NORTH EASTERN PROMISE

2 Mar

George rubbed his hands together and sucked on his dentures. Getting old was a bastard and something he really didn’t appreciate. The doc’ had told him that he needed to get away, find some blue sky and palm trees, but there was fat chance of that. With a wife to support on an ex-coalminer’s pension they weren’t exactly living large. Thirty five years he’d spent down the pit; man and boy giving his life for the black-stuff. What else could he have done? His dad had been a miner and his grandfather before him, so for his thirteenth birthday he received a pair of steel-toed boots and a permission slip to leave school early. A brown paper envelope with a couple of quid at the end of the week was far more important to the family than a leaving certificate, besides, higher education wasn’t for the likes of them, that was for posh folk. 

George coughed and tasted blood in his mouth, he was in his sixties but you would easily have given him seventy. The problem with working down the pit was that it took as much from you as you took out of it. The more coal the more aches and pains. With slipped disks, rheumatism, grating joints, stone lung and a lazy eye he’d paid the price and was more than thankful when they’d finally retired him. He’d just about bitten the pit manager’s hand off when he’d been presented with his gold watch and thanked for his years of service. Put out to grass like some old knackered horse, to enjoy the last years of his life stumbling around his vegetable patch and getting under his wife’s feet. Big gardener was George, took good care of his council allotment – nobody grew onions like him. The secret was pigeon shit but people didn’t need to know that! 

His long suffering wife would watch him through condensed pains as he pottered around the back yard, mindful of the strong virulent man he’d once been. The pit had crushed him like a bug and she couldn’t remember the last time they’d been physical. Loved him to death though, even if he was a cantankerous old fart. Liked his own way did George, but Mary made sure he didn’t always get it. 

For Christmas the kids had bought him a green-house, one of those modular all-year-round, bio-thermal units. Aluminum framed with special glass that would attract more uv’s and help the plants to flourish, at least that’s what the description read in the catalogue. They’d clubbed together and with a fortuitous win at the Friday night bingo had enough together to pay the thing off in twenty seven easy installments. 

Strange looking thing. It was like a crushed egg with a pyramid shaped top. Designed ergonomically to insure the maximum utilization of the space within. 

Christmas had come and gone and they’d hired a couple of strapping lads to help erect it in the back yard. They’d placed it out on the cobbles where the old wooden shed had stood. George had seen his wife eye the young lads sweating in the afternoon sun – he wasn’t jealous, just cognizant of a  reluctant acceptance that age and infirmity spared no one. Now it was full of tomatoes, peppers and various other greenery not indigenous to the Yorkshire countryside. 

George had loved the gift and from the very beginning had gone to work preparing his seed beds and perfecting his irrigation. The watery north eastern sun radiating through the polarized glass had felt good on his body as he toiled in the dirt and there was definitely a lessening of the ache in his joints. After working all day beneath the glass, and sitting in his comfy chair of an evening, sleep came easily. His wife had noticed a lifting of his mood and had even commented on the extra spring in his step; it was good to see a man who’d worked hard all his life enjoying his final years. 

George was amazed at the crops that flourished beneath the glass, he’d never seen tomatoes like them; giant, red, brutes that burst with juice and flavor. Even the onions that he prided himself on where larger and tastier and he no longer had to use the pigeon manure although, it’d been a hard habit to break. 

During show season he’d taken first prize in nearly every category, something nobody in the town had ever done. The judges had admired his bounty and his fellow competitors, green with envy, had patted him on the back and congratulated him. What was his secret and would he share? George had just tapped his soil-stained finger against the side of his nose and smiled noncommittally. “Now then lads,” he’d said, “a gentleman never kisses and tells.” 

He was a little baffled himself as he wasn’t the only gardener in the area with a green house, some of the other old boys had them too, and yet their produce, although fantastic, didn’t come close to what he was producing. His veg seemed to grow twice as quick, twice as large, and twice as tasty. George put it down to his green-thumb; his colleagues put it down to devious practices and cried foul play behind his back. 

* 

Sitting in front of the telly one evening, the fire blazing and with fish and chips in newspaper in his lap, he watched some random program on the B.B.C. There was horse jumping on the other channel. He wouldn’t watch I.T.V. (hated the adverts!) out of principal and so was stuck with whatever Aunty Beeb was showing. Some documentary about Egypt and the pyramids; alien technology and conspiracy theories! All very well he thought as he shoveled a couple of soggy chips into his mouth, the salt and vinegar biting into his lips. A man in khaki, wearing a Pith helmet was enthusiastically remonstrating about the power of the pyramids – how he believed that they were ancient energy sources, not just tombs as mainstream Egyptologists would have us believe. Obviously the fella was a nutter thought George but it would kill an hour before he went up to bed. The commentator went onto describe propagation theory, how plants placed within the ancient structures would flourish generating abundant harvests. It was also believed that the energy within the chambers had medicinal properties, and how the ancients had used the pyramids for their healing properties. 

