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Safe in the Garden

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Darryl Emmerson

by Darryl Emmerson


I was in the tea-room, just before work started, when Mike came in. He and I have been at this office for a couple of years now, never very close, but civil enough, friendly enough. Probably twenty years older than me, he’s heading for retirement soon, I think, a serious, responsible type who’s risen slowly and steadily up the hierarchy in the time we’ve worked here.

We greeted each other, I finished making my coffee and was about to walk out, when he said, “Aah…you got some time at lunch today?” In slight surprise, I said, sure, sure, and we agreed to meet at midday, at the main entrance to the building.

The morning passed, and I caught the lift to the ground floor, where he stood, waiting, nervously ready. His face seemed to be preparing something, and finally he began.

“You know how I mentioned last week I was going back to my old district?”

I nodded.

“Well I went, and it turned out a bit differently to what I was expecting. One morning I left my wife with the in-laws in Colac, and decided to travel alone to my old home town. It’s a small place, only about three hundred people even now, and I hadn’t visited for many, many years”.

This was much more than Mike usually uttered, but he seemed to need no encouragement to continue. Maybe he just had something to say.

“I had pretty mixed feelings about seeing the town again. Whenever the thought of it crossed my mind, in all the years between, memories of people I’d known, of things that had happened, would rise up. There were so many of these things fighting together in my thoughts, moments I never knew I’d remember, I could never work out how I felt, or whether it was worth letting these things in again at all. So a few days passed. But there was some compulsion”.

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