The Afghan (Pt 2)

The house was so well camouflaged that it was very hard to spot from outside, even in the leafless winter. But someone had.

In the work I saw craft and skill. Not like the rough stilt house in the other bushes at Highfield, with its screws hammered in and planks of wood, protruding into obviousness. This house was made to not be seen. Proud in its subtlety, not stature.

I imagined the weeks of secretly gathering leafy branches together to first of all cut off the space from the public view. Branches, which were strategically placed a good ten to fifteen feet from the house, whispered ‘go around’ to the dog walkers’ subconscious.

Then the build began. Wood neatly tied together, and style built into the curves and organic shape. An invisible door. A building to feel good in. Not scared, settled. Badger-like.

The house had been great once. It had a long, curling passageway-tail, with a rotund pod at one end and a store for wood at the other. It was a tadpole, the sperm of a possibility that someone could live in the park and be free.

We looked around and found neatly joined up sticks, cross-lashed using craft wire, interwoven with dead-leafy brash. Well put together. The woodstore was half full with neatly sawn branches, each about a foot long. Most, thick as a broom handle. I felt the care with which they had been sawn. No rips or teethmarks in the bark. No jagged edge of the half-sawn, impatient snap.

So what happened?

The bearded guy with the collie, who always asked about the mushrooms you’d seen that day, named him for me. He said one day, unprompted “The Afghan’s back”. I was unsure so he went on about the house this little man had built and how the bearded man had walked in one day and looked round. I thought that a bit distasteful. Even in a public park, surely a man should be allowed to live in peace.

I imagined him as a tidy man, about 5′ 2″, with short greying hair, wearing a sky-blue suit.

There was a story about the Afghan being an asylum seeker who had been refused stay and went to hide away. There were thoughts relating to a dysfunctional system in which some are more important than others and the ensuing vigilante witch hunt. Thoughts of a dead man kept crawling into my consciousness. A person hunted, singled out, despite an amount of hardship already suffered.

The brighter thoughts of a man being then granted asylum, and symbolically burning his hideout entered my mind. I imagined him emerging, triumphant from his temporary home as it flamed away behind him, never looking back.

The exit was far too hasty for that to be the case, apparently. Everything perished, even his toasters and dvd players and bags of clothes were burnt and rusting.

He had to run.

Where is the Afghan?

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The Afghan (Pt 2)

The Afghan (Pt 1)

I follow my daughter sometimes. She seems to have the sense to do what I want before I know I do.

We were out with the dog in Highfield Park and as usual, wandering in the trees, chasing through the low branches. Avoiding getting whipped in the face by a carelessly released branchlet.

Then she picked up a basketball and immediately started making her way towards the door. I didn’t want her to go but I thought I may as well say hello this time; I had been avoiding meeting ‘the Afghan’ for a long time.

As I followed Rae towards the door I started to feel a bit rude for being there, just barging in. I crossed the threshold into the house made of the woods I felt a bit at home, saw it had been abandoned. Felt sad about it.

We saw a winding passageway, about fifteen feet long with woven branch walls, a box of cutlery left there and I wondered would any of it do me. Could I bring it home?

I glimpsed something orange at the end of the passage and realised that daylight shone inside what looked like the main chamber of the house. Walking nearer the end revealed the charred truth; the place had been torched.

Neither of us spoke for a while. I stared at the floor, at where the roof had been, at the charred branches and the bin liners of clothes. A pair of jeans, clean and untouched by the flames. A mattress burnt to the springs, now rusty.

I was looking for the body. I was scared I might see it and didn’t think it impossible that we would. That was weird. I turned to Rae and she had the ball in her hands and I noticed the charred patch on it. The basketball quickly became a symbol of this disaster, the omen we didn’t realise would draw us in.

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The Afghan (Pt 1)