My Sister Cathrene is a professional recorded musician singer/songwriter and published novelist (Tales of Te Teko) plus, poetry and short-stories too. Below Cath, with her Daughters, Tonya & Ronelle and some writings of hers.

 

IN FROM THE COLD

The heated interior draws the old lady in. Magda's walking-cane click clacks across the tiled entrance until it hits the soft, green carpet. "It must be snowing somewhere," she says, shuffling up to the counter, eyes searching for her usual morning fix. "I think that young man has beaten you to it," the librarian informs Magda with a welcoming smile. "Drat!" Magda is livid. This has never happened before. It has always been there waiting for her to claim. Fresh and undisturbed. Magda swings round so fast it makes her giddy. She tugs at her knitted wool beret, pulling it down to cover the cold tips of her ears while quietly observing the offender. What a cheek! Bad enough that this person is denying her the pleasure of sifting through the one and only, complimentary copy of the daily newspaper, it is inexcusable that his lanky torso is unashamedly sprawled across her favourite chair. Magda drew a sharp breath. Accusing thoughts form in her mind. Most likely one of those unemployed layabouts. His sort are usually seen hanging around bars and pokie machines, not taking up good space in a library where decent folk come to spend reflective hours in peace. He must have felt her fixed glare boring through the crumpled newsprint because suddenly the paper drops a fraction and their eyes meet. "Everything okay?" He asks, with a look of bemusement. Magda stiffens her spine and faces up bravely to the young lout, "What's it to you?" But she can't hold the threatening pose. Her back aches. Pointless making a scene, she reasons and sulks her way across to the notice board. "Aha! Another book launch," Magda announces gleefully. "Some obscure local author, no doubt. Must take a note of that." She digs inside her handbag, fishes out a notebook and pencil and scribbles across a page. "Free wine and nibbles, can't turn that down." Unbeknown to Magda, she still holds the young man's attention. He eaves-drops on her mutterings and curiously observes her until she eventually disappears behind the neatly shelved books. Prowling the aisles, Magda stabs an index finger into the spine of each book. ART, TRAVEL, PHILOSOPHY, FICTION, NON-FICTION, HISTORY, COOKERY, POETRY. Nothing catches her fancy. In all honesty, she's never been much of a reader - except for the daily newspaper. Sid always made sure his subscription was paid in advance. The morning paper had been delivered then. Sid would split the pages in half, fair and square. Over a stack of toast and a pot of tea, he'd peruse the front section while she studied the back section. Later in the day, they'd swap. It was a small luxury neither was willing to do without. On a sudden impulse, Magda pulls an oversized illustrated book on Home Decorating from the shelves. Hoisting it onto her hip, she moves slowly, leaning on her cane in search of a comfortable chair by the window. She finds one with an excellent view of the busy road, pedestrian crossing and car park. Shoppers pour in and out of the supermarket like ants with their haul of goodies. Some of them, she has noted, come every single day. Why would someone feel the need to shop every day? How could anyone afford to do so? The heavy book is dropped onto a small table as Magda feels the effects of the central heating and starts peeling off heavy layers of clothing. Red knitted gloves, matching scarf and finally a tan belted overcoat are draped across the back of her chair. Magda is always reluctant to part with the red beret to expose her thinning, grey hair. Although quite a beauty in her day, she now considers that life is for the young. Those creatures who look at old folk and don't see real people. Not that it matters, she no longer recognizes the woman who stares back in the mirror. All those wrinkles and a shiny pink scalp that makes her resemble a plucked chook. Not much point getting a blue rinse or frothy perm - even if she could afford it. Magda sighs as she hauls the heavy book onto her lap, feeling grateful for small mercies. It is enough having escaped the draughty pensioner flat. Someone coughs and she looks up to scrutinize the individual who is moving into the nearby aisle. For some odd reason, she can't resist staring openly at the distinguished looking gentleman. The