A Thickness in the Air
I ran my hand idly over the top of the old stone fence, the roughness of it warm in the afternoon soon. It was pitted and scarred by years of sun and rain; the hands that had built it must have run to bone long ago now.
Sutter was quiet behind me, allowing me a moment alone with my thoughts before making his genteel lawyer’s cough, a sound I could imagine had been trained to perfection through long experience in quiet libraries and comfortable offices. I turned around.
‘Sorry,’ I said. ‘Miles away.’
‘Not at all,’ he said. ‘The property runs back down to the crook in the fence you can see, there, and is marked out by the river on the left. Beyond that is Crown land, all the way to the next property on the right, which is where the Bowen farmland begins.’
‘Uh huh,’ I said.
He cut an odd figure there, in the overgrown yard, grass tips reaching up to snag in his long suit pants. He was sweating under his jacket, and I was sure he would preferred to be back in the coolness of the kitchen, drinking more of the iced tea that the housekeeper had left us with.
‘The property itself is of significant value,’ he said. ‘Especially located where it is. Without taking the house into account, the surveyor estimated it at -‘
‘I haven’t decided to sell yet,’ I said, sharper than I would have liked.
‘Oh, yes,’ he said, blinking. ‘Of course.’
I hissed, inwardly. I didn’t dislike the man, but he was too keen to make assumptions on what I’d be doing with the property.
‘What’s that?’ I asked, nodding to the covered shapes behind him.
‘Ah,’ he said. ‘Yes, I wondered about those myself when we first came out to do the evaluation.’
The long shape was covered by a spotted sheet of off-white canvas, the eyelets punched in its corners strung with thin rope that was in turn looped around stakes in the ground, holding it firmly in place.
‘Your aunt and uncle were, apparently, beekeepers,’ Sutter said. ‘Very good at it, as well, but after your uncle passed, your aunt gave it up, and then, in turn, as she has passed…’
‘Right,’ I said. ‘Well, it’s not something you hear of people doing that much these days…’
‘No,’ Sutter said. ‘I’m not entirely sure how it’s done, myself, but I suppose they found an appeal to it.’
He lapsed back into silence and looked at the shape hidden underneath the canvas; old hives, I guessed, or whatever the technical term was. Hutches? I thought of my aunt and uncle, dim shapes now in my memory, a smiling man and woman as I recalled, and wondered at them coming out to tend to bees and gather fresh honey.
Somewhere in the trees a bird called, and Sutter looked up to see where it was coming from. I looked back to the house behind him, the rambling small cottage, and thought back to my life in the city.
‘Well.’ Sutter said, as much to say something as to say something. ‘Well. This is the property, as left. Yours, now. To do with as you wish.’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Whatever that might be.’