Karen Beattie

Writers Workshop, Tasmania




This is where we used to sit, George and I, on a blanket, under the trees. Of course, they were only saplings then, and near a forest, not in the middle of a park; no branches intertwined above our heads, just clear blue sky! Well, it was on that day at the end of high school when we were here together anyway; absolutely glorious it was, sun-drenched, no clouds, no wind, just us, the trees and a couple of songbirds chirping their hearts out. Magic! Not like today with winter fog hanging just off the ground; a ghostly playground.

We talked for hours, ate sandwiches and chocolate cake, before lying back, fingers entwined and he talked about how excited he was to get the scholarship that meant he could actually go to University! He was clever, my George; wanted to be a doctor. I wasn’t, but that was alright. He was going to go off, become a doctor, then come back and work in our town as old Doc Barnham would be ready to retire then. We would be together: that was the grand plan, anyway.

George was my neighbour. We grew up together, thrown together I suppose, neither of us having any brothers or sisters; and the farms being ten miles from town. No other farms within a day’s march meant no other kids to get together with, not that we needed them.

And so he left for his grand adventure. For the first two years he came home and the letters came regularly. All was going well; the farms prospered, I was learning everything about farming and our trees grew. Each semester break we would spend the last day under our trees.

That is, until the War. It wasn’t even our war, but as Allies we were called upon to ‘do our duty’ and help with the ‘war effort’! The last time I saw George was under those trees before I left. After the War, when he graduated, George kept his side of the pact. He returned, worked at first with Doc Barnham, gradually taking over more of the patients until the old doctor retired. He never married.
Every year, on the anniversary of my departure, George sat under our trees, even after the land was gifted to the growing town as a park area for the local kids. Every year I sat with him, though he didn’t know it. I’d wind my fingers through his, unable to feel him, always trying to tell him to forget, let go, look elsewhere; but he didn’t. Faithful to the end he was.

Today will be our last meeting under these trees. Today when he arrives, he will be able to see me, feel my fingers and today, invisible in the fog, we can finally be together as we pledged forty-three years ago, before War, and the Draft took me away.