Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: BUSY (08/15/19)
- TITLE: A Sense of Time
By Catherine Borg-Fenech
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“Yeah, can we mum?”
She sighed. “Just for five minutes, we’ve got to get home!”
Three lively boys threw their school bags down at her feet and ran down the grass, cheering and shouting their ‘thank yous’ as they went.
The playground was at the bottom of the grassy hill and the young woman began scooping up their belongings as she watched them go.
“There’s room on here if you’d like to sit”.
She turned around. An elderly gentleman sat on a wooden bench in the afternoon sunshine.
“No, thank you”, she smiled. She really didn’t have time. There was so much to do at home and she wanted to get there as soon as possible.
“Are you sure? You look like you have a lot to carry there”.
He was right. The bags were heavy.
She moved over to where he sat. “Thank you”, she smiled again, this time more genuinely.
“It’s a busy vocation isn’t it? Parenthood I mean. I remember those days. Of course mine are all grown up now.”
He seemed very friendly, perhaps even lonely. But she really didn’t have time.
“Two of them have moved away with their families now. They don’t call often. Busy with their little ones I guess.”
The young mother nodded and smiled. She didn’t really know what to say.
Looking straight ahead the man then asked, “Do you see those beautiful hydrangeas over to your right?”
“Yes”, she responded.
“I remember when they planted them. A very long time ago. They really do thrive when looked after properly don’t they? Do you see how big and bright the flowers are?”
“They’re pretty”, she agreed.
“And look to the left of the playground at the bottom of this hill. Do you see the roses?”
“I do”. Had that little rose garden always been there?
“Roses were always my mother’s favourite. My poor old father hated pruning them, but he did it for her!”
They sat in silence for a minute and the woman wondered how often her new companion came and sat here, watching the world go by, talking to people.
“I’m sorry”, he suddenly said, “You were in a hurry. Where is it you have to be?”
“Oh, just home”, she answered, the list of jobs still running around her head. “Two more minutes, boys!” she shouted. One son nodded his head, one waved, the youngest pretended not to hear.
“Just the usual. Washing, dinner, you know how it is”.
Silence again. The wind gently rustled the leaves in the trees and birds could be heard singing up above.
“Isn’t it beautiful here?” the gentleman asked. “God’s wonderful creation. The grass, the flowers, the trees. We’re so lucky having this on our doorstep”.
She silently agreed.
“May I ask you a question? If it’s not too bold?”
The young woman said he could, wondering what on earth he was about to say.
“If you stayed here and let them play, just for fifteen minutes, would it make you very late and ruin things?”
Wow. She hadn’t expected that.
“Erm…”, truthfully, the answer was ‘no’. “I doubt it. I guess I’m just used to being home by a certain time. If I’m honest, we don’t always take this route home from school. Too many distractions for us.” She laughed, nervously.
The man nodded. “I do understand. I’ve been there. But I’m not now”.
He began to feel around at the side of the bench and the woman was very surprised to see him pull out a white stick.
“Now I have more time than ever before”, he admitted as he slowly got to his feet, “Only I can’t enjoy it like I used to”.
The woman didn’t know what to say.
“I can still make out shapes, close up that is. But it won’t be long until my sight is completely gone”.
“I’m so sorry”, she replied, shocked.
“Oh no, don’t be silly.” He laughed, tipping his cap and leaning in, “Now you enjoy the sunshine”.
After saying her goodbyes, she watched him walk away in awe. It was clear that she was meant to have bumped into that man today.
“Mum?” her ten-year-old ran up towards her. “Are we going?”
His mother smiled. “Not yet”, she said, standing up. “You go and play. I’m going for a walk around the roses”.
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