A Short Sketch
We saw the old man, leaning on a vintage T1 Raleigh bicycle for support, as he came out of the track to the right just as we were nearing the end of our walk. A green milk crate was secured by bungee cords just below the handlebars. He weaved along the side of the road like a bee returning to the hive after gorging on nectar in a field of clover. It was just before noon.
“Let’s hang back,” Sara says. We are practicing our social distancing.
Then he weaved left near the entrance to our house and disappeared.
“Where’d he go?” I ask. “Do you think he’s fallen into the drain?”
As we reached our drive, there he was, backed against our entry wall, holding his bike between us. He was a handsome man with a neatly trimmed white beard, wearing an ancient tweed jacket over a green argyle jumper and sporting a flat cap on his head. His clothes were clean and he seemed fit enough, but his blue eyes looked a bit unfocused.
“I’m against the wall here because I’m isolating, like, so ye can pass by,” he calls to us.
“That’s grand,” I say, “but we’re going in here, so you’re just fine to go ahead with your walk.”
“Do ye live here?” he enquires, astonished.
“We do,” I answer.
“Have I met ye before?” he asks, perplexed now.
“Oh yes, we’ve met several times before.”
“We have?” he exclaims, eyes round with surprise. “Ye see, I’ve a drink taken. I’m isolating, like, so I take a drink and read and watch the telly. Cocooning, so.”
“That’s all right,” I assure him. “I imagine we’ve all had a drink taken in these times.”
“Do ye live here? In Mullenaglemig?”
“Four years now,” I tell him patiently.
I pick up Lucy to carry her across the cattle guard at the end of our drive, keeping a proper distance from him.
“Do ye know how to walk across the cattle…” he pauses for a long second, thinking, “…cattle guard!” he finishes triumphantly.
“I’ve been doing it for four years now so I’m getting handy at it.”
“Four years!” He looks incredulous. “I’ve been here eighty years. In Mullenaglemig, like. Back down the lane there. Have I met ye before? Ye see, I’ve had a drink taken.”
Sara and Lucy are slowly backing down our drive, socially distancing themselves. Lucy looks a bit nervous.
“That’s okay,” I say as I ease towards them. “I’m sure many people are taking a drink.”
“I’m isolating like, so I take a drink and read and watch the telly,” he repeated.
He slowly heaved himself off the wall, grasped the handlebars like a drowning man who has been tossed a life preserver, and started pushing the bike along the lane, wandering from side to side.
“Poor old guy,” I say to Sara when I catch up to her. “I think I’ll call the Gardai and Sean the postman and ask them to keep an eye on him. He has nothing to do but take a drink, read, and watch the telly.”
“Doesn’t that describe us perfectly?” she answers.
9 thoughts on “The Isolating Man”
Good morning from across the Pond!
What a delightful story! Yesterday my husband and I took a bike ride on one our popular bike trails. We then had dinner (and a drink) outside on our deck and then watched a little “Telly”! So, we are in this together! Thanks for sharing. 💚☘️
Yes we are, aren’t we?
I love this! Margie
The Table Makers Will Always Overcome the Wall Builders
Doesn’t that describe all of us quite well?! As always, thank you for this gift of words and pictures to savor over my breakfast coffee. Big prohibited hugs for you and Sara.
I miss hugs the most.
I just discovered your blog. I love it! It brings back fond memories of Ireland and Dingle. I was there in 2017 and 2019. I fell in love with Ireland and the Irish people. I love your poems. Thank you for bringing a smile to my face and warm feelings as I remember my time in Dingle.
Thank you, Diana. If all goes well, you’ll be back in 2021.
My guess is he has been doing this for eighty years, as you have said, now he is disoriented, wanting some contact, what a moment, especially the cattle guard. When I was a child, when we took drives out to the country side, I first saw a cattle guard, and said proudly, This is where the cows go to go to the bathroom, after my dad asked if I knew what that was. So for many, many years, that is what I thought, of course I was probable 3-4-5 years old, at the time. Cheryl laughs every time we see a cattle guard. Love you, think of you, Sara and Lucy often.
That describes us perfectly here too, except for the bicycle.
Your friends in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, Rita and Peter.