“Codswallop!” spluttered George through battered Haddock and mushy peas. 

For a brief instant light swept through the front room as scudding clouds revealed a reluctant moon – the fleeting beams glanced off the green house at the bottom of the garden. 

George gulped. “Bloody hell,” he cursed under his breath. 

* 

“George love,” called his wife, “I’m going up to bed. See you in a bit?”

“Right-o lass. I’ll just finish me scran and I’ll be up.”

His green-house was an effing pyramid! No wonder the vegetables were doing so well. It was ancient Egyptian technology that was causing his onions to expand at such an enviable rate. 

No bleeding wonder! George wasn’t a big believer in coincidence but the titles running up the television screen on the rear end of a retreating camel seemed to be screaming out to him. Maybe they were bloody right? Maybe there was something in it? He wondered if just maybe they were right about the other stuff as well. George finished his dinner and then sat through a program on political affairs almost falling asleep himself until he heard the soft snores of his wife emanating from the upstairs bedroom. 

It was worth a shot what did he have to lose? 

* 

He grabbed a blanket from the airing cupboard, a thermos filled with cocoa from the kitchen and as quietly as possible stole from the house. Careful to make as little noise as possible he headed out into the yard. It was cold outside however, he felt warmth emanate from the green-house as he slid open the glass door. He’d obviously gone of his rocker. Folk would think he was bonkers but it was worth a try. He’d already noticed a change in his temperament and friends and family had commented on how well he was looking. Even the squeak in his dodgy-knee had somehow been lubricated and disappeared. He settled himself into an old deck chair, wrapped the blanket around himself and with the odor of warm soil and ripening tomatoes in his nostrils drifted into sleep. 

* 

Mary came down the stairs and entered the living room. She’d woken up alone, which wasn’t unusual, as George would often fall asleep in front of the telly. She’d find him fully dressed and unconscious in the big comfy chair – the television playing to an inattentive audience. She walked towards where she expected to find her husband but the chair was empty. Now she was worried. George never went anywhere without telling her first and even then those occasions where few and far between. She walked into the kitchen, called out his name, but there was no reply. Where could he be? It wasn’t like him. She eyed the telephone hanging on the wall, thought about calling the police and then dismissed the idea as silly. Where could he be, he couldn’t have gone far? She peered through the kitchen window out to where George’s pride and joy stood. Surely not she thought, but it was worth a try. Given the recent success he’d enjoyed at the local horticultural show she wouldn’t put it passed the old fool. She shuffled her feet into her slippers, pulled her night gown around her, opened the back-door and went down the garden. Silly old bugger! What did he think he was playing at scaring her like that? She’d give him what for. 

* 

“George? George, are you out here?” she called. Nothing except the clink of the electric milk float as it rattled past, but no sign of George. She walked towards the green-house and slid open the door. She was getting nervous now, a little bit afraid of what she might find. He may be half lame, blind in one eye and but he certainly wasn’t deaf. 

Mary screamed, slumped in a chair was her George. A look of serenity covered his face. 

“My God not George! Surely not her George? Not like this. Not now! 

* 

Mary’s scream caused George to shoot up out of this chair. “Bloody hell woman, what the hell are you doing? You half scared me to bleeding death. Are you trying to collect on the life insurance or somat?” 

Mary stood in front of her husband. One hand covered her mouth, the other pointed towards him. 

“What is it lass?  What’s wrong?” 

Mary couldn’t believe her eyes. It was George alright, large as life but not the George she’d said goodnight too. The man in front of her was buff and virile; his toned physique bulged through an unbuttoned shirt. His hair was thick and dark and there was the twinkle in both his eyes that had caused her fall in love with him those thirty odd years ago. It was as though he’d lost years. Shocked by the man who stood in front of her she felt her knees buckle beneath her. 

* 

George still not understanding what was going on caught her as she fell, gathered her up in his massive arms and carried her back to the house. Neglecting to take off his boots he pushed open the kitchen door, walked through to the living room and laid her on the couch. As he stood up he caught his reflection in the mirror above the fireplace, or rather the reflection of the man he’d once been. 

“Flippin Nora!” he gasped out loud. How was he going to explain this to the lads down at the working men’s club? This was going to be slightly more difficult than giant onions and pigeon poop!

“YOUTH’S A THING, WILL NOT ENDURE”

Bill Shakespeare – 12th Night.

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2 Responses to “NORTH EASTERN PROMISE”

  1. Steve Green March 3, 2012 at 6:07 am #

    Great story Colin. I once read in a magazine about the beneficial properties of pyramids, how razor blades would re-sharpen when left inside them, and other such “miracles”. I’m not sure how much truth there is in it, but it kinda gave me an inkling as to where the stoey was heading. This didn’t take anything away from it though, I really enjoyed the read.

  2. BrindaBanerjee March 4, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    Colin — please point me towards a magic pyramid greenhouse!! I feel sorry for the old wife now : )

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