Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 199

It’s 38C in my office, too hot even for me, so I’m sitting in the garden typing this into my phone, just like I did in Agios Nikiolaos. Except I don’t have the glorious view of the bay in front of me, nor the even more glorious view of M lying on her sun lounger in one of her many bikinis. And not the buzz of multiple languages coming out of Giorgo’s bar. What I do have is a warm and gentle breeze, an out-of-control dog in a garden somewhere down the street barking crazily, and Jam, the one-eyed cat, drinking plentifully and quietly from the water bowl near the base of our sole non-fruitbearing olive tree in the shade. And my stomach’s been betraying me for the past 24 hours, to add insult to injury.

Ironically enough, M was so chilled in her office in the house this morning, she wore a cardigan for most of it. My strategy of opening the door and windows to my office bore fruit only until about noon (and I got up late – 7) because I’d gone to bed late due to said betrayal and felt dreadful. Anyway, whinge over, if it ever was a whinge rather than a statement of unfortunate fact.

Another irony: I walked to the post office to post my latest snail mail letter to Colonel L in the US. I made sure to walk in the shade, even if that shade was just from small harden walls only tall enough to give shade to my legs. When I got there, I was told no post being picked up today or tomorrow due to the heat. Understandable, as I think most post vans aren’t air-conditioned. On the other hand, this kind of weather is only going to become more frequent unless humankind as one decides to make radical changes to the way it lives (and that includes no more mobile phones, no server farms, less driving, less travel, less polluting industries, less meat consumption, corporates being forced to change their polluting ways). We all need to make sacrifices. Maybe the last push by me at work to go the last 5% to being totally paperless will be the last one before we bin the internet and go back to paper (I hope not, but then my work carbon foot print is very small, and my niche on the server farm minute, but … circular argument ensues).

I can sense it getting dark earlier than even two weeks ago. This is the way of the seasons. All this is the way of the seasons, and the way of extinctions.

AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 152

‘Best not to think about it,’ Lilibet says.

‘Not much choice, but I know what you mean.’ Aggie lapses into silence. ‘Sleep.’

‘That’s all you ever say to me.’

‘That’s all I need you to do. That way you’ll miss all the scary bits.’

‘I did drive a tank once,’ Lilibet says. ‘And knocked down a bridge with it. So your deiving won’t scare me.’

Aggie laughs. ‘Don’t bet on it.’

Lilibet leans back and closes her eyes. ‘Tell me a story,’ she says. ‘Your voice can lull me to sleep.’

‘Are you saying I’m boring?’

‘No. You just have a beautiful voice.’

Aggie shrugs, although Lilibet can’t see her. ‘Whatever you say.’ She breathes in deeply. ‘Then how should I begin, and how should I presume?’ Her eyes fix on the road. ‘An unknown girl came from an unremembered place, and found herself in a village of fools and reprobates. She didn’t know who she was or what she was, and was sure this wasn’t the place she belonged. But there was nowhere else to go, and all the fierce aeroplanes with their guns and their fire seemed to fly past this place, way over it, and just ignore it.

‘She found herself in the village square without memory, without money, just in the dirty clothes she was wearing, and the rain poured down and made her muddy and cold and frightened. She sat down, right there, in the mud of the square, where the ruts of the carts had turned into slimy pathways, and the puddles seemed inviting because she couldn’t remember when she had last had a drink.

‘The mud squelched as she lay on her back and let the storm rain right into her mouth, and her thirst disappeared, but her fear and her loneliness and confusion didn’t. The raindrops falling out of the sky looked massive the closer they got to her face, and some if them landed in her red eyes and half-blinded her, and others just fell into her mouth like half-full glasses of water, and all the others bruised her pale skin.

‘Her hair was colourless, pale as her skin, and she was as tall as any adult walking by ignoring her. And she was as wide as she was tall, or at least that’s what it felt like to her. She tried to ignore the wet and the cold and the shivering, and tried to become courageous enough to stop someone to ask for help, to ask where she was, and what she was called. But she failed, and the rain kept fallig, and she kept stopping herself from crying, and her desperation made her feel weaker than she was. And she thought the villagers were ignoring her because they thought her colouring meant she was a witch.

‘Hour after hour she spent trying to be brave, but every time she was close to opening her mouth to speak, something would stop her, mostly something inside her, but often something outside, like a dirty look from the man in the wax coat, or the laugh from the woman in the fine clothes who had a servant to carry her umbrella for her, or the gruff rudeness of the man who stared at her for an age before he made the sign if the cross and moved away shaking his head.

‘At last, she got up out of the mud, squelching as she picked herself up, the sodden mess trying to pull her back diwn to it, and decided she would have to walk along the road out of the village, in the opposite direction she had come from, out into the strane countryside from which she could hear far-off explosions, and try to find a friendlier place.

‘Just as she started walking, her sodden clothes now heavier than any treasures ahe wiahes she had possessed, a woman cam up to her, put her hand on the girl’s shoulder, and said “I’m sorry you have been so mistreated. Come to my house, and I’ll give you a bath and shelter.” The girl smiled and followed the woman, and when they walked into the tiny, warm, and clean house, the woman asked for her name.

‘”Ag … Ag …” The girl couldn’t speak, had forgotten she couldn’t speak, and realised now that was why she hadn’t been brave enough to ask for help. The words just wouldn’t come, no matter how hard she tried. “Don’t worry,” the kind woman said. “I’ll call you Agata, and soon you’ll be able to say your name yourself.”‘

Lilibet was asleep, but her lips formed the words that the girl could now say. ‘Aggie, my Aggie.’

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