Richard Pierce


Day 158

I lose the thread of my days when I don’t get this done in the morning. Time is really slipping through my fingers right now. It’s not that there are so many things undone as there are things I want to do, and the hours turn into seconds, not minutes. I had an interesting conversation with my acupuncturist about this this afternoon, that we only notice time passing too quickly if we think about time. That if we just rode with it, it wouldn’t seem to pass so quickly. She suggested a book, which I will endeavour to find.

Mr Impractical struck again today. I ordered a new lock for the garage door, spent half an hour making sure the hole was the right size and that the barrel fitted etc etc, only to find, just when I thought I was winning, that the hole (which was already there) is too close to the edge of the door for the damn lock to fit. And then I forgot I’d promised to help M and A rescue a bird which had obviously fallen down into our chimney, to remember only when M came out of the house bearing said bird in an old sheet and setting it gently down on the lawn. A very ragged -looking pigeon that looked considerably the worse for wear. A went into the house to get some water and food for it (what food I don’t know; looked like some sort of grain to me). Just as she put the tray of water down next to the bird, it shook its head, ruffled its feathers, and flew off, leaving a trail of shit as it sailed off, obviously not as badly affected by its time in the chimney. Except wounded pride.

Still on my other astral plane after acupuncture, the needle points still sensitive and hot on my skin, I walked down a street and started catching up a father and his tiny daughter walking very slowly. She must have been about two or three, and was toddling along in that very special way in which such young people cover the ground. They were holding hands. She asked him the time, and he stopped, let go of her hand, checked the time and told her. He started walking again. She hooped after him, and I saw her tiny little hand reaching for his much larger hand, and huddling itself back into his palm. That brought tears to my eyes, that single small gesture, that gesture of absolute trust and love, and I missed the days when all ours were that small, when their hands would have fitted five times into our palms, when they still thought we were gods and perfect, and could do nothing wrong. It was a very moving moment, and I overtook them (giving them a wide berth of course) with tears still in my eyes. A few dozen feet onwards, I saw the inverse – a grown son with his elderly mother. He let go of her hand after they crossed the road, but she obviously didn’t really know where they were going, so her skinny hand defined by nothing more than tendons reached out and searched for his hand, and when she found it, she put her head on his shoulder, and they walked, slightly lopsidedly, up a gravel track towards a house by the Heath.

Life is beautiful.



Martin comes into the room before Aggie can answer, his face set and grim. ‘It’s done. Everything cleared away. No police. We’ll find a way of falsifying some record somewhere. Several favours called in.’ He looks up, sees the the woman on the table. ‘It’s alive?’

‘What did you expect?’ Aggie says.

‘I thought you’d killed whatever it was that killed that poor boy,’ he says. ‘Not save it.’

‘I don’t kill.’

‘Oh yes,’ he says, the sarcasm thick in his voice. ‘What a luxury to have.’

‘Who are you people?’ the woman says, and manages to sit up this time, her hands grasping the edge of the table so hard her knuckles go white. ‘What have you done to me?’

‘Nothing,’ Aggie says. ‘We haven’t done anything.’

Marit races at the table, a knife in her raised hand. ‘You killed my boyfriend,’ she screams. ‘You shot him.’

Aggie holds her back with one arm. ‘Stop.’

‘Stop or what? Marit says. ‘You’re just going to let her get away with it, aren’t you?’

‘What are you talking about?’ the woman says. ‘I haven’t killed anyone. Where are my kids?’

Marit just screams unintelligibly at her, tries to untangle herself from Aggie’s arm, a wild and lost look in her eyes.

‘Just take her away,’ Aggie says to Katharina. ‘We can’t deal with this all at once.’

‘You can’t deal with anything, you fat cow,’ Marit shouts. ‘You just make everything worse.’

‘Whatever you say,’ Aggie says, pushes her towards Katharina. ‘Just go into another room now. Five minutes. That’s all.’

Katharina puts her hand on Marit’s shoulder, and all the fight goes out of her granddaughter. ‘Shh, child, come on,’ Katharina says. ‘We’ll get through this.’

The woman, open-mouthed, watches them leave the room, runs her hands through her hair. ‘Don’t hurt me, please,’ she says, lips trembling. ‘I won’t tell anyone about you, honestly.

‘What’s your name?’ Aggie says as softly as she can.

‘Lilibet,’ the woman says.

‘Lilibet, what date do you think it is?’

When Lilibet gives a date three weeks in the past, Robert looks at Martin, shrugs, points at the control device with his eyes.

‘You’re three weeks behind,’ Aggie says. ‘Someone stole your time and your mind.’

‘What?’ Lilibet’s face, even whiter now than before. ‘You’re lying.’

‘She’s telling the truth,’ Robert says, his face soft and caring. He picks up the device from the table. ‘Someone put this inside you, wiped your memory, controlled you.’ He doesn’t go any nearer her, doesn’t want to frighten her more than she’s been frightened already. ‘What do you do?’ He has noticed her six-pack, the muscled arms, the strong neck.

‘Ex-army. Police. Part-time. Just up the road.’ She nods her head in the direction of the front door. ‘Can I go now?’

‘In Heslington?’ Robert says.

‘What do you mean, Heslington? I don’t know where that is.’ She shakes her head. ‘No, just up the road here in Montrose.’

Robert shakes his head. ‘You’re in York, my dear, in England, not in Montrose.’

Lilibet’s face crumbles. ‘That’s not possible. I was with the kids a minute ago. We were at the Air Station Heritage Centre.’

‘Oh yes,’ Martin says. ‘That splendid old place. The Spitfire out the front. I know it well.’ He scratches his head. ‘I think we need to get you a big cup of tea and try to find out what happened to you to be this far south. We’re not going to hurt you, honestly.’

‘You could be planning to do anything,’ Lilibet says and jumps off the table, and collapses onto the floor, unconscious.

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