The Old Bach

It stood behind the line of pines, two old wooden huts , hidden from the road.
The old man had lived there for years, you could still smell his presence, long after he had died alone in some forgotten retirement home.

The sound and smell of the sea stayed in your ears and nose all day and all night; it made magic. If you were adventurous you could climb over the back fence and wend your way through the flax and swamp , over the dunes to Bottle Lake and the sea. Once Sambo the black cat came too, her tongue hanging out in the heat as she panted over the dunes to retreat at the sight of that pounding sea.

In the big hut, the cracked peeled linoleum on the kitchen floor, the smell of old man and the sand in every crevice of the three rooms made it feel like another world. There were Life magazines with covers showing the Korean War and Jacqueline Kennedy stashed in corners, and a step up into a sunny room was Mum and Dad’s bedroom; big sagging kapok mattress and bottles of pills on the dresser…

A quick few steps across behind the big hut lay the room where my brother and I slept- two beds with wire bases and smelly mattresses against opposing walls-where my brother would pretend at nights to have stopped breathing; enjoying my little brother wails of fear. There,on the dusty floor, many years later, I would make first sweet uncertain love with my first love.

Out there at night you could hear the tap dripping into the concrete square tub that was once the well. Clear, slightly salty water that watered the asparagus bed that grew so well in the soft sandy soil in summer. And always, the sound of the surf out on the Bay, and the cry of the seagulls –even in the dead of night- a lonely sad cry….

The Old Bach

Paul Martin

DUNEDIN, New Zealand

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