My whole life I’ve wondered about the man beyond grandmother’s fence.
What’s he like?
What hides behind his wooden door?
Is his furniture dusty? Is that blue-gray cat, I sometimes see, allowed to sit on the furniture?
Now, I’m at his door. I’ve often imagined this day but now it’s here, my feet are heavy. I want to put it off – keep it for another day, like special chocolate you save for when you could sit and quietly unwrap and savor it.
I rap and wait. And wait. Has he seen me from a window and is waiting for me to leave? Just as I’m about to, the door creaks.
I’d imagined introducing myself but it’s not necessary. Without a word, he steps aside. I slip off my shoes and he leads the way in.
Not much furniture; not a speck of dust anywhere.
His shoulders are stooped belying the smoothness of his face. He hasn’t aged since the last time I’d seen him about seven years ago. I’d been taking the washing from the line, and he stood at the fence, watching until I was done. Then he nodded once, turned, and trudged up the path to his house.
I learnt not to ask grandmother about him. Whenever she spoke about him, the whole day would crash down, splintering all around us with no fragments of it left to pick up and piece back together.
It was always about the fence, which she accused him of moving – taking in a piece of her land – when she’d gone to the city for my birth. Her anger, though, always seemed disproportionate to the alleged crime, I secretly thought.
He places the teapot on the worn wooden table, then two of the smallest, prettiest cups I’ve ever seen. Steam forces its way through the spout after he replaces the teapot lid.
“One fish or two?” He tips his head towards the cups.
“I’m only one fish now.” A wave of sadness washes over me.
Nodding, he reaches for the two-fish cup. “She’ll always be the only other fish in my pond, anyway.”
350-word Story Challenge – The Fence is 350 words
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