The list fell out an old book. It was a story torn from a paper magazine and the headline read ’10 things for your child to do outdoors’. Marianne was clearing out the apartment belonging to her elderly neighbour, who had recently died. Evelyn had lived alone and had no family and Marianne, liking to be helpful, found herself sorting and emptying the flat of Evelyn’s life. There were so many books, thick, old-fashioned books with pictures on the covers, so different from the e-books waiting on Marianne’s tablet for her to read. The motivation was absent.
But now the printed word drew her in. She sat on the floor, surrounded by books large and small, thick and thin, and picked up one at a time.
Gold letters, The RAC Guide to English Villages;
Gates on fire, Rebecca;
An egg, Cooking for One by Delia Smith;
A beach, the sea, Echoes;
Reader’s Digest Guide to the Garden.
The piece of paper fell from the gardening book. It was the first Marianne opened, drawn by the cover picture of old English roses. Pink, pale as the first hint of a sunset, dark like a blood blister forming.
’10 things for your child to do outdoors’. Someone had put ticks beside all 10 things. Marianne had done none.
- Climb a tree;
- Go for a walk in a wood and go off the path;
- Stand on top of a windy hill;
- Row a boat on a pond;
- Paddle in a stream;
- Pick blackberries wild from a hedgerow;
- Make a daisy chain;
- Play Pooh-sticks under a bridge;
- Use a buttercup to see if you love butter;
- Pick an apple from a tree.
Marianne’s one-bedroom apartment was in a block of 200 identical apartments, her block stood next to another of 200, and another. She’d never been to the country, to nowhere with a stream or a hill or a wood. Of course there were trees in London though she wouldn’t know where to look to find an apple tree, didn’t know how to identify an apple tree from an oak. Trees to her were either green with leaves, or brown and boring.
She pulled on her thick boots, coat, scarf and woolly hat. The rain hammered down. Out of the lift, she turned right through the main doors and left past the graffiti. An apple tree, she mused, could grow anywhere.
Three hours later she was lost, walking past a grey concrete building which had no industry and no sign to say what had once been made within its silent walls. The rain started again and she ran to shelter under a bridge. She sat on a low concrete wall, shivering, smelling like dirty clothes left too long in the laundry basket. No-one passed, no people, no cars.
Then she saw the apple. It sat on a wall on the opposite pavement. In a flash she crossed the road, picked it up, and put it in her pocket.
© Sandra Danby
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Marianne goes outdoors in AN APPLE, FIVE WAYS: OUTDOORS #flashfiction via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-tw