elderly man with a thick mop of snow white hair seems to know exactly what he wants as he stops to pull a single book from the shelves. Turning the pages in a methodical way, his lips move silently. "One of those brainy types," Magda can't help thinking. "Some retired English professor, no doubt." As if he has heard her thoughts, the stranger's head swivels round and he is looking directly at her. Behind the glasses, a circle of cloud dims slightly, the eyes of a clear washed blue. Magda feels trapped in his gaze. Suddenly, she is uncomfortably hot. She is not consciously aware that her booted foot has kicked the cane under her seat and out of sight. She crosses her legs. "What am I doing?" She panics, remembering how Sid once said her legs were getting to look like a pair of crinkled cucumbers. And uncrosses them. Magda is furiously leafing through the Home Decorating book, wetting her fingers to part the pages, trying desperately to concentrate when the stranger approaches her."Great library. There's a wide range of subject matter." "If you say so," she replies without raising her head, knowing full well a sense of guilt has deepened the red in her cheeks. The gentleman persists. "I have only recently moved into the area. Checking out the library facilities was high on my list of priorities." There is an awkward pause. "Looks like an interesting book," he continues, "Are you planning to redecorate?" "Yes, I am actually," she responds sharply, wishing he'd observe library rules of no talking - and disappear. "Is there a crime against it?" Magda regrets making that wish when she looks up to find him gone. "What is wrong with me?" she berates herself. "I had no cause to be so rude." Getting up, she shuffles over to the shelves to wedge her book in place and then notices that her favourite seat is now vacant. The newspaper has been returned to the counter. But she has lost interest. Maybe she should splurge on a hot chocolate and a slice of cake at the corner cafe. "Yes," she decides, hauling on her coat, wrapping the scarf around the collar and squeezing hands into gloves. "That'll cheer me up." Within moments of negotiating the wide step and entering the café, Magda is slinking away, embarrassed with her frailty the cane reveals. The place is filled with young cashiers from the supermarket on a coffee break. Not a senior citizen in sight. She turns to leave but someone is blocking her retreat. The gentleman from the library has pulled up on a mobility scooter. He is parked in the doorway. "Hello again." Blue eyes twinkle as he flashes her a smile. "Can you recommend this place for a good cup of tea?" Magda is speechless for a moment. He seemed perfectly capable of getting around the library, yet here he is, sitting on a shiny red scooter and grinning like a schoolboy. "Ah, yes," she manages to say. "Great invention, these machines. Ideal for when you can't do the distance anymore," he says, moving the scooter forward a few paces. "Perhaps you'll allow me to make up for disturbing your concentration earlier. " And before she has time to protest, he is there, taking her arm and bundling her inside. "Please join me." Over a pot of tea for two and cupcakes, they become acquainted. Dan Donaldson has a charming manner. Magda learns he has been a widower for almost as long as she has been without her Sid. She happens to mention the book launch coming up at the library and Dan suggests he might check it out. When Magda opens her coin purse, he rests a hand on hers. "This is on me. It will be your shout next time. OK?" Next time? Her heart is beating an upbeat tempo. It's a good thing she remembered to take her medication. Feelings she'd thought long-shelved begin to stir. "Think I'll be able to manage that," she responds with new-found confidence. "Although I might have to put off the redecorating for awhile.

 

 

Cathrene Howe.

 

 

Mrs Tu

 

To you and all

who had to bend

to will and fickle whim of men

who hear a greater call

that takes him far

from whare clutter,

wife and smothering child,

on ego's breath of freedom.

Homecomings brief,

he breezes in

the scent of other women,

betrayal in shifting eyes.

What kind of madness

keeps willing him

to settle like familiar dust

gathered at your feet.

To you and all

who fan the flame

of basic home fires burning,

shadowed in his glory.

What depth of sadness

in scattered dreams

like dandelions torn apart,

blown on winds of change.

 

Cathrene Howe