Sunday, June 7, 2015

35. Alan Approaches the House

Toward the end of the day, Alan unwittingly took a side-path to the beach and spotted this house,
just as the weather began to look iffy...

Not wanting to knock on the door, Alan shouted, "Ahoy, there!" from about a hundred feet away. This is so weird, he thought. 

No response. 

He tried again, "Is anyone home?" Nothing for another long minute, then a female voice almost sang the words, "Who IS it, and what do you WA - ant?"

"Um, I come in peace!" (ouch!) "My name is Alan and I was on my way to Paddy and I must have taken a wrong path back near that long bridge. I just thought that, if you could let me, uh, rest here, I would be most grateful." 

By then it was not only getting dark, but a wet wind had kicked up, accompanied by a long roll of distant thunder. Silence from the house, then "Well, come up to the porch and we can talk. "

Alan marched quickly to the door, and he was met be a very tan, stocky, and muscular 40-ish woman about five feet tall wearing a baggy sweatshirt and what the surfers call board shorts. She smiled tentatively as she examined him through the screen door. Alan studied a couple of surfboards on the porch floor, and tried to think of something to say.

The woman spoke first, "Well, you look innocent enough. Uh, Alan, you said?"

"Oh, yes!" Alan smiled broadly.

"So tell me more... You sound different. Are you American?" Alan nodded. "I thought so. And what brings you out this way, aside from being lost?"

Alan couldn't blame here for being wary, so he tried to sound as normal as possible.  "I'm on my way out to the place you call The Hook to paint a picture of it. Then I'm continuing to other places like Capetown to make more pictures. I sketched the Hazelhurst Ruins the other day, the first place on my list, and then I started out from Hazel just this morning. I had lunch in Albion and then stopped at that long bridge at the Antrim River to rest, and I decided to sketch it." He pulled out a small notebook. "Here's the sketch...I know it's pretty rough, but it's not on my list. It just looked interesting, the bridge, I mean, and..."

"Okay, okay. Why don't you come in and we can have tea or something. You're lucky I'm in a good mood!"

Alan put away his notebook, left his pack on the porch, and walked into a warmly-lit living room paneled with old, smooth, honey-colored boards. A large brick hearth at the far end of the room contained a cast-iron wood-stove whose doors were open. "When you were yelling 'ahoy' out there I was just about to light a fire...get the damp off, yes? By the way, I'm Amelia," and she offered her hand, then gripped his firmly.

"Hi," said Alan.

She had already turned to walk into the kitchen to heat up some water. She soon returned to the wood-stove, lit the fire, closed up its doors, pointed to a chair and said, "Let's sit." Alan was looking at a large framed painting of  moonlit waves an a dark beach. "Nice waves up there," he said. Amelia glanced up, "Oh yes, my friend Adrian Graham painted that. Have you seen his work?

"Just recently. As a matter of fact, I live above his gallery."

"Oh, so you're the chap from the States that's doing the pictures for the tourists..."

Alan was surprised at this; news gets around quickly here. She went on, "Someone you met on the train the other day told one of my friends on NetMate*, and she posted it to me."

"Ah, the train ride. That would have been Jeremy - a very talkative chap I had the fortune to sit with. I didn't know my arrival would be so newsworthy!"

"Oh, it's newsworthy. We don't get many foreign travelers here, especially someone with a guv'ment job. Is it true they hired you and paid your way all the way from the States to paint some pictures?"

"Yes, I've agreed to 'depict,' as you say, 105 places-of-interest all around the island. And to be up-front with you, part of me is petrified that I'll never complete them all. My first day out and I'm already lost!"

Just then, they both heard the soft roar of rain on the roof...

"Well, I wouldn't say that, Alan. You're only a couple of miles off course. And if you're heading to The Hook, you should be there by late tomorrow, weather permitting. I heard there might be a storm in a few days, and that the surf should be up as well."

"So this isn't the storm,"Alan asked.

"Oh, no, just a thundershower. We do get some good size gales, especially south of here, and they send us the best surf beforehand!" Anyway, come in the kitchen with me and have tea. We can talk more while I heat up some soup. You eat meat? Oh, and bring in your pack before it gets wet!"
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*NetMate is New Island's primitive version of Facebook.