He didn’t want to walk every day, but neither did he want to die. He couldn’t ignore the doctor. His wife came back from the shops with the trainers and a pedometer to measure every step he took. He couldn’t ignore his wife. He didn’t want to die.
So on Monday morning he dressed as usual – old grey trousers, white shirt thinning around the collar now, black belt he’d worn for years with his work suit but notched tighter, ditto the grey tie. The trainers shone as bright as a Belisha Beacon; if a Belisha Beacon was white of course, not orange. They’ll do the job, he told himself as he laced them up tight. He walked back and forth across the pink shag pile bedroom carpet, up one side of the bed and around to the other. If he shut his eyes, he might think he was wearing his slippers. He didn’t see why he couldn’t do his ‘heart walk’ as Margaret called it, in his old brown suede lace-ups but Margaret had taken control, as always. As always, it was easier to do as she said and she said trainers were necessary.
He stepped out of the garden gate directly onto the old railway track. At first he couldn’t help counting as he walked. One, two, three, four. But concentrating on counting made him stumble so after that he let the pedometer do the counting. He pondered Belisha Beacons and zebra crossings, wondering which had come first. As a child he had been convinced a Belisha was a police van, until his father pointed to the orange globe on top of the striped poles either side of the pedestrian crossing. A police van, it seemed, was called a Black Maria pronounced ‘mar-I-ah’ not ‘mar-EE-ah’. This made him think of Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music, it was Margaret’s favourite film. Perhaps they could watch it together this afternoon. He liked the quiet while they watched a film. No talking.
It was then he saw the brambles, a row of bushes on the right of the track absolutely laden with black jewels. He gathered them as he had as a child, taking care not to drop even a single berry: one for the bowl, one for his mouth. He had no bowl, so he put them gently into his pockets.
He didn’t find an apple tree until he was almost there. The pedometer said 5231. He picked two apples off the tree and found six more in the undergrowth. They were nibbled by mice and birds, bruised and smelling very apple-y.
He smiled. ‘Now I can have apple and bramble crumble for tea.’
Beneath a nearby oak tree was an almost hidden gate. He walked up the path to be greeted by a soft, comforting embrace.
“Hello love,” she smiled. “Can you stay a while?” She exchanged his slippers for the handful of fruit. “Lovely,” she said, “I’ll make a crumble.”
© Sandra Danby
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A man takes a walk, for his health: AN APPLE, FIVE WAYS: HUNGER #flashfiction via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-tM