It was just a green-painted door set in a stretch of brick wall some 10 feet high. Ancient bricks, some a dull yellow, others a tannish-sort-of red, with small tufts of weed sprouting from the grout that held the bricks together. In the four years I cycled past the green door twice a day, I never saw any evidence that it had ever been opened.
Then, in a strange moment on a Thursday afternoon, I noticed a large old-fashioned green-painted key lying on the asphalt path about ten feet beyond the door.
I knew immediately where it must belong. So I picked it up, feeling the antiquity of its design and touch, and carried it back to the door. Its age made it difficult to insert, but after a struggle I heard a click and the door swung open on squeaky hinges, revealing a square, somewhat overgrown garden enclosed by four brick walls, all the same height and with no further doors or even a window among them.
“Oh, you must have found my key!” a woman’s voice called from behind chest-high bushes on my left. “Would you mind bringing it to me?”
On the other side of the bushes a very old lady sat on a metal two-seat bench of the kind often found in English parks.
“Oh, that is kind of you,” she said as I handed her the key. Then, shading her eyes against the light, she added: “I see, you must be in the air force.” But before I could even acknowledge her, she continued. “And what age would you be?”
I admitted I was 28 and had been in the air force for 10 years.
“My, my,” she continued, “my age too. So you must have been born in 1925.”
I agreed I had been, and that I was a May-Day baby.
“How extraordinary,” she said. “That we should be exactly the same age.”
Hardly, I thought. I mean, just look at her: at least 80, or closer to 90.
She was dressed almost entirely in grey. A grey pillbox hat resting on silver-white hair, a light grey wool coat ending above the knee, with a grey mid-calf-length embroidered dress, and grey cotton stockings resting in very plain scarlet-red shoes.
“You must understand,” she said, “we tend to age quickly in my family. It’s hereditary.”
“Of, course,” I agreed. “You do make a lovely picture sitting there. Would you mind if I get my camera, so I can take your picture?”
“Not at all,” she said, and sat up a bit more erectly and placed the walking stick she had been holding behind the bench, so it would not be seen.
It took only a moment for me to open the backpack on my bike, which I had leant against the wall beside the green door, yet when I rounded the bushes the old lady was no longer there! Just her walking stick and, incongruously, the grey hat and the two red shoes sitting side-by-side, just where her feet had rested in them, with the green key lying beside them.
I quickly toured the garden to see where she must have gone, but there were no hiding places and no exits. Nothing!
Then I noticed a slip of paper resting in one of the shoes and lifted it out.
“I told you,” I read: “In our family we do age rather quickly.”
© Ron Blicq, 2019
Editor’s note: This is Ron’s third contribution to our “Celebration of (Retired) Life“ series. This time, a teaser from his latest collection of short stories, Short Stories and Tall Tales (go to rrc-hg.ca/rb-short/ for details on how to order a copy). We welcome any uplifting, funny, inspiring, or otherwise simply interesting story, profile, or bit of whimsy. To share with our other retirees, simply email your 500- to 1,000-word piece to HG-Editor@RRC.CA.
Ha, ha, I wasn’t expecting that. Thanks for the distraction Ron. Les