A HELPING HAND

 

The night grew cold and frost was setting in. But the clear skies were lit by star’s that were only outnumbered by the ones on the road in the headlamp light. The grass and heather on the Moor land road had put its fluffy white coat on. Fingers froze to the shape of the bars on the chop, its last run before a winter rebuild. Eye’s red rimed and the sound of a big single beating a slow rhythm echoing of the granite walls, the road over the moor was mine. Having covered about ten miles at twenty-five mph, I knew that by an old stone cottage, a mile up the road stands a small outcrop of trees. Pulling the chop over and parking up, I slowly part my hands from the bars, promising my self a new pair of winter gloves, again. Hands on top of the engine, till the feeling returns with a blinding pain in my fingers as blood thaws. Looking over at the cottage while I lit a cigarette, a movement by a window catch’s my eye. The cottage is used by a family in the summer months, who also own the largest dog I have every seen. Feeling it’s been a trick of light, I settle back to enjoy my smoke. With the silence of the night all around, all I hear is a fox or badger moving in the undergrowth somewhere behind me. The noise fades and the still night returns with just the odd tingle from a cooling exhaust. Again movement at the window. I start to move up the short lane and stop at the garden gate, its flaking paint rough to the touch under its frosty coating. Looking at the place it seems dark and empty, but something still stands with in. Opening the gate I start to walk up the gravel path, boots sounding like a stone crusher. Reaching the door I gently rap, like I might wake someone. I’m startled by the sound of an old worn lock being opened. The door opens and a woman in her mid twenty’s smiles out from the darkness. “Sorry I though the place was empty” I said, adding I’d seen a family here in the summer months. “Come in out of that cold, I’m Rose” a hand reached out. “Sammy-g” I replied, entering through the low doorway. The only light in the room came from the dying remains of a turf fire, has if reading my mine Rose places a couple pieces on the fire and then lights a small oil lamp in the centre of the bare wooden table. “Come warm yourself,” pointing at the fire. I moved closer not needing to be asked again. Rose swung a black kettle over the fire on a crook and I noted the fine lines at her eyes and mouth corners. She had kind eyes and a wide mouth slightly to large for her face, but pleasant looking. I sat on a wooden stool by the fire soaking in its gentle heat, opening my jacket and removing my neck warmer. Rose said she had heard the bike approach from the distant, and watched me pull over and light up. That she lived here years ago, and rented it out. But had moved back after the Johnson’s had their last summer holiday. I told her I lived on the other side of the moor at Will Todd’s old place. “Tea” she asked and I nodded back. Handing me a large mug full and steaming, she sat down on the edge of the hearth. Back facing the fire and the light from the lamp painting her face in a pale yellow glow. “It’s a cold night to be out on a bike,” she said. I told her about visiting friends down in the village and dropping Christmas presents in for their kids. I asked if I could smoke, she said, “Ye just sit close to the fire place”. I lit up a cig and asked when she last lived here. I lived here till I was twenty years old and then my mother moved to Scotland. My father rode motorcycles, a ‘Indian’ I think it was. This was my father’s cottage but after my mother died he could not stay here, he had a brother in Scotland so that’s were we went. Later after I came back to Ireland and travelled around. “What do you do for a living “; she asks. “I landscape gardens and do dry stone walling and any other little jobs that need doing”. Looking at my watch I see it’s going on 10.20pm and down the rest of my tea. She goes over to a large chest sitting in the corner and brings back a dark skin book. Opening it she shows me a photograph of her dad sitting on a Red And silver Indian motorcycle. I can see were she gets her looks from; her father has the same mouth features. I put another turf log on the fire and watch the small red sparks dance on the rising heat, then slowly disappear up the chimney. Rose talked on about her father and how she missed him through her life. Another hour passed an I said its time I made for home. “Have another hot cuppa before you go” she reach’s for the teapot. Lighting up a cig Rose hands me the hot tea, it’s going to be hard to leave a hot fire and face the cold biting air. We talked a bit more and I got up to leave. Rose went back over to the trunk an handed me a pair of large black motorcycle gantlets, the type you might have seen about thirty years ago. “They are my fathers”; she says. “I cannot take them”; I reply. But you never win from a strong-headed woman. Leaving the door I promised to return the gloves soon. Reaching my bike I looked back and could just see movement at the window. Pulled on my crash hat and fired up the big single. The sound shattering the still night air. Lifting a black leather clad hand to wave I could see the cottage was in darkness, sitting against a backdrop of twinkling stars. Slowly I made my way home across the slippery moor road. After what seemed like forever my cottage came into sight, has I parked the chop in the back shed I noticed my hands were the warmest part of me. Inside I stoked the fire and set the motorcycle gauntlets near the door, so to remember to return them to Rose. The weather turned bad over the next week, the roads were near impossible to drive on. Even my beat up old Landrover was getting it rough. With nothing to do I went to work on the old chop. A strip down and service on the engine, a fresh coat of paint on the frame. A larger tank and seat were fitted; some wiring I’ve been putting off was sorted. The old girl was put back together. Just over three weeks had passed since that night I’d meet Rose, every hour since she had been in my mine. Each time I’d see the gloves I think of the time I’ll see her again. With the weather getting better, I fire up the old bike and pulling on the gloves I set off. The air is clear and a fresh wind blows in over the hills. The smell of spring is starting to set in. Its good to be back on the road. Has I reach the small out crop of trees at the end of the lane, I pull the chop over and look up at the cottage. A 4 x 4 is sitting parked at the small gate, which has green flaking paint. Leading up to the cottage door my boots crunch on the gravel path. The cottage looks different in the sunshine. I reach the front door and gently knock, the door slowly opens and a grey headed man answers. “How may I help?” he inquires. I ask for Rose, his face turns ash white. He looks at me and invites me in. The interior has changed from the night I was there. Its has a homely feel and yellow pine furniture. He asks me to sit down; I pick a seat close to were I sat that night. I tell him about meeting Rose and having tea, I give him the gloves and he looks over at the chest by the wall. He starts to speak “Rose was my daughter who died at the age of twenty; I use to ride a Indian motorcycle. One day Rose was on the back coming up from the village, it was winter and we crashed down the road from here. She was killed out right”. The hair was now standing on the back of my neck has he handed me the gloves back. These were the last things Rose gave me please keep them. I looked at the gloves and stood to leave. “ I always knew Rose was still here”; I said my goodbyes and walked to the bike in shock. Looking up at the cottage I started the bike and waved stamped into first gear and headed home. Rounding the bend at a place known has The Hollow a woman crosses the road and I serve to avoid her. The tree and me became one. “Hello Sammy-g” Rose called. “Come walk with me”.

Eye of Seoirse

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