The Old Man and the Tree

I don’t think Ernest Hemingway ever visited East Garston or set one of his stories there. If he did, there seems to be no record of it. But I suppose he might have done…

It rained hard that spring. Most mornings the old man sat and watched the men going to work in the fields. If it was raining they would mostly be wearing hats but whether it was raining or not they would all have thick boots. You had to have thick boots working in the fields. Every so often they would stop to knock some of the mud off their boots but pretty soon they’d have to stop and do it all over again. Time was when the old man would have been up there with them working in the fields but he didn’t go up to the fields any more because of the accident. If it hadn’t been for that damned accident he’d probably be up there working now.

After a while the men were just specks in the distance and the old man would get tired of watching them. He could imagine what they were doing well enough, anyway. Then he would get up and slowly walk to the Bar Reina. It would take him a long time because the wound from the accident still gave him trouble. So he would walk slowly, stopping every so often and then going on again.

Sometimes he would pass the tree. Whether he passed the tree or not depended on what route he took. If he took the route that didn’t go past the tree he wouldn’t see it but sometimes he forgot and sometimes he just wanted to see the damned tree even though it had been a part of the accident. If it was one of those days he would stop and look at the tree as if it was a wild creature. Then he would carry on to the bar, thinking about the tree.

There was a morning when he was sitting in the bar drinking cerveza and nibbling at some patatas crispas. That was the morning the young man came in. As soon as the old man noticed the young man he turned his face away from him as if he didn’t want to be seen. For a long while the young man stood at the bar talking to Jaime and drinking caffé instanto. Then the young man turned round and came over to the table.


• The rest of this story is now available in a paperback book (as are 25 others) – Unaccustomed as I Am (RRP £9.95).

It is stocked by the Hungerford Bookshop and you can place your order here.

Copies are also available at the White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough, the Mad Hatter Bookshop in Wantage and through an increasing number of other retailers.

You can order it from any bookshop: they will need to know that the ISBN is 978-1-8382580-0-9 and that it can be ordered from Gardners or Central Books.


Brian Quinn
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• For rants and musings set to music, please click here



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