I had just passed the old small village church when I got my first glimpse of the house. To get ` there I used to walk down an unpaved road, past the saw mill. There a tiny, old wooden bridge crosses the creek that flows through the valley. I would then clamber up the rocky, steep, narrow footpath that leads up to the house.
It was small, it was comfortable, and it was old; over 350 years old so the sandstone lintel above the front door said. It was my father’s home.
Last year this dubious phenomenon we call progress had come to his hideout. Now the old rocky farmers lane to his house became a paved one-lane road all the way to the end of father’s garden.
As I stepped through the garden gate I saw immediately that the hands that used to keep the garden a showpiece had aged. Yes, father showed his years. But the years had not affected his persona; he was full of life and as inquisitive as ever.
It was the day before we had to leave that I noticed a change. He appeared preoccupied, as if wrestling with a problem. My attempts to engage him in conversation brought forth only short responses, some grunts, some head shaking, an occasional ‘yep ’, or a mumbled ‘maybe’.
In late afternoon he brushed past me in the garden where I was gathering some flowers for the dinner table. He did not seem to even notice me as he walked past me to the gate. This was very much unlike father. An uneasy concern gripped me as I watched the silent figure walk up the road and then disappear into the woods.
My growing anxiety evaporated when he reappeared less than ten minutes later. His steps were definitely livelier; he obviously had conquered whatever had bothered him.
After our late farewell candlelight dinner he motioned me to follow him to the garden. It was a balmy summer night with just a small crescent moon hanging in the sky. He broke the stillness, clearing his throat before speaking.
“I want to tell you a secret I have carried with me for many years. You just returned from another war, so you will understand.
Heinrich was the only true friend I ever had. During the battles at Verdun he had saved my life twice. I was deeply indebted to him.
On the ninth of October an incredible artillery barrage hit our post. I heard him cry out for me and ran to his trench. He was spread eagled on the ground, his arms broken. A steel post skewered him at the hip, pinning him to the ground like an insect in a display case. He pleaded for the ultimate kindness.
Yes, I killed my best friend who twice had saved my life.”
After a long while we stood up. He looked at peace with himself, he knew I understood.
There can be times when real friendship calls for real courage.
Writing order: MK Flower, Tamal Dutta, Leif Rennes, Anna Zhigareva, cocobaby08, Marco Tyler-Rodrigue, Iliena Bosu, Anna Zhigareva, Tracey, Griffin