*#5 of the ISMAEL ORTIZ ESCRIBANO series. Extract from my Photography blog, Through Frog Eyes. Each month a guest photographer is featured and a short story is woven around a set of photographs. Please click on the link to read the previous stories and the complete version of the story below.
The grass felt dry and itchy, and the soil sandier than he remembered, not quite the soft surface that was joy to roll around in during a hot summer’s day, or a crispy autumn afternoon. There was something very wrong about this place, with all the run-down buildings and shabby windows that were partially broken, and the rooms behind them looked uninhabited. That atrocious graffiti was painful to the eyes as well. Back in the day all the houses had beautiful smooth colours and potted plants in front of each door. He could still smell the summer roses in his mind. Where had everyone gone? Where was the grouchy old lady on the top floor who didn’t care whom her dirty laundry water landed on when she threw it out? What happened to the good looking young man who seemed angry at the world all the time? And the woman who always came home in the wee hours of the morning looking very much disheveled? In fact, he began to wonder whether he was even in the right neighbourhood to begin with. His sense of direction had deteriorated over the years, and it took him twice as long to return home these days, but his memory was still sharp and so were his eyes. Even stronger was his instinct, which had saved his skin several times, and it was this keen perception of danger that set off the alarms in his head. Nope, this couldn’t possibly be the beloved playground of his youth that he loved to tell his children and grandchildren about. The adventures he and his brothers had hiding from everyone else and exploring all the forbidden dark corners were the stuff of legends, absolutely marvellous and he would relive them all over again if his brothers were still around.
Stepping carefully over an abandoned wooden frame he spotted a pair of familiar old shoes. He knew exactly whom they belonged to as well, and regretted the day he crossed paths with that crotchety old man at the butcher’s shop. He was actually the grocer from across the street, one of two in town, but nobody liked going to his shop because of the foul manner in which he addressed the customers so people were more than willing to go clear across town instead and be attended to by the friendly pair of sisters who knew every customer by name for the last 20 years. It was a bit creepy and embarrassing to be tickled under the chin and have your cheeks pinched at this age, but he found it nevertheless endearing, no matter what his friends said and how much they berated him on his floundering dignity. It never hurt to feel young again.