Walter pulled himself up from his chair. He shielded his eyes from the sun and peered toward the mountains. The bluest sky, not a cloud to be seen, not even a puff or a slight trail.
‘Norah, you there? Come on out here,’ he yelled, without turning round.
‘You calling me?’ A woman, slight and small came from the doorway and stood beside him. ‘I’m getting a meal ready - you like it on time - why you calling me out here, to look at nothing?’ She turned, bent down to pick a mug from the floor and started to go inside.
‘How d’you know I’m looking at nothing? I ain’t showed you yet.’ Walter sat back in his creaking chair. ‘Something ain’t right. Not been a cloud in the sky since I came out here.’ He put a hand down to pick up the mug, smiled a cunning smile at Norah when he noticed it in her hand. ‘Not finished that yet.’
‘It’s as cold as the tops of those mountains,’ she snapped. ‘Five minutes and you’ll be eating. Going on about the sun, the wind, the rain. That’s all you do Walter - talk about the weather.’
Walter had time to light up one more before tucking into the hot stew and mashed potatoes Norah had prepared. Sweat was dripping down his face as he ate. Bread dunked into greasy gravy finished the meal off and it was time for his afternoon nap, in his rickety chair on the veranda. Before he got up to leave the table he looked at Norah’s face. Set in grim mode, it showed composure while she ate her meal, not even a flushed cheek. The fan stayed still above their heads and he wondered why she hadn’t turned it on.
‘Where you going now, Walter?’ she asked as he prepared to leave the table. Norah stood and collected the dirty dishes. She stood over him, waiting for him to answer.
‘On the veranda. Where I always go,’ he said. You know I do, after our meal.’
‘You know what today is?’ she said. ‘Or don’t you? Think about it Walter. Sit there and think about it while I make us some coffee.’
Walter sat and thought. He thought about the blue sky, the lack of wind, the stillness outside. He thought about his room, the dark walls, the closed windows, the drawn drapes. He wondered what he was doing here. Walter listened to the familiar noises from the kitchen, smelled the aroma of the coffee and felt something was wrong.
‘Worked it out yet Walter?’ Norah touched the top of his hand. ‘You’re thinking real hard in there.’ She placed the coffee pot down and pulled her chair a little nearer to his. ‘You’ve got to work it out for yourself, Walter.’
Her grim face tried to soften, tried to crease into a smile. He watched it, waiting for her to scold him. But it didn’t change, it grimaced and stayed stern and he didn’t know why. He wondered if she was worried about something she might not have told him. What he had done wrong – if anything.
‘A sunny day with a blue sky,’ he said standing up. ‘I’m sitting outside watching the sun go down, if that’s fine with you?’
‘The sun isn’t going down yet, Walter. It’s mid June. If you think about it you’ll know.’
Walter sat in his old chair on the veranda, Norah sat beside him on a hard stool. She took his hand in his and held on tight.
‘You’re getting stuff all muddled up. Walter, you’re starting to get the days wrong, the seasons wrong.’
She rubbed too hard and it hurt him, hurt his veins.
‘I’m getting like Pop, is that the truth Norah?’ Walter watched her face again as she thought about the question. It didn’t change, her face never changed, it was always the same. Serious - not smiling - but serene. His lovely Norah.
‘You could just about say that,’ she said. ‘But don’t fret, we’ll go up to the clinic and get you checked out, like we did Pop.’
They sat on the veranda holding hands. Walter watching the sky. Norah watching life.
‘It’s my birthday, Walter, that’s why the sky is blue.’
Blue Sky with Clouds
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