Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Snail Pace

I am a speedy walker, but the other day, while jog-walking to the library, I was forced nearly to a halt behind a shuffling, stooped old man in a cloth cap. I caught up with him on the footpath but was lamentably unable to overtake.
I was in no particular hurry; I took minute steps at a reasonable distance behind him and expected that our paths would soon diverge.
He was preoccupied with shielding his face from the sun with a piece of paper, and he did not notice my shadow.
On he went, and on I went, and on we went more or less together. He pressed four traffic light buttons that I otherwise would have pressed, and drifted through four pedestrian walkways that were on my route. I trailed after him at a pace not really a pace, one that defied all scientific law.
I started to consider that he might, after all, be going to the library, a point almost two miles from where we had met.
The old man turned left at the library. I, relieved, swung right, with enormous strides, and tore away up the street.
I spent a curious-shaped amount of time inside the dusty vaults of the library. And when I did, eventually, set out again, I was alarmed to find myself slowing to a worm's pace behind a shuffling, stooped old man in a cloth cap- a fellow who looked positively familiar and whose gait was unparalleled.
It was a long walk home.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cryptic Brother

Sibling and I,
we must be grown up:
we argued today about money.
"Please take it from me,"
"No, I couldn't, you see."
I think the whole scene was quite funny.

Brother and I
used to find it peculiar
to watch adults haggle and clash.
"No, don't be silly," they'd say.
"Please, allow me to pay!"
-back and forth back and forth with the cash.

Sibling and I,
we're not yet grown up:
Brother vowed to succeed in the end-
I'm to keep my eyes peeled
For he says he'll conceal
Some clues in a parcel he'll send.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Side By Side

On Saturday Spouse and I sat down to dinner with a friend. It might have been a simple affair, but six years had passed between gatherings- our various jaunts around the country had seen to it that such meetings could not easily be orchestrated.
We greeted our friend inside the restaurant, and ate and talked and clung stubbornly to our table late into the evening, long after every spoon and scrap had been removed, and in spite of the waiters silently but fervently imploring us to stand up and go elsewhere so that our place might be given to others.
We had more, many more words, but ones that would have to wait. Soon, we said, then strode across the parking lot to our respective vehicles. The lot was vast, with endless lines of shadowy wheels sandwiched together.
It turned out that at least two of those cars were aligned in a particularly fortuitous and telling way: we were parked side by side.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Number

I was struck with the thought of volunteering at a local museum, and I strode across town to rave about my merits as a potential assistant.
"I'm extremely organised," I said to the lady who greeted me and led me into her office. She looked at me over her glasses, considered my promise and my proposal.
"Well," she said, beaming, "we'd love to have you here with us. Just write your name and telephone number on this piece of paper and we'll call you."
Alas, I failed the final hurdle; stumbled, I did, over the last and oldest trick in the book.
"I'm sorry," I said, after squinting at the blank paper for an eternity.
She looked at me inquisitively.
"I don't actually know my number. It's new, you see. I might have it written down somewhere. No, that's an old receipt for cheese. I know it's here. I think there's a 4 in it."
There followed much fumbling in my bag, much furious blushing and much graceful patience from the other side of the desk.
"Don't worry," she insisted. "I don't even know my number. I never call it!"
True, and kind of her to say so; but I doubt that it would slip her mind in an interview.
I, nonetheless, eagerly await the decision of the board of directors.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Not Like They Used To

Our roll of aluminium foil is drawing to an end; we will shortly run out of the sturdy silver wrapper.
"It seems like only yesterday we bought this one, and it's almost gone," I remarked to Spouse.
"Do you think we'll have to go out to the store and buy another roll?"
Spouse thought that we probably would.
I wondered if the aluminium foil aisle had altered much since last we wandered among the rolls.
"When was that- six years ago?"
Spouse stated that it was in fact seven; he then went on to provide a detailed account of that particular era, reminding me that we purchased the roll just before we moved into our first apartment. Then, some years after that, off across the country we went with it before eventually hauling it home last August.
"They don't make them like they used to," Spouse said.
I was inclined to agree.
Here today, gone tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Yen Dropped

We were on an expedition to buy a toaster. The shelves sagged with all sorts of toaster-like objects but no prices were visible on any of the items we sought to know more about.
Spouse turned to a customer standing nearby and considered for a long while the appropriate next move. The fellow, a Japanese man, was involved in a similar struggle to locate those wayward prices and was, one would reasonably presume, as much in need of toast as I.
"Do you know the price of this one?" Spouse asked in Japanese as if nothing were out of the ordinary.
The fellow began to reply quite honestly, in Japanese, that he did not; but in an instant the yen dropped. His expression underwent a significant transformation; he took a step backwards, displaying all his teeth in perfect shock.
"But how?" he gasped in Japanese. He was thoroughly and genuinely astounded.
They talked for a few minutes. The Japanese man shook his head repeatedly. But he was very happy all the same for the strange encounter.
Spouse chuckled to himself during the journey home. He had internally debated whether to speak up and indicate that he spoke Japanese, but thought to proceed with caution in case the customer should be startled out of his wits.
Mercifully it turned out well; the fellow, dazzled, glided away to tell the tale to his wife and children in the next aisle.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Two Wheels Ahead

