In 2005, I entered this story in the ABC Short Story Project. It won, and was recorded by Vivienne Garrett.
In 2012, Gyldendal Norsk Forlag chose it for inclusion in an anthology for vocational education programmes in upper secondary school in Norway. It will appear in Skills, Healthcare, Childhood and Youth Development books (paper book and Smartbok format) .
by Dale Lorna Jacobsen
Oh God! It's custard! I hate custard! I know what you remind me of, the way you open your mouth as you feed me – a bird feeding its young, except that with us, it's the other way around, isn't it. Now wheel me over to the window. I suppose it's a nice view, looking out over the rose garden. I certainly enjoy watching that young gardener, especially when he removes his shirt.
It seems I dozed off; the sun's left the garden. What's that? We are going to have a bath? I don't think so! I wouldn't take a bath with you! You wonder why I'm smiling? Ah, you would blush. Such delicious memories.
Golly, is it that time already? A person spends her whole life staying up till midnight then, wham, she's expected to go to bed at seven. I won't sleep, you know. I absolutely refuse to close my eyes until midnight.
What to think about tonight. I heard the engine of a small plane earlier. I bet you don't know I used to fly. I learnt from the same pilot I took that bath with. What was his name? I used to know it. James! That was it. How could I have forgotten! Oh dear, what if I should lose the memory altogether? He had a strong back, just like that gardener. The first time Jessie and I saw it, he was embarrassed. Caught him stripped to the waist working on his plane. All week he'd been barnstorming our district. At times he was so close we could see his goggles as he dipped his wing to us. We went to find where he landed. It had been a long ride over the mountain, through the forest.
'I'd like to fly,' I'd said. He grinned at me; the dimple on his left cheek danced.
'Okay then, up you get.'
'What, you mean, right now!'
'Any reason why not?'
I looked at Jess; she shrugged her shoulders.
'Okay. Tell me what to do.'
He tossed me a leather helmet. 'Put this on and hop up there.'
He climbed in behind me; I tingled.
Goodness! My cheeks are wet. Why should memories make you weep, that's not what they're meant for. Those three weeks were like none I'd ever known. James (see, I remembered it this time) taught me to fly, to laugh, to love – and then disappeared. Now, when did I see him again? I must have, I remember that bath.
The curtain looks lighter; I suppose it's nearly morning. Horrid pattern! Roses, that's all they can think of here. They think we like roses, just because we're old – but I like bush, scrub, eucalypts. You never see a gum-nut on a curtain though, do you!
And good morning to you. No, I didn't sleep well, I've been barnstorming all night, I'm a bit tired now. Back to the window. Where's the gardener? James? No, that's not his name, that's the name of my pilot. I don't know if I know the gardener's name. I'll call him James, he won't mind.
I knew a James – when I was in the airforce, during the war. He'd lost his youth, but not that dimple on his left cheek. That's when we shared the bath. We found it in a deserted house in the middle of the desert. God it was hot! 'Fancy a bath?' he'd said. I certainly fancied him. What happened to him? If only I'd written things down. Too busy living life to write about it.
"Hello Mr. McIntosh. She's a little tired this morning. I don't think she slept very well. She keeps muttering about planes."
Who is this old man, bending down, peering into my eyes, smiling, holding a bunch of roses? He looks familiar somehow. He has a nice dimple on his left cheek.
About the Recording
Recorded in ABC studios, Adelaide through ABC Radio Regional Production Fund. Unfortunately, this is not a very clear version, as my disc is damaged and the recording no longer appears on ABC RN website.