The Simple Things


- Harriet Derioz loves her job teaching English to rambunctio­us boys in Bath, Somerset. Her simple thing is her rescue dog, Toots, a stout pair of walking boots and the South West Coastal Path. A short story by HARRIET DERIOZ

Across the daffodil strewn garden, I can see that the post van has paused outside the gate. A weathered elbow perches on the open window, “Oh, you must be the new tenant, that’s lucky. Gorgeous day! You’re just so lucky to have this view. Lucky puppy, too!” She smiles at my new companion and waves her arm at the landscape behind her. She sees a patchwork of fields; hedges studded with hypericum, sprinkled with pale primroses, all the way across to the hazy smudge of the bluebells in the copse in the distance. “Must get on!” she calls and leaves me, nodding, clutching the envelopes and catalogues that she’s just delivered. I stare hard at the view. I see little of value, just farmers’ fields and grey clouds seeping across the edges of the sky.

The puppy stands close to me. “Are you lucky?” I ask her. She is the rescue puppy: she needed rescuing. I reach down and stroke her inside out ear. It’s pink, soft and vulnerable. I fold it over neatly for her, we go inside and

I dump the letters on the table. Decisions on where to put things, what to call things, have not been made.

I stand at the window and watch the rain clouds spread thickly until they almost reach the ground. A tap drips. The clock ticks. I find the lead that she arrived with and open the back door. Everything sounds far away: birds sing; a plane flies over; the hum of a school playground at break time in the distance. Always threatenin­g to burst, the dark clouds finally open as we cross the back fields and we run together through the downpour: we are drenched. I feel different: more alive somehow; more awake.

Back at home, we make muddy footprints across the hall. I dump the last of the daffodils that I gathered from the garden into an old blue jug. Placing the jug carefully in the centre of the kitchen table, I open the letters, make coffee, turn the computer on and find that I can work for the first time since we arrived. Curling round my feet, she sleeps, wrapped in a blanket, her chin on my ankle.

Repeating this routine daily, we plunge outdoors whatever the weather. We walk deliberate­ly, stopping to sniff and examine everything we see or smell. She likes lampposts and bins; I like flowers, hedgerows and the river bank. We bring home daffodils, lily of the valley and fistfuls of bluebells. I save jam jars and we pick up unwanted jugs from the local market to display on window-sills, on the bathroom shelf by my toothbrush and on the kitchen table. Putting away my thick coat until next year, I wear my yellow mac, buy a ball, a green leather collar, wellington­s and walking boots.

Lucky barks and runs to the gate. Sue is leaning out of her van, waving as usual. She hands me some tiny brown eggs and tells me how the bantams are now laying generously after a long winter. Lucky jumps up to say hello, leaving paw prints on the dusty van. I hand her a coffee and we pause together in our working day, looking at the view. I see all the treasure of green fields and spring sunshine, as far as the eye can see.

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