.The next day was a warm and sunny Saturday
, warm and sunny– a perfect day to sit outside and wind down. Hannah and Thorsten would often sit in the orchard, drink coffee, eat pastries and cakes, read newspapers and magazines, and discuss politics, newly published books, exhibitions, concerts and everyday life. They cherished that ritual since they bought the house more than two decades ago. The dew on the grass under their feet, the scents of flowers and blooming trees, the twittering of birds and the sun filtering through the leaves, felt like a well-deserved reward afterhard work. But when Hannah opened the Venetian blind in her workroom, her mood turned sombre. On the other side of the palisade, their neighbours worked at full speed. The father cut tree branches with a tree pruner while the mother and her children weeded flowers. Squatted, heads down, they shouted and talked in loud voices. Their nimble fingers pulled up weeds and threw them on a heap in the corner.
Hannah lowered her head into her hands and massaged
theher temples with her fingers. She went to the kitchen where Thorsten sat in his pyjamas and slippers, his blond hair dishevelled from sleep; he was listening to the radio.
“We can’t sit in our orchard today.” She filled the kettle with water and put it on to boil.
“Go to my room and look out the window.”
Thorsten shuffled out of the kitchen, and when he came back shouted, “Hallelujah, the weeds are destroyed! Our neighbours deserve kudos for keeping Sweden clean.”
“Well, they may be doing a great job, but I can’t sit in the orchard and have them working on the other side of the fence.”
They drank coffee, ate breakfast, and after a short discussion, they decided to
visittake a trip to the nearby archipelago. It took them about one hour by car to reach their destination. When they opened the car doors and breathed in the fresh sea air, they felt invigorated. They were in a paradise that theMother Earth Motherhad bestowed on humankind; on Sweden. They walked for hours among the greenery and trees, and the only sounds that broke the silence were the gentle lapping of the waves and anthe occasional shriek of a seagull.
They returned in the afternoon, and Hannah immediately went to her room to see if their neighbours were still working in the orchard. There were not there, but the orchard and garden had been properly weeded, new flowers planted, grass mowed, and trees pruned. She breathed a sigh of relief and opened the window wide. The afternoon sun bathed the orchard and her room in golden light while a warm breeze carried the scent of vegetation and the sound of birds chirping. She was inspired, and she sat down in front of her computer. The words poured out of her onto the screen. It would be another great editorial of hers; another contribution in a long battle.
A few days passed quietly,
in calm mood,and then one afternoon, Hannah heard shouting and laughing from the neighbours’ orchard. A pair of mini football posts was placed among the trees, and four boys kicked a ball. "That’s all I need," she sighed deeply. The boys were hitting the ball hard and the sound of it and their shrill voices penetrated the double-glazed widow and made her nervous. The ball struck the palisade many times, and she imagined it hitting her window and shattering it into pieces - the glass embedded into her face, causing edher pain and scarring edher for life. She was writing an article, but she could not collect her thoughts. She was angry that such a trifle could interrupt her thinking. It had never happened in the past, even when the grandchildren visited the old couple and played in the orchard. They must have kicked the ball and shouted just as these boys did; but why did she not feel annoyed then?
The ball hit the wall, just under the window. The thump resounded inside her head and fuelled her anger. She rose from the table and peered out through the lace curtains. A lanky boy, about fifteen, shuffled jauntily to the palisade, steadied himself by holding on to two stakes
poles in his handsand leapt over with ease. My lovely tulips! Hannah stopped herself from uttering a cry of despair. His large feet were causing havoc among the plants, crashing the yellow, red and lilac flowers into the ground, breaking and trampling the stalks. He was clumsy, and it took him what seemed to be minutes to retrieve the ball. Had Hannah been born and brought up in some other country, she would probably not have hesitated to scold the boy. But her inbuilt fear of conflict was an insurmountable obstacle. TheBlood surged into her face and throbbed in her ears. She was not only angry with the boy, but also at her own cowardice. She grabbed her computer, strode to the kitchen, and made herself a cup of coffee. Then she sat at the table, resolved to finish her work. From the living room, she heard the excited voice of a football reporter, and Thorsten’s cheers and boos. Should she ask him to go and talk with the children’s parents? She could predict his answer. “They’re just children. They’ll grow up. Best not to quarrel over such trifles.” Her mother told her many years ago that her husband was spineless. Maybe she was right. Thorsten always avoided conflict of any kind, tried to achieve consensus, or pulled back in silence.
TO BE CONTINUED
Student or Learner