Douglas cast the newspaper down with a disgruntled exclamation. He reached for his coffee cup.
“Truly this world is in a mess. Both at home and all around the globe truth and justice have been kicked to death and perversion and anarchy rule. What has happened to us?”
Leonie finished off the seam she was sewing and bit the thread. Her placidity was unruffled.
“As it was in the days of Noah ...” she murmured.
Douglas replaced the cup in the saucer with a bang. “That’s not good enough, Lee. Surely by this time we should have learned better! What? Five thousand years or thereabouts? We’ve managed to fill the earth with people – and rubbish; we’ve learned to use the precious elements of the earth – and misuse them, too. Our scientists have discovered things the old world didn’t dream of and men – and women – have devised all manner of things to make life easier and more enjoyable for most of us. We’re supposed to be civilized, for Pete’s sake!”
Leonie laid aside the folded garment and reached for another. “And does being civilized mean that we have forgotten how to be ill-mannered, ungracious, fraudulent, treacherous – I could go on and on? Or is it simply a matter of external possessions and increased knowledge enabling us to acquire wealth and outdo our opponents?”
Douglas looked at her in surprise. “Well if you put it like that, Lee, it doesn’t sound much like civilization at all. I mean, not everyone is as comfortable as we are.” He glanced around the room where they sat. “Look, I know we don’t live in a palace or even own two cars, but we have everything we need and we don’t go hungry. But you are right. There are many people who do go hungry; people who own very little and who don’t even have a roof to shelter them.”
He stood and walked to the window. “What are those two scamps up to now? Hey!”
With an explosive yell he turned and ran from the room. Leonie raised her eyebrows and gave her attention to repairing the torn shirt-sleeve. Before she had finished Douglas was back, laying a small pruning saw on the table.
“Brats! They were at the lemon tree. Said they had to cut steps up the trunk so they could climb to their lookout. I’ll give them lookout!”
“What did you do?”
“I set them to sort and wash those garden pots you want for your seedlings.”
Leonie sighed. “Oh, dear. You know what that means don’t you?”
“Use your head, Douglas! Two small boys and water? Well, I don’t suppose it matters very much. The day is warm and water is less dangerous than a pruning saw. Perhaps you could fashion a ladder of sorts from those bits of plank left over from making the garden benches for me. You know, nothing too ladder-like or civilized – just a longer one that can be wedged between the lower branches and the garden bed, with a few crosspieces that they can climb on. I suppose the lemon tree will stand their weight?” She looked up at him, brows creased.
Douglas nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, the lemon tree is well established and big enough to carry their weight. I think I might manage something. Lee,” his words came slowly, “do you think looking after a family is sort of like looking after a community or a country?”
Leonie was surprised. “I suppose so, microscopically. Why?”
Douglas shrugged. “I guess just the thought of teaching those two barbarians to be respectful and agreeable, well-mannered and refined. Would you call that a first world problem or a modern day miracle?”
Leonie laughed, shaking out the newly mended shirt and closing her sewing box.
“I would call it the oldest problem in the world, and a miracle in the making.” She took her husband’s hand. “Let’s join the barbarians and see if we can make some headway on the miracle.”
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