Rodney’s diary is full of stuff. If it weren’t written in his diary he’d forget to do it. He cleans old ladies’ gutters, fixes mates’ cars, maintains the local bowling club, mows the lawn around the visitors’ centre… he’s a typical retiree – very busy.
There’s one thing Rodney never has to write in his diary though, because he does it every day without fail. He walks his dog up to the old concrete water tank on the hill where he meets Diane, who walks her dog up to the water tank on the hill. From there they pick a direction and walk.
“Did you hear about the new plaque they’re putting on the cenotaph?” Asks Diane.
Rodney shakes his head.
“It’s for Lucy’s son who was deployed in Iraq.”
“But he didn’t die. He’s running a bakery in Melbourne.”
“I know, isn’t it great? You don’t have to die to get a plaque any more.”
“Yeah. Good stuff.”
The shadows are growing longer.
“I fixed Jemma’s line trimmer today.” Rodney stands proud at his accomplishment.
“You look chuffed. Did you supercharge it or something?”
Rodney laughs, “yeah right! Can you picture an eighty-year-old granny wielding a fire-breathing whipper-snipper? Look out weeds!”
“I wouldn’t put it past you to build something crazy like that.” Says Diane. “Remember that motorised clothes-line you built?”
“Oh yeah, it hit about two revolutions per second before it wobbled to pieces…”
“…and destroyed Joe’s windshield.” Adds Diane.
They carry on walking without talking. They breathe in the moist, clean air. They soak in the afternoon rays and the panoramic mountain vista. Diane’s train of thought is making her smile. She doesn’t notice that Rodney’s train of thought isn’t so bright.
Diane laughs. “Remember when Joe cut the roof off his car to make it into a convertible? It made it to the end of the driveway and split in half!”
“Oh, it wasn’t that bad Diane. It just sagged a little in the middle.”
“Yeah, and you couldn’t get the doors open.”
“Yeah, but it had a big hole where the roof was. Just jump out.” Rodney grins widely.
“Just like his father, mate. Just like his father.”
“I guess you haven’t heard about Joe.” Rodney’s tone grows sombre.
“…Yes. I heard about your son.”
The dogs wait patiently as Diane comforts Rodney. He’s fighting to control his emotions.
“He was such a happy kid.” Rodney fights back the tears. His voice is breaking. Knees are weak. “Why would he choose to do something like that?” Diane holds him tight. She doesn’t know what to say to a grieving father. No matter how long you’ve lived, you’re never prepared to comfort a man who’s lost his only son.
After considerable time the dogs start pulling and Rodney snaps out of it. They both look to the mountains. The shadows are about to disappear. “Busy day tomorrow? Asks Diane enthusiastically.
“Yep. Good day tomorrow…”