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.