HENRY AND JONES
(Written for my friend Julie, who inspired me with her beautiful photo)
|Photo courtesy of Julie Brown|
A story about days long past
“Henry, are you awake? That woman is looking at us. She is pointing at us with one of those modern things; Henry, you still there Henry?”
“Yes, Jones, I am still here. Only just, but still here. It has been a long time hasn’t it? A long time since a woman looked at us. Longer for you than for me, but I feel older than you. I wonder why I feel so old. I am tired Jones, so tired. . .”
“Hey, Henry, don’t go back to sleep, please – it is so lonely here. Since the old man died no-one even comes to the shed anymore. Henry – you awake?”
“I think I figured out why you feel so old, you were made old – you were a stately, gentlemen’s car; while me, with my fancy spokes and wheels and open-top; I was made for the young ones; for racing the countryside, down the lanes and for laughter. It is why I stay awake longer than you, why I feel young and you feel old”
“Maybe, Jonesy, maybe. I do remember those days; I remember them well.”
“Please tell me Henry, please. I love the stories.”
“Look – she is leaving – the lady with the modern thing. She must be one of the poor folk – no car, always walking. I guess she was envious and that is why she stopped; probably off to work – maybe to work in the big house. She is probably a cleaner or maybe a house-keeper . . .”
“Don’t go to sleep Henry, please stay awake a little longer.”
“Do you remember the big house Jones? Do you remember the Master long ago, when he was a gentleman and we took rides to the big city?”
“Henry, the Master never rode in me, you were his favourite. It was young Mister James who drove me, we used to race along the countryside with Miss Charlotte. She used to squeal, as we bounced along, her hair falling out of her hat. It was sunny, racing days – them days.”
“Yes, Jones I remember. The Master used to despair about young Mister James – always scared that he would have an accident in you, but you kept him safe. It was the horses that killed him. His hunting with his horses; they used to race past here – him and Miss Charlotte, always laughing; the week of the wedding was when it happened.
All the guests were up from the city. Most had come up in carriages, but a few had cars; not as fancy as us, but we were kind of new back then – weren’t we?
Mister James decided to organise the hunt – he loosed the hounds early. Miss Charlotte and he were out in front as always; when that big Red Roo, bounded in front of the horses. Australia’s not a gentlemen’s place like England – hunting’s not so civilised, and they forgot about the kangaroos. It took out Miss Charlotte’s horse on its first bound and then Mister James with its hind legs. I didn’t see it, but I remember them telling the Master. He had just arrived back from the city – we were still idling in the driveway when they came running out to greet us. He just sat back in the seat, still-like, no breathing, just still. I could feel his heart slowing, I thought it would stop. But, he stood up, quiet-like and walked into the big house.”
“I never saw the Master again Henry, they brought me out here and covered me up with the oil-cloth. No-one said anything. It was dark for a long time. The shed doors never opened. Not for a long time. I wondered what had happened, what I had done wrong.”
“You did nothing wrong Jonesy, it was just the Master’s way – he couldn’t look at you – you reminded him of young Mister James too much, of happier days. He still drove in me, to the city and back each day. It was silent times, his sadness seeped into my leather, but we kept each other company. Then one day they drove me here – I heard them talking; the Master had taken a turn – he couldn’t talk or move his left side anymore; he wasn’t going into the city. They were going to get him a nurse in to stay, so I came here to the shed.”
“I remember, Henry, I remember that day. The sun was so bright that I had to dim my headlights; they pulled back the oil-cloth when they opened the doors. Miss Tilly was weeping, she was weeping for the Master and for Mister James. They drove you in next to me, and shut the doors on us both. I was too scared to say anything to you at first Henry; you were so grand and serious. Then you started to tell me stories, do you remember our stories?”
“Yes Jones, I remember, but, time passes and people forget. Even that lady with the modern thing will forget. She will walk onto her life today and we will be a memory for a few hours and then she will forget. It is time to sleep Jones, time to sleep again, time to dream . . .”
“No Henry, please don’t go to sleep. It is so lonely here, only the birds and the mice. The spiders don’t even talk to me when they make webs in my spokes. Please Henry, stay awake.
Henry . . . Henry”