I raced the car up behind the sheep barn and started to tackle the climb. It was muddy and damp from yesterday’s rain, but I didn’t let that slow me. As I drew near to the manure heap the car came to an abrupt halt and we were thrown against the seat belts. “Why have you stalled, Mum?” asked my son. I shot him a look usually reserved for his father in this type of situation, reversed back a few yards and hit the accelerator. We flew up the track.
“Midi, c’est midi”. That has always been the motto in these parts and my husband is never much later than that for lunch. But it had been quarter past one and there was still no sign of him. Sat in the kitchen, I had mulled over his possible whereabouts. He was in the fields up behind the farm, so no chance of him being waylaid on the road back by the offer of a glass of pastis or a chat with a neighbour, and even if the tractor had broken down, he still would have had the time to walk back.
I had looked up at the clock again and wondered what on earth could be holding him up. He was working on a ditch, using the digger for the heavy work. Maybe he wanted to finish what he was doing. Even still he was an hour late and that was unheard of.
Images of the digger tipping over and laying in the field with him trapped inside, had suddenly flashed through my mind unbidden, making me shudder. Accidents were rare, but they did happen. I ran out to the little Renault 5.
The track was in a bad state, pitted and littered with rocks that had been carried down by the rain, but I didn’t dare slow down in case I got stuck in the mud again. I arrived in the field at the top and came face to face with the tractor on its way back. My husband leaned out of the window. “Took a bit of a risk coming up here in the car, didn’t you?” I looked at him deflated; I hadn’t thought of that. Then I remembered why I was here. I tried to keep my voice neutral “Have you seen the time?”
He glanced at his watch. The very old one that he had found at the bottom of a draw and which had needed a good shake to get it ticking. It was temporarily replacing the one that had broken, which was replacing the previous two that he had lost.
“It’s five past twelve” he said looking at me curiously. “What are you doing up here anyway?”