Spouse and I are routinely outnumbered and outbid in this shark-eat-shark world of house hunting.
It became startlingly clear one weekend when we compiled a lengthy list of houses for sale and motored around to have a look.
There we were, poking around a perfectly acceptable house, when another couple stepped boldly inside and- the horror of it all- they too set about exploring the house, with an eye to claiming it.
Feeling smothered to a degree, and having seen enough of that particular construction, Spouse and I zoomed off to see the next available property.
Once on the premises, I made a comment or two about adding this bit, or removing that wall, and we were getting quite into the rhythm of the expedition when we glanced up to note the arrival of another couple. They too were seeking a house to buy; but they looked, I thought, awfully and devastatingly familiar.
I narrowed my eyes. It was Them.
Somebody somewhere made a little joke about being followed, and much raucous laughter ensued.
"Let's go," I hissed to Spouse. "Quick. Let's get to the next one before they do."
They gave the impression of being two wheels behind us but, no doubt, it was a ruse.
I have lofty thoughts of being so far ahead of the rascally couple that I am already ensconced in my armchair in my living room the next time they try an hour of house hunting: they will breeze through the door, cool as cucumbers, weighing up the possibilities, and I will say, grinning, "so sorry. I was here first. Tea, anybody?"

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Toast Saga

We returned the new toaster- the enormous, ominous, thoroughly perplexing ticking toaster that drew every crumb of pleasure out of toast making- and we brought home another, somewhat humble, appliance.
The instructions are, admittedly, rather lengthy; they promise that the machine can perform housework, pack lunches, answer the telephone and lock the doors at night- the latter being a necessity given my lingering fears that the other toaster will come back to haunt us with a familiar tick tick tick at the living room window one moonless night.
In tiny, almost illegible print, beneath the assurances that it can do laundry and wrap birthday presents, it also claims to make toast; and that, we decided, was good enough for us.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


"Minus one minute and counting," I said. "Slowly rotate the second dial- the second!- don't adjust the other five- two degrees to the left. But be careful."
"Copy that," was Spouse's prompt response.
"All systems ready," I said.
"Standing by," said Spouse.
The machine then sprang into action with an invasive, highly audible, most unsettling tick tick tick.
We waited anxiously amid a whir and blink of red beams and green lights and mechanics that we ordinary mortals could not hope to understand.
tick tick tick
I said, grasping the tome of an instruction manual with two hands, "on page 309, paragraph 71, it states that at the end of the shade function cycle, the indicator light should go off imminently and you should, if you performed the entire procedure correctly, hear a bell chime. Be most careful when in direct contact with this machine as severe bodily injury is likely on account of the heat source."
tick tick tick
"I see," said Spouse. "Do you think we ought to be wearing protective clothing, then? Goggles and gloves?"
"Well, I'm really glad we plan to take that six-week seminar. We can't do this alone. We need professionals."
"I agree. We're not made for this. It's what Mater would refer to as complimicated. Get ready. Don't touch anything until the bell rings and the display goes completely blank."
tick tick DING
"Ah," said Spouse as the very note sounded, "there we go. The toast is ready."
"Extract the toast with caution," I said.
"Copy that," said Spouse.
"Would you like butter," I asked, swiping droplets from my brow and mourning the era of simplicity, "or marmalade?"

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sunny, My Foot

I succumbed to a bout of curiosity and learned that our old apartment is still available.
I read the landlord's advertisement with the practiced eye of a skeptic: he, after all, was seeking a new tenant for financial purposes. Until two months ago, we actually lived there, and no amount of wool could blinker our eyes.
Spouse and I read the piece together.
Sunny, it said.
"Funny," I said. "I don't remember it being a particularly sunny apartment."
Spouse, who had been reading faster than I, interrupted.
"Patio. Did we have a patio?"
"We did," I said, trying to recall.
"Really? A patio? Where was it?"
"Well," I said, slowly, "remember that slab of stone outside the kitchen window? The bit we shared with the next-door neighbour? I put a dead chive plant out there once. There wasn't enough sunlight in the apartment to keep it alive. It's still there, as far as I know."
"I do," said Spouse. "I remember the chives. Poor things."
"That was the patio. I think," I added, "that that's the one he meant."
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