After a week en vacance, his mornings had fallen in to a familliar pattern. Almost a ritual. Tomas would wake with the birds, fetch some coins from the kitchen mantlepiece and buy breakfast from the boulangerie on the main street. On the way back, turning a corner opposite the park, he had come to look forward to the sight of the old man. Unfailingly he was there, dressed in grubby linen with a fedora hat, sat on his cast iron chair, back flush to the cool stone well. Another Breton morning.
‘Ah, petit Monsieur. Bonjour’. He tipped his hat towards the boy, with bony fingers.
‘Bonjour, Monsieur’ was the boy’s daily reply, followed by offering the man the pick of his bakery bag. As ever, the gentleman declined, pulling instead on his Gitaine cigarette, that never smelt of anything. As ever, the twinkling light of the well played in his green eyes. Unblinking eyes, lined with wrinkles.
Moments later, like clockwork, the dungaree-clad farmer would appear over the fence opposite and frown at the pair, waggling his finger at them as if in dissaproval. This made the boy uneasy. At twelve, he was still perturbed by adults, and their unpredictability. Their utter confidence in themselves. Still, the well man was reassuring. Routine. As the farmer retired shaking his head, the final piece of the pattern would fall in to place. The old man would clear his gravelly throat:
‘Will you climb down today, Tomas? I did, as a boy. To look for treasure’ he whispered conspiratorially. ‘I never found it, though. There is a labyrinth of caves down there, and they are treacherous’. His eyes took on a glassy, glazed look at that point. Flat and dull, they matched the water in the well. The boy stared beyond his companion’s hand in to the gently rippling surface of the shaft. Metal hoops set in to the walls led steadily downwards in to the cold, musty interior, all sound muffled with the depth.
‘No, Monseur, merci pour l’invitation’ was his well-rehearsed reply, followed by a scampering up the flower-lined stone staircase to the kitchen, where his parents would be making coffee. Turning as he always did, the man and his chair would be gone. Only the well remained, jutting out of the garden wall that lined the road. An unnerving sight. Still, after a week of encounters Tomas decided he would do it. He would climb down the well and look for treasure. He was well-equipped, his prize posession being a waterproof headtorch persistently begged off his parents for his birthday. He would descend at dawn the next day, and surprise his elderly aquaintance by tapping him on the shoulder, treasure or no treasure.
© Tom Tide 2016