For Donald it was just the short journey from Bogcragston back to Pobblestrum as he returned to pastures old.
He tentatively made a few attempts to reintegrate himself back into a life that once was by attending village fêtes and so on. Some people looked exactly as they had years before, almost as if they had rotting paintings of themselves in their attics. At the same time others were totally unrecognizable, but he didn't know who they were.
Likewise, he was just another stranger in their midst. A lifetime ago the locals knew him because he was an appendage to a pillar of the community, a minister no less, albeit a spotty and obnoxious one (Donald, not the pillar). Now no longer youthful, he was an alien on his own stamping ground. For him, around every corner there were constant reminders of bygone days. For the indigenous folk of Pobblestrum, around every corner there was some greying, worried-looking bloke with a fag in his mouth who they'd never seen before and didn't care if they ever saw again.
He thought he knew the area like the back of his hand. And by road he did. The fields were another matter though. Imagining he could get some sort of grip on his many neuroses by getting himself a dog, he quickly became an indoor type with an outside life. And in doing so he rediscovered the locale by circumnavigating the dog-walking circuits and strolling the lengths and breadths of the footpaths and bridleways of the area.
Late that afternoon the sky was a diffused grey, almost as if God had replaced the sun with a low-energy version. But undaunted by the weather Donald made his way out of the village. Getting into the swing of things he tipped his cap to the odd peddler man as he headed towards his favourite walk, and his dog headed in every other direction.
What ever the weather or time of year Dolores always wore a long rain Mac and ankle socks which revealed just a little too much of her blotchy legs. She was probably completely normal in every way and maybe not in the least bit eccentric at all. But from an onlooker’s point of view it seemed strange that you’d pass her going the opposite direction on one lane and then bump into her again on another at the other end of the village. A place where, common sense would tell you, she couldn’t possibly be.
Logic-defying truths sat awkwardly in a world that thought it could explain everything but clearly couldn’t. Donald had imagined becoming one with this rural society again would mean mentally dropping down a gear or two, but not a bit of it. As he glimpsed Dolores again for the umpteenth time he concluded that it’d be easier on the brain just not to think about it. Go with the flow, he told himself, or more accurately, go with the dog, who dragged him towards Saint Ivy’s church.
Donald managed to slow his Dalmatian down a tad as he reached the, “Grimace, God loves you,” poster at the lich-gate. This pretty much marked the end of the village, beyond it only fields for a very long way.
Even beneath the dull clouds the shires retained their outstanding beauty. Miles of hedgerow criss-crossed the sweeping downlands. Thoroughfares meandered throughout the acres of landscape, snaking through glade and grove and twisting through cattle and crop. Having traversed a couple of coverts Donald reached the dirt track he’d been heading for, with more emphases on dirt than track. But for all its shortcomings this was a veritable canine highway and people brought their hounds from far and wide.
Ahead the path kinked to the right slightly and then split into two marking the east corner of the triangular field of tall Miscanthus grass.
Copyright © 2014 M J Race
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