.Look, she says. Look. There are two moons tonight. Do you think that means anything?
Like end times, you mean?
I don’t know, she says. It can’t be good.
We move closer. There they are above the rooftops, one higher and to the right of the other.
Someone in the ranch-style house switches the porch light on and joins us.
My ex-wife phoned, he says. She saw it too. She’s bit of a sky watcher.
So we stand there out the front as one then the other veer off in a north-easterly direction, silent and glowing as moons.
I was worried about whether the passageway would take too long to dry as visitors were coming later so the cleaner suggested opening the back door to let the breeze in.
– Good idea, I said, as I went back into my study and left him to it.
It was then I could hear him struggling, groaning.
– What’s wrong? I said.
– Darn door won’t open.
I went to have a look. He was putting his whole weight into it — and he’s a big man — and still not getting a result.
– Here, I said, demonstrating. There’s a trick to it. You pull the handle up not push it down.
– Well, I never, he said. I didn’t know they still made doors like this. It should be in a door museum.
– It’s an IQ test, I smiled. I wouldn’t worry though. It took me two days to work it out and I live here.
We both chuckled. You’ve got to give people a way out.
For nights and nights and nights I lay on my pillow, worrying, listening to the rain, even though the skies were clear and starlit and the moon shone through my window like a lantern and I wondered what else I was hearing that wasn’t there or not hearing that was until one day I had my ears syringed with warm water and the wax flowed out in little honey-coloured clumps into a dish the nurse held for me and I no longer heard it rain except when it did.
What seems to be the trouble , he asks .
I cough and splutter all over the place .
He gets the message .
Sits down to write the certificate .
There , he says , handing the form to me . This should do the trick .
I peruse it quickly .
There’s something missing, I say, why I had time off .
That’s right . If you had Alzheimers or a social disease would you want
people to know ?
Certainly not .
My point exactly .
But I thought you had to put something down .
No , he says . And if they ask , tell them to take a running jump . Better still , tell them to phone me and I’ll tell them to take a running jump . Only in stronger terms .
He stands up . Shakes my hand .
The next day at work I hand in the certificate .
He’s right .
They see the blank space but no one says a word .
I push it a bit further .
On the official form , the one you fill out yourself , where it says Illness I put down ‘See Certificate’ .
It feels good . It really does .
I’ve found a new way to treat with the world .
There was someone on the bridge
Curving high over the dark water
About half way along
Then there wasn’t.
Someone with a mop of ginger hair
an orange top and grey track pants
Standing against the railing
Looking wistfully out.
I looked away when a siren sounded
On the headland then looked back.
No disturbance of any kind.
No bright lithe form spearing
Through the water.
No one emerging from either end.
Just someone standing on a bridge
in a forest
Then there wasn’t.
“Bugger”, says Scruff. “Bugger”.
He’s back to his old intemperate self.
“What’s got your goat now?” I say.
“How am I supposed to get to the top branch now?? You know how I love the top branch. Someone took the tall ladder away and replaced it with THAT RUNT!!”
His wing is pointing at the little ladder against the weeping myrtle.
“Excuse me,” I say, “but you can’t expect the gardener to consult with magpies every time he shifts a ladder.”
Scruffy has that evil look in his eye.
“Besides”, I add, “has anyone ever pointed out those two appendages, one on each side of your body? They can get you places.”
“Sarcastic snob!” he snaps. “I use them all the time like you your legs. Aches and pains. I prefer to hop up rungs.”
“Have it your own way,” I say, but my heart goes out to him all the same. “I know what you mean,” I add. “I’ll speak to the gardener.”
I notice a little spring in his hop.
The rain has begun.
I park the car close as possible, then dodging the drops, duck into the library.
“Ahh,” says the librarian, “we’ve been wading through your requests and look what’s washed up.”
It is like Santa handing over a present.
“Ahh, ‘Waterlog’”, I say.”The perfect book to read in the bath,”
“Just don’t drop it,” he says.
I should have seen that coming but Steve is quick, very quick.
“Thanks,” I say and we have a brief chat on the merits of reading in strange places, like baths.
“Have to go”, I say. “The rain’s getting heavier.”
By the time I get to the car, the book and I are waterlogged.
Steve would have appreciated that pun.
Now I don’t have to worry about dropping it in the bath.