The rocking horse [part 2 - end]
‘Refreshments for the hungry workers.’ Marie stood in the garage entrance with a tray of sandwiches and a jug of lemon barley.
Joe noticed that she’d put her hair up. Her neck was long and elegant, like a seabird’s.
‘Mum!’ Jason shouted, stepping in front of the project. ‘You can’t come in yet. It isn’t finished.’ He looked to his father for support.
‘He’s right, you know. It’s bad luck.’
‘I see. Like visiting the bride the night before the wedding?’
‘Exactly. So go on, hop it.’
She put the tray down and turned away smiling. ‘I’m going into the village to get something for dinner.’
‘You should have said earlier.’
‘And have you forget half of what was on the list? No way Jose. Besides, maybe I’m planning a little surprise of my own.’
* * * * *
Faggots, chips, and mushy peas.
Doorstep granary bread and real butter.
‘I’d forgotten how good it feels.’
‘What are you on about, Joe? You’re up to your neck in sawdust every hour God sends.’
‘Yeah, I know. But this is different. Knocking up saunas is just construction, there’s no real art involved. But this, well … you should see the …’
‘Dad!’ cried Jason, spraying crumbs across the tabletop. ‘You’ll jinx it if you talk about it.’
‘Come on, Jase,’ Marie said sternly. ‘What have we told you about talking with your mouth open?’
Joe began to chuckle. ‘Don’t you mean, talking with your mouth full? God knows where we’d be if we couldn’t talk with our mouths open.’
‘All right, Mr Facetious,’ she blushed. ‘You both knew what I meant.’
After the meal, the men did the dishes, while Marie took a well-earned soak in the old iron bathtub.
That evening, the generator ran out of diesel. Marie and Joe sat around the table with a candle on a saucer.
‘Shall we open another bottle?’ she asked him.
‘I’m fine as I am,’ he said. ‘How’s about an early night?’
* * * * *
The rocking horse was very nearly finished. The varnish had enhanced the wood’s natural grain, and Jason had proven to be a natural with the fine sable. A beautiful filigree ran down either side of the creature’s neck. The deep red leather saddle shone like a conker.
‘Isn’t this string a bit wimpy for the bridle, Dad?’
‘It won’t be after we’ve braided it, son. I’ll show you.’
Joe cut five equal lengths of the cord, and fastened the ends together with a complicated knot. ‘Here,’ he said, ‘hold on to this for a moment. I’ll start it off, and once you’ve seen how it’s done, we can swap places.’
As Joe worked away, Jason started smirking.
‘What’s so funny?’
‘Come on. It’s obviously something, you little bugger.’
‘Well,’ said Jason, his freckled face flushing. ‘It’s just, you look a little bit girly.’
‘Oh, thanks very much. Actually, it was your mother who taught me how to do this.’
‘I thought you said she didn’t help you.’
‘I tricked her. Said I wanted a fancy pull-cord for the bathroom light switch.’
‘And muggins here bought it, hook, line and sinker.’
They looked up to see Marie leaning in the entrance.
‘It’s okay son,’ said Joe, placing his hand on the boy’s thin forearm. ‘This was the stage your mother caught me last time. We fitted the reins and bridle together.’
Marie admired the rocking horse, and showered Jason with kisses.
‘Get off Mum! You’re killing me!’
She turned to her husband, and pulled him close. ‘Amazing what you can achieve when you put your heart into it,’ she whispered.
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