Contentment

I paused as I reached the gate, looking up through the blank nothingness of my headphones. The house was lit, glowing, the unshaded windows spilling gold onto the drive. The scene visible through them was a photograph, a perfect still image of family life, a mother and son eating dinner together.

Twilight had gone, the last hopeful vestiges of the day vanished from the sky. I could see the neighbour’s tree, the one that overhung our garden, outlined in shadow against the warmth. The indistinct form ruffled slightly in the breeze.

For a moment, a branch creaked down and obscured Jeff’s face in the window, hiding his grim scowl. Then the branch swung back up and I could see my son glowering at his green beans. His mother mouthed something, her words lost in the breeze, and a terrifyingly adult mix of lust and desire and greed flashed across the little face.

Sarah didn’t notice the effect of her words. She had stood and was delicately placing a bowl over the plate sitting at the third, empty, place. Jeff looked at her, then back at his beans. Then he picked up his fork and speared them with a sharp stab, trying to inflict every ounce of malevolence and indignation he felt about the basic unfairness of life.

I found that my finger was tapping mechanically on my leg, spurred by the white noise of the music in my ears. I pulled my headphones free and began to walk up the driveway towards my house, the twittering of birds floating intermittently through the air on the gusting wind. The gravel crunched beneath my feet. The tree looked more detailed up close, the wrinkles and gnarls on the bark thrown into ancient shadow by the upstart electric light. It creaked and swung again, and tales of forests and elves, fantasies and dreams and myths spoke in the creaking.

Then my foot fell. It crunched again, flatly, and the moment was gone.

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Of Crises and Men

A small vignette from the British summer:

A perfect sunny morning in the Kentish countryside. The garden of England is alive with light and fragrance, birds chirping and trees softly waving in the breeze as the golden sunlight spills and flows over the rolling hills.

There is a click and a rustle as the front door of the cottage nestling beneath a small copse eases open. A man steps out, dressing gown tied loosely over a comfortable waist, feet snugly ensconced in slippers. He takes a deep breath of the morning air. Honeysuckle… freshly mown grass… the hint of crisp dew on the wind that freshens in his chest. A perfect Saturday.

There is a slight crinkling, crackling noise from his feet. He looks down and sees his newspaper, pages wafting benignly on the doorstep.

He bends to pick it up. Flips it over absently, frowns at the sport and purses his lips. Those bloody colonials. There must be one good spinner in England, for heaven’s sake. He half turns to go back inside, easing the paper back over in his hand. He sees the front page.

His face is suddenly as off-grey as the page before him. His hand shakes, and the tremors echo in a teasingly innocuous crumpling of the paper in his hands. The birds twitter mockingly. He looks up. The woods looming over his house, the valley it is concealed in, the gentle pastoral grass that could hide a man, all close in.

“Deirdre!” he screams frantically. “Deirdre!”

“What?” Comes a sleepy murmur from somewhere inside the house.

“Call the children! Tell them to lock their doors, grab their valuables and meet me at the old fort!”

“What? John are you-”

“And pack up everything we want to keep! The emergency bag like I told you. Get my gun, I’ll be loading the car with food and water.”

“John, what’s happened?”

“They’re coming, Deirdre. A marauding swarm of migrants has broken loose and they’re coming for us.”

***

Unfortunately, lacking a concrete plan in case of migrapocalypse, such as a weapon with which to fend off the mindless hordes or an emergency supply of canned food, it would seem most of us are destined to be swallowed up in the great migrant crisis. Or at least, so the media and the politicians would seem to be encouraging us to believe.

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