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Apple Juice and Other Short Stories

2
cannot go back to the countryside now. There are too many memories of things that
never happened for it to be comfortable. I live by the sea instead, close by the shore,
on the boundary, which is where my mind is situated.
But in those days, it was interesting to stay for several weeks that summer surrounded
by farmland and sheep, moorland and forest. Boundaries of a different sort. We had
taken a cottage for the whole summer, just my mother and I. There were only the two
of us then. I had no brothers or sisters, and my father - well, my father was the reason
we were there. With the resilience of youth, I had come to terms with his loss, but
mother had taken it hard. There never really was anyone else except him. Even I was
a sort of adjunct, an addition to their happiness together. Not that I was unwanted, or
unloved. Far from it, but the truth of the matter was that my parents had been so
wrapped up in each other that I was free to go my own way even as a small child. For
the same reason, though my father was no longer with us, I was not missed when I
took to exploring the district we had chosen to live in for those few weeks. I think my
mother was only too glad to see that I was not fretting.
There was an intense pleasure in walking along the roadside and getting a mental map
of the area, and in deciding where my next walk should be. The ditches were full of
waist high grasses and other plants, some with white umbrellas on top, others showing
off clusters of tiny yellow flowers. Reds and pinks and blues mixed with the greenery
and dusted with scintillating diamonds of early morning dew made each walk a new
adventure every time. Daisies abounded. Those I knew, as well as buttercups and
dandelions. What the small, scarlet painted flowers that were dotted about here and
there could have been I never knew, nor did it seem to be important to find out. They
were just things to look at and to wonder about, just as the rapid movement of small
creatures was something to ponder over without feeling the need to know more.
Insects for the most part, some sort of lizard perhaps, maybe mice. It didn’t seem
important to go past the perhaps. It was enough that they were there. To have given
them names wouldn’t have increased my understanding. I just knew what I liked.
It was on the third day that I found the neighbour. I say the neighbour, as he was the
only one I ever really got to know. The house was set at the end of a narrow,
overgrown lane, immediately after a sharp bend. Tall trees that I later learned were
chestnuts grew in a somewhat straggly fashion, shadowing the entrance to the house,
so that I came across it suddenly, and with a sense of surprise. There was a man in
the garden, or what passed for a garden, since it wasn’t cultivated in any way, merely
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