Talk in Riddles - Excerpt
When Jack was woken by the heat of the sun, he sat up as if he had been poked. The sensation had become alien in his week off work as during that time and he had been roused by his neighbour, Ellie, knocking on his bedroom window and asking what he was going to do that day with a sunny smile. It was a perfectly ordinary thing to do, of course, but after a few days, he had started waking early in anticipation, wishing that he could be left alone just once.
As he dressed, Jack shuddered at the thought that he would have to spend the morning explaining to his colleagues what he had been doing whilst he was away. The others loved that ritual and would not be content until they knew everything. You escape for a week and you get punished for it. They make sure that you get the same amount of grief whatever happens.
When he left home, he saw Ellie sitting under a tree, staring at the sky.
“Back to that which is never complete but that never begins?” she said. I hate work.
“Yeah, I just hope that the thing that always travels but never rests keeps clear today.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know, that which covers everything but that has no shape?” She looked at him blankly. Why can’t she understand the simplest thing, he thought, we only ever talk about the weather, what else would I be saying? “… When walking along the…”
“Whispers amongst the shadows of leaves. Why didn’t you say so?”
Jack paused over her expression, which had changed from friendly to patronising. He knew that she would talk about him with their other neighbours, and imagined the pitying tone she would use when describing his continuing awkwardness. He was relieved that she had forgotten to tell him off for leaving his door shut- a habit she thought absurd in summer (like all structures on the island, the house had no internal doors). Jack forced himself to smile back before walking away.
He had no time to think about the fact that he was returning to work as he responded to the greeting rituals of passers-by. They took so long to understand that he had been on a holiday that he gritted his teeth.