As soon as Alan was away from the house, he looked at his watch again.
If he was to reach the hall for the start of the performance, he had to take
Oak Road. He had been there in the summer after heavy rain and the brook had flowed under the road. His friend was being over anxious, he decided.
Deep down, however, he knew he was probably right.
He made his way as fast as he could, down the lane. To the left, lay the
wastelands, behind a holly and beech hedge, with an occasional oak tree
standing out. To the right was a wooded area of oak trees, interspersed with patches of blackthorn growing along the roadside. Beyond were the fields with the new houses.
Alan listened for the sound of the brook as he descended. He couldn’t
hear the familiar gurgle as it ran through the culvert under the road, more of a high pitched metallic ring.
It started to rain, he pulled up the collar of his coat and increased his
pace. As he got to the bend in the road, he knew what he would see on the far side.
“How could I be so stupid?” he asked himself. “It was summer when I
was here and the trees were in leaf. The oaks must have been sucking up
gallons of water.”
He was right. The bare, dormant trees did not have the same demands for
water and the brook gushed over the road, rolling small stones along with it.
The water was deep, far deeper than he ever had imagined.
Turning on his heel, Alan made his way back up the road, full of self reproach. He wondered how many people in the past, had been in his situation and forced to walk or ride back or to even turn a wagon in the narrow space. It was an old road. Out of nowhere, a nineteenth century rhyme came into his head. As he walked, it took the rhythm of his steps.
“The fault is great in man or woman
Who steals a goose from off a common;
But what can plead that man’s excuse
Who steals a common from a goose?”
No matter what, it wouldn’t leave him. He tried to think about other
things, but it stayed with him.
He was going to be late, very late for the play, he decided. He could see
Jane’s face as she said “Grand…” It suddenly occurred to him that perhaps
she was about to say “Grandma.” but didn’t carry on, in order not to hurt
Him. Mary would have known that the child was nervous about being on
stage and must have gone to the pensioners' performance the previous year.
All he could do was to press on. He would get to the Nativity play.
Where The Fox Goes © J.R.Birch 2004