Nana had loved Mike for years. There was something of the earth about the man. He owned land but the funny thing was we never saw him work it. As kids we’d wade through the rod-necked goose throng at his unpainted gate avoiding the snap of their impertinent beaks. Our visit usually ended with Mike leaning on the black velvety hips of his big milker, Mavis, expanding on some book or TV programme that got him thinking the night before. The sleeves of his threadbare check shirt would be rolled up to the elbow, his forehead smeared with dung or muck. His forearms, sinewy and capable would relax and tense with each word picture painted but we wouldn’t actually see him engage in anything that approximated farming. He’d buy second hand books for us too, Nana’s grandkids, on the occasions when he visited town. To this day I have a dog-eared Andy Pandy that he thrusted at me without ceremony on one of our visits.

I reckon it all started with apples. He had a small orchard to the north of his house and every autumn the limbs bulged with the livid green of top notch cookers. I relished slices of the chalky flesh bejewelled in sugar and my eyes would tear up as the sweet and sour notes vied for dominance in the wet cavern of my tingling mouth. He’d trip up the steps to the back door and after a polite knock, Nana would bid him enter, her hands soft with flour. When she let him out again, stray hairs would be pasted to her forehead from their exertions slapping and kneading on the table beside the old Stanley range. On one such visit, I noticed an apple had fallen from his basket and lay by the boot scraper at the kitchen door. I picked it up and was struck by the perfect heart carved into its skin. I stuck my tongue into its whiteness and wondered why Mike and Nana never talked to each other and only smiled.

The day Nana couldn’t be found Granda seemed to operate on the basis of some hidden narrative when he grabbed his .22 and headed for the ramshackle house on the unkempt patch of land down the road. When he didn’t come back for over an hour, we searched for him in the various outhouses and lean-tos that crouched around our farm. The dampened report of the rifle betrayed his location. When we reached the shed, Nana’s Singer sewing machine lay on its side bearing a bright metallic scar where the low calibre round had grazed the paint. Granda stood with his bottom lip trembling as he read, frame by frame, the tapestry that Nana had crafted and hung on the shed wall as a tableau of her and Mike’s love, the word “sorry” stitched in golden looped thread at the bottom beside a tiny fallen apple.


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