The Wrong Way

The Wrong Way
by Kim Farleigh
In 597AD, the first Benedictine monasteries were constructed in England. They were centres of learning where travellers could stay indefinitely.
My guidebook mentioned one in Leicestershire. Through yellow-leafed woods, that rose from an orange-brown, autumnal floor, I saw the keep of Ulverscroft Priory above the treetops.
A track took me to within eyesight of what remained of the priory. The timber fence surrounding the priory was covered by signs warning “trespassers” of prosecution – and that “you can be seen from the house!”
Barbed-wire surrounded the field the house was in. A man and a woman were mounting horses in a stables next to the house. The lady was wearing a tartan jumper, a pair of cream riding slacks, and an equestrian helmet. Her natural frown magnified when I approached and said: “Hello.”
A pitchfork’s prongs made shadows on a brick wall behind her.
She looked away when I said: “I didn’t know that the priory was privately owned.”
“YES!” the man she was with snapped. “IT’S MINE!!”
His teeth were clenched. The woman’s nose resembled a gargoyle. She looked like a gargoyle that had come to life.
“You’re trespassing!” the man seethed.
His mouth sucked in, as if for him breathing was painful. The muddy ground beneath him was full of sodden, dead leaves.
“Sorry,” I replied. “I didn’t know. My guide—-”
“Please leave!”
“Which way is it,” I asked, “back to Copt Oak?”
He turned and pointed. His nose was hooked was like an eagle’s. A coiled-up hose on the ground near the pitchfork reminded me of a resting snake.
“Jump over that fence,” he commanded. “Walk across that field. Turn left at that tree. Go through that….blah, blah, blah…”
He turned his obedient horse away. The horse’s snout obscured a lemon tree.
After extracting myself from barbed wire, I wandered across a field, attempting to retrace my previous route.
“KNEE-OHHHH!!” the man screamed. “YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!”
Four horses charged across the field I was in. They were charging in my direction! Even the cows, who had had plenty of time to grow familiar with these creatures, were fleeing, their hind legs spinning without traction in the muddy ground in their bids to escape these charging thoroughbreds who were flying in our direction!
The horses missed me by inches, throwing up mud and leaves. They stopped at the barbed-wire to greet their master, who, perched upon his steed, yelled out at me: “IT’S THAT WAY!!”
The woman’s eyes were like glinting rock-faces of disdain. The irritation that poured from her hard pebbles was mixed with amazement at my inability to follow simple instructions.
I turned back to climb back over the barbed-wire. The man and the woman rode away towards the ruin whose main body was slowly turning into rumble, time having hit the building with air attacks of deterioration. I could see the slow, incredulous moving of the man’s head as I got tangled in the wire again.
“Shall I get you a pair of cutters?” he yelled.
Her ladyship’s face gleamed with joy at her lover’s wit.
“What good would two forty-foot boats be in a place like this?” I asked.
The woman’s chin went up as if she had been hit by a fist of insolence. I began walking across the field that they were riding in. They rode towards me on their way back to the house. The woman’s gargoyle was up as she rode by me. Her eyes were averted as her thoroughbred’s hooves ploughed through mud, crunching rotting leaves and breaking up cow dung.
The man barked: “DOWN THERE!”
“Down where?” I asked, feigning ignorance.
“Look,” the man said, “do you want me to get the police to help you?”
“Don’t bother,” I replied. “I’ve decided not to have you arrested.”
The woman’s right hand shot from its rein to form a lightning bolt of disgust. Dying roses against the wall of the house were visible under her raised arm.
“Do not,” the man replied, “ever come back here again!”
He whipped his stallion’s hindquarters that were now facing the priory’s keep, the only part of a once hospitable place that time had yet to erode.

0 thoughts on “The Wrong Way

  1. It’s interesting how times and places change, not to mention how any idea of hospitality has been replaced by the kind of rude dismissals portrayed in this story. Of course, that’s probably typical for people who own big estates and lots of stuff. Fuck ’em.

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