‘Jo’, he said, as they sat, in their ancient re-cycled armchairs on the back verandah, watching dusk descend upon on ‘The Farm’, aka the backyard patch they had labored long and hard to rescue from suburban desertification.
Knowing she was listening, he continued, ‘When did you first decide that you loved me?’. She knew this game of old and was pleased by the opening bounce.
She paused in her thoughts about the soursobs and how she should have nuked them, rather than having to keep pulling them out.
Eventually she said ‘When you told me how much you regretted buying the cow.’
Not long after they first met, he told her that one Christmas, in a fit of idealism, he’d decided to buy all of his family a sponsored animal in Africa. You know the sort of thing. A card reading ‘Congratulations, you just bought two goats for an impoverished family in Kenya.’
Everyone else seemed pleased with their non-gift (or at least said they were), but as his mother opened hers, she could not conceal her disappointment in having bought a cow. Written on her face was a look of betrayal of the annual present-giving ritual.
Every year thereafter, when he handed her his Christmas gift, that look would return to her face and she would look at the card attached as if it were a live hand grenade and say ‘Thank you, I’ll open that later. I must see to lunch.’
It was half-time and, after they’d savoured some of the oranges of their times together, the game continued.
‘The tomatoes are just about finished’, he said. ‘The birds can have what’s left.’
‘I’ve taken the screen off the top of the fish-pond’, she said. ‘The bin-chickens can have a banquet.”
‘I’ve left a note on the table for Sarah to take the chooks and the mobile hutch. The kids will love taking care of them.’
‘Has Arfer gone to sleep now?’, she asked. He reached down into Arfer’s basket and there was no rise and fall from his belly. He nodded in his wife’s direction. They knew he’d pine if he missed the boat they were leaving on.
‘Are you ready?’, she said, hoping it was time.
‘Are you sure we’ve got enough?’
He recalled bringing back the pentobarbital from his last business trip to the States and the frisson of feeling like an international drug smuggler.
‘There’s enough here to take out two elephants.’
‘Analogy was never your forte.’
They raised their shot glasses to each other and swallowed.
‘Before the final siren goes,’ she said, ‘when did you decide that you loved me?’
‘When I told you about the cow and my mother and you said, ‘Perhaps you could have given her a flute. It would have matched those pursed lips perfectly’.
They closed their eyes, mirth playing on their aged, cracking lips, as the light faded on The Farm for the last time, and on their journey.