Ancora Io, Nick's Story

(this is part of a novel being written here: Ancora Io)

"The trigger to memory is like a key, shaped out of insubstantial stuff - the touch of a breeze, a native tree in bloom, the bark of a dog, a crow sitting on a far wire, the echo of E Flat minor or a green frog jumping on concrete. Once you turn the key, it all comes flooding back."

Nick quietly pulled up a seat opposite, silently ordering the usual with a wave and a smile and giving the cat a quick head scratch. He waited until Jane stopped scribbling, and she looked up at him, "Oh. Hi Nick. It happened again!" 

"I saw."

Jane held up her notes. Writing filled the pages with small drawings, "I don't know where it comes from."

He pushed her a smoking hot chocolate, "You keep surprising me, you know. What did she kill today?"

She shuffled through her notes as he tipped a jug of milk into the cat's bowl and put it on the table next to him. The Black Cat growled.

Jane looked up with a note of relief, "Nothing. She turned into a frog. I might be safe for a bit."

He turned and coughed into his arm, "Any more dreams?"

"Just the normal. Nothing I can't handle." She looked at him, "Did you start to smoke again?"

He shook his head, "Have you eaten?"

"I am starved."

The Black Cat pricked up its ears and sat back in its seat, washing its face.

 "I thought so. Toni is cooking us pancakes." He held out his hand to her, and she gave him her manuscript to check.

Then she fished a big pad out of her bag. She licked the tip of her pencil, "Your turn."

The light dimmed slightly.

He started to speak, and she raced to copy his words down.

Nick's story:

"The trigger to memory is like a key, shaped out of insubstantial stuff - the touch of a breeze, a native tree in bloom, the bark of a dog, a crow sitting on a far wire, the echo of E Flat minor or a green frog jumping on concrete. Once you turn the key, it all comes flooding back.

I do not know where the memories are kept. They are not in my head, for I have searched every room and dug out every canal and broken down every door in my head till there is nothing but sunlight. They are not written in books nor recorded on tape or taped to the back of some elder's head. They require space beyond the capacity of the vaults of physical or organic systems. It is a mystery.

In one of the old chronicles, I read that you can go back in time to a particular moment, but you first must build an anchor and throw it into the river of time so that you can pull yourself back. I cannot remember doing that. I cannot remember saying I must remember this.

We dabble in the great mysteries yet do not understand: this the most minor and most insubstantial of things.

When I was young, I thought time the only enemy I could not defeat. Now I am older, I know that isn't so, for, in an instance, it is possible to span all those distances and be back in the warmth of those you love.

I ran out of coffee this week and lived a pitiful couple of days without the smell of brewed coffee. I became short, argued with the cockatoos, and did not greet the crows who tend my gardens with my customary smile. Today I smiled at your story, and I ground coffee, sat, letting it transport me back to the poetry of Ibn Sa'id al-Maghribi and Andalusia.

I shut my eyes, and I am still there, on that long veranda I slept on those long hot summer nights. I smelled the pepper trees and listened to the soft troop of sheep to the dam across in the paddocks. Watching the last sliver of sunlight slowly drain from the sky, remembering how we used to fly to the moon, rowing a saucer with spoons.

My very stern Grandmother left Pa in bed each day before dawn and started the fire burner to heat the station's water and cook the morning bread and scones. A sprawling, dusty remote farm on the edge of the desert, with a splendid avenue of trees, she kept alive with precious water for roads that never came. She guarded her big pantry from the kitchen: a pantry full of sacks of flour and smelling of rising dough against all comers and curious children. So many treats came from the pantry we children built a picture of a cavern full of so much sweet treasure, she would surely never notice some missing.

Deep in the house's bowels, we found another way into the pantry, through the maid's room, now barricaded against the ages and an unspoken scandal, and filled with old school books from just after the great war and curios Pa brought back from Cairo and Palestine. Behind the wardroom, we found a long-forgotten door and a winding corridor and sat wondering whether to risk all on taking that final, irrevocable step of raiding the pantry.

We never did, for by the time we found the nerve, it was time for tea. And as Grandmother stirred the sugar for us all, she told us of how we could fly to the moon.

Perhaps it takes loss to know what we once held but, if ever another loved us, part of them still rest within our hearts, together with their stories."

Toni waited till Jane put down her pencil and Nick shook the cobwebs out of his head. He walked over with a tray of pancakes with strawberries, the fruit of the forest, and cream. "Sorry guys, no spoons… Don't ask."

Jane said, "Come on, Toni. You can tell us."

He shook his head, "A lot of drama here tonight. Eat up; I will come to tell you about it later. Maybe you can write it into one of your books."


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