Monday, October 23, 2006

Missing the Wheelbarrow Woman

Back in the summer was the last time I saw the wheelbarrow woman. An extraordinary old'un whose back was paralysed in a permanent 90 degree bow - a lower-case 'r' of a woman, forced by her spine to stare intently at the ground at her feet rather than the fields and sky around her. These were my thoughts at that time.

She sits in her wheelbarrow fanning the flames of summer. She must be 90 give or take a decade. Ruddy of cheek and stooped of back. She sits there in her wheelbarrow hidden from view by a large straw hat. She breathes like a marathon runner collapsed at the finishing line. Shoulder-heaving gulps of air. I pass her most mornings, and some evenings, too. A rice farmer. In the evening she carries a torch. Just as well. In the pitch dark country lanes it is difficult to spot a tiny old woman sitting in a wheelbarrow. On a blind corner she often stops. We have had our fair share of near misses.

Beginning to wonder if we've had our last near miss. I fear she has pushed her final wheelbarrow.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Waiting for ... dough

Four junior high school boys sitting on a bench. Killing time.
Spiky, tousled hair. Shirts hanging out. Big basketball sneakers with laces slack enough to trip them up. The odd punch and push. A lot of laughter. A maelstrom of mirth. But waiting for what?
A scuffle. A bag flung across the floor. A groan and a moan and a reluctant retrieval. More laughter. Flicks of the hair. Jutting of jaws. But still waiting. For girls?
Cracking suntans. Three buttons undone on their shirts. A snatch of pop song. Some drumming on the wooden slats of the bench. Youthful exuberance barely held in check. The wait goes on. Must be for girls.
Movement to their right. Their heads turn in unison. The elderly shopkeeper stoops. Then places yellow stickers on the crackling wrappers of pizza slices, azuki bean jam rolls, and assorted baked goodies. The stickers bear the best of tidings - 20% off!
The boys swing themselves off their perch. They're in there like a shot - the change in their pockets jangling. The wait is over. There's nowt like stale pastries.