Margaret is sitting in her sunny seat by the window, a napkin spread on her lap, peeling an orange. Her face is scrunched up as her fingers tear through the flesh, and the room is filled with the zest of it. But then she gathers it all up and sets it on the table next to her, as if peeling the orange were the main thing, and now it’s done, she’s lost interest. She wipes her hands on another piece of tissue, then turns it in her hands as she talks.
‘I’ve always been active,’ she says. ‘When I was young I walked everywhere and I suppose that kept me fit. When I was still living at home I used to go for a walk every day in the Pennines. There was a man who lived in a cave up there, him and his two dogs. Horrible, ferocious things they were…’ She holds her hands up like claws and bares her teeth. ‘Grrr!’
‘Blimey!’ I say.
She relaxes her hands again.
‘Oh – they never gave me a bit of trouble,’ she says. ‘Any road, I used to walk that way every day and I s’pose they must’ve just got used to my face. I felt sorry for the man. He was a soldier who got shell-shocked in the war. Ran away from everything. Took to living in a cave, with sacks round his legs. Well one day he wasn’t there, and the next day, and the next,  and I knew summat was wrong. So I went and told the police, and they came up with guns. The dogs wouldn’t let anyone near his body, so they shot them. Didn’t have a choice. I cried for three days after that. The war didn’t do nobody any good. My dad got gassed so he couldn’t work, and the pension he got wasn’t worth nothing. Me, I had to go and earn my keep. At the wood mill, making pit props. But that’s all in the past and there’s nothing to be done about it.’
She puts the used napkin along with the discarded orange on the table.
‘I eat a lot of fruit,’ she says.

2 thoughts on “remembrance

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