Story postcard – in search of the priest (2)

Rudd is relieved to find the shower room is empty. He strips off, turns the tap to cold, then steps on to the wet tiles to let the water drench over him. The shock washes the stress of the morning out of his mind, and pins him back to life, each cold thread drawing him to the surface. He dries, wraps the towel around his waist, and moves to the wide basin and mirror.

Did good work when they refurbed this room. Worth the money for that shower. Like these taps.

He reaches for his razor and begins to shave with swift, precise strokes. Job done, he pats his face dry with the hand towel, and then, with it lowered to just beneath his chin, he leans forward over the basin edge, tipping his head to one side to catch the light. His eyes stare back at him. He looks away. They know. He knows they know the storm is coming. They saw the thickness of the morning light. They felt the stillness, and that nothing was quite right. Even the razor knew. Each time it sliced up through the foam, or rinsed and tapped, it too repeated that the storm would come.

He takes a step back, and buries his face in the towel, desperate for his brain to take over, to calm his imagination. Slowly it begins to persuade him, telling him that any threat mentioned only suggests that what is coming will be worse than normal. He holds the thought, and then makes it bigger.

It’s just a forecast, a prediction. Since when has any storm ever caused serious damage up here? By the lodge?

Since never, his brain says, as he rubs the towel up and across his hair. Never. Just repeating the word brings him hope. Hope that his eyes are wrong. Hope that his gut is wrong. Hope that the reports are wrong. Hope that Tonderai and the chief, are wrong. Hope that all the fear will turn out to be nothing but fret. Slowly he convinces himself, and, persuaded at last he steps back to the basin, and glares at his eyes.

We can’t close the lodge over some forecast. Since when has any manager of this lodge ever done that? It’d be mad. The lodge would suffer. No tips for the staff. No party for Hansie. No way. I’m not saying anything. Just got to keep going. If the storm wants to come, let it come.

He rubs his hair once more with the towel, then throws it into the wicker basket beneath the basin. It lands with a damp thud, and he turns his attention to his hair, arranging it with his fingers until satisfied that it is in some kind of order. Then he reaches for a fresh uniform.

Dressed and clean, confidence high, Rudd opens the door. The smell of breakfast cooking sizzles from the kitchen. Encouraged, he drops his belongings into the medical room and is en route to the office when he meets Tonderai. They discuss the latest regarding the search for a new celebrant, before each hurrying on. Neither mentions the weather.

Above them the sky looks down, its grey-blue opaque as a baby’s muslin.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

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