderly artist and strode in. I watched the twitch of his shoulders through his sweat-soaked shirt as he moved from one image to the next. The trip had been good for us. Time to heal, learn how to be a couple again, not a family.
‘Kim.’ An edge in his voice.
A painting. A little girl with Sonny’s charcoal eyes, my ash-blond hair. Our little girl, holding the ragged Mr Ted we buried with her.
Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we visit Myanmar. See here to join in.
Papa kept the photographs in a drawer in his study.
‘My portraits’, he called them, though when Meggy drifted in one long and listless Sunday she found no faces, only photographs of old buildings. The shiny surfaces snagged her fingertips, as if the spires and stained glass were reaching, tugging at her.
Decades later, when his camera had long since been boxed away, she would find the old man dozing, blanket tucked round skinny knees, the images hanging from his lose grip.
She wondered if he’d realised back then that people, like buildings, become ruins of themselves.
Written* for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. Do visit here to take part and join this merry band of super talented people.
*Also written in my kitchen, while a builder friend fixes our boiler … along with the climate, the upcoming election and Brexit!