Bangers and Mash, Weasley-Style!
The sky was blue, the grass was green and the birds were singing, as the tall, loping figure of a young man moved across the front lawn of the Vobster and Coleford Rest Home and Hospice, and stopped by the kneeling figure of a workman.
'Excuse me?' asked the young man.
His shadow had clearly fallen across the body of the kneeling man and this, combined with the obvious question asked at such close proximity, should have gained some response from the figure on the ground.
'Excuse me?' asked the young man again.
The sky stayed blue, the grass was still green and the birds kept singing but – but the workman showed no sign of any awareness of the young man's presence, whatsoever. Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to say this person showed as much interest as the Sun would to a passing gnat.
He - for the young man assumed he was a male from what he could make out of him, physically anyways - was re-turfing the border of the lawn. The young man took that moment to look at this person. Kneeling, but his position couldn't hide the fact that he was well-built and very tall – probably six four, six five – and still seemed trim and strong; older generation – body covered in work clothes and boots but no gloves on very large, muscular, brown, veiny hands – the hands of a manual labourer, very strong, browned from the Sun, a scattering of freckles on each one, long time maturing in the outdoors – and light strands of what seemed to be greyish hair peeking out from beneath the brim of a broad, white Gunn and Moore cricket hat , the base of its crown stained a dull and dun colour from many hours of perspiration. His face: unknown; he remained kneeling, facing away.
The young man was about to try a different tack – perhaps even a blunt 'Oi!', when he noticed the kneeling figure was moving, very slowly away from him. This was happening because of the re-turfing.
The young man took a slight step forward to keep pace and his shadow, deciding it was tired of waiting too, moved with him and again, lay across the body of the kneeling man.
'Excuse me? Sorry, sorry, can you stop for a moment?'
The young man was now considering that 'Oi!' was becoming the best option when he noticed the hands of the man before him. Yes, big and strong and old and experienced but also … there was something almost …
The fact that the kneeling man had just spoken was completely lost on the young questioner for at least two seconds. Then it was as if he came to, from the strangely hypnotic movements of the workman's hands as they seemed to knit a piece of living earth and grass to another piece of living earth and grass and it reminded him of something …
'Sorry?' asked the young man.
'You said, 'Excuse me?''
The workman said nothing else. In fact, now that the young man had properly realised he'd spoken at all, he seemed to have become even more focused on his work, his hands weaving their lawn-making magic, his back and shoulders and broad-brimmed cricket hat a carapace of complete and total indifference. He had been able to take in, though, that the voice was deep and gruff-sounding.
'Sorry, sorry,' stammered the young man, pausing again to look at the working hands. 'Sorry, I was distracted by what you were doing,' he continued. 'I'm looking for someone.'
The hands paused, just for the merest moment, in their hypnotic finger dance, so quick most people would miss it but the young man did manage to spot that.
'Reginald Watkins? Works here? Registered the care home as his main work address and part-time abode?'
A pause. Nothing. Then …
'I said, no.'
The young man got the distinct impression that the working man's back and shoulders and broad-brimmed cricket hat were no longer exuding a mood of complete and total indifference but now one of complete and total exasperation with youth, the young and all the people under the age of at least fifty-five. He couldn't be sure but it could be something to do with the granite-like set of the shoulders when he'd asked again.
'I said, no. No Reginald Watkins here. Never has been.'
'Are you sure?'
Again, granite shoulders. But hands now working busily and strong, putting turf to turf.
'Yep. Should be. Been here many, many years.'
There was a pause, punctuated only by the sky being blue, the grass green and the birds singing… and the quiet sound of turf being knitted together.
'Yes.' replied the workman. 'No one of that name.'
'Oh. Right.' The young man paused. 'That's not what the manager said when I enquired at the desk. Sent me over here.'
The workman finally paused. The hands stopped their seemingly mesmerising work. A spider was slowly moving over the concrete edging between the lawn and the surrounding pathway. The workman seemed to keep very still.
The voice rumbled out deep, distinct and clear, but at no time did the man, turn around or look up.
'The so-called manager', he enunciated the word with heavy sarcasm, 'of this establishment, wouldn't know his proverbial arse from his elbow - or a Reginald Watkins or whatever his bloody name is, from His Majesty, the King.'
'Ah, I see,' replied the young man. 'Well, I'll better be getting on,' he paused again. 'Could I ask your name, please? Just for reference, you understand?'
'No, you may bloody not.'
The young man was about to walk away after this snappy dismissal when he noticed the workman had not begun with the turfing but was still knelt, very still – almost like someone in the deepest prayer. He wondered for a moment why he'd not recommenced work when a small something caught his eye. It was the spider he'd seen moments earlier, now making its way into the cover of the lawn.
He couldn't understand why but it was as if the workman was watching the spider too.
When it had reached a distance of about three feet from the workman and was very obviously moving away into, what must be for the spider, the lush depths of the lawn, the workman seemed to click back into activity, almost like a machine, the hands working their quiet magic with the grass and earth.
Odd. However, thinking nothing more of it, the young man decided to go. After all, the day was getting on and he did have other leads.
He turned around and walked away from the kneeling workman, who showed no sign that he was being left behind; the carapace of his back and shoulders and wide brimmed hat now exuding once again the air of complete and total indifference, while his hands worked on.
As the young man passed from the lawn into the reception again, he passed an elderly man, distinctive in a maroon shirt and white cravat, who was stood just inside the reception doors, looking out towards the lawn, who couldn't help but look at him for a second before smiling politely as the younger man loped out of the main door. The older man's head had now craned around to follow the young man's exit and, due to old age and some arthritis, his body had to follow round, rather slower and not very obligingly. The expression had remained smiling and inscrutable.
The head craned back, in the direction of the lawn, and the body followed back around. With a slightly faltering step which in increased in tempo, the elderly man made his way out on to the lawn and over to the kneeling workman, still kneeling and still working.
'I've either seen a ghost – or the image of someone I've not seen like that for – goodness me, fifty years! What did he want?'
A casual observer might think the elderly man was addressing this question to the lawn, for all the response he got from the kneeling man to whom it was clearly addressed.
'Did you hear me? I think we've got a possible problem, eh? Did you see him?'
'No.' came the simple reply from the ground
'You should have looked up,' replied the other man, now looking back towards reception. 'We've definitely got a problem. What did he want?' he asked again, looking back down at the working man.
The kneeling man stopped knitting turf and slowly, very slowly sat back up. After a moment, his head turned to face the direction of the reception, looking over his left shoulder. His face remained in shadow.
'He was looking for Ronald Weasley.'