I speak of things caught in your periphery. In my case it happens often, even more so on long journey’s, maybe because we’re looking for them and our minds are more winsome to change, reaching out at the glimpses within our path. So these hints waft about in my subconscious all in their own time. But as I fetched these small oddities, not immediately understanding why they aroused suspicion or interest, they found their way together in a corner of my mind, garnering a more assured patina of intrigue.
We arrived at a local house, courtesy of the slow talking kiosk attendant, just a little ways off the main road, noted as “main” because it was only one lavished with asphalt. It was an old place, like most in its company, built of large stone bricks. It was guarded by a chicken wire fence held up by thin ageing wooden poles, restraining a well maintained front garden with what seemed like the greenest patch of grass on the street. We later learned it was because of a borehole on the property. Purple and white flowers were in bloom in the midday sun, much to the pleasant distraction of my favourite lady, Ina. After passing by a sun-bleached signboard we strolled down the short pathway to the gaping front door which stood open beyond a generous stone paved veranda which accommodated two small tables for patrons. A middle-aged lady in an old house coat, fanning herself with a pamphlet, emerged from the house and ushered us to one of these tables saying it was way too hot to sit inside. So there we sat, beneath the corrugated iron overhang waiting for a humble meal.
As colourful as the homely concierge-cum-waiter-cum-house owner appeared, offering us a selection of homemade jams and honey at country-town prices, it wasn’t hard to spot the odd something brewing beneath the surface of this rustically genteel woman who proclaimed herself as Merlene. It seemed like a routine she offered to all her guests as if she was building up to something, before she revealed the would-be gem in the concert of her hospitality.
It came after our meal and amidst the serving of our tea. To our mild surprise she’d brought a silver tray with three cups, setting it down with practiced grace. She then pulled a chair from the adjacent table to join us.
She spoke half in a hushed tone, or at least quieter than her usual vocal tenor, and inquired if we were here about “our river”. All three of us exchanged looks. I kindly mentioned that we had noticed that there was indeed a river, but that we’d never heard of it, although I added my vague observations that it was, in its own way, distinctive.
Merlene’s eyes narrowed and for a moment I thought I’d said the wrong thing or that my vague detective work was lost to her. But then she nodded curiously, “Why, because there’s no plants?”