18 December 2018

A Story Inspired By A Song by Kathryn Gauci

guess the song
clue... me + 1
How can I ever forget the summer of ’73? It started out like any other; warm lazy days unwinding in the garden with the odd weekend away at the seaside or hiking through the Derbyshire Dales. Summer was the season I loved the most. My problems melted away in the sunshine and my soul felt rejuvenated. The last three years as a teacher at the local high school had worn me down and I relished the stress-free holidays, which usually ended with Mike and I enjoying a glass of wine in the evening in the garden. Sheer bliss! In a few weeks, summer would be officially over and I would be back at school.

That fateful evening was no different to the others – at least not in the beginning. I was lying on the sunlounger, reading a book and soaking up the last rays of sunshine, when I heard Mike approach.
     ‘I’ve just met the new neighbours,’ he said, handing me a glass of rioja we’d brought home on our last trip to Spain.
     Since we’d moved in around the time I got the job at the school, we’d watched several neighbours come and go from number seven. They stayed for such a short time we never bothered to get to know them. But that evening, Mike was unusually effusive.
     ‘They’re very nice,’ he said. ‘You’ll like them. They’re just like us.’
    I put my book down. ‘Like us?’ I asked. ‘What’s that supposed to mean? You’ve barely known them more than a few minutes.'
     Mike sat on the side of the lounger and ran his fingers along my bare legs. ‘They have a van,’ he said, with a smile. ‘Just like the one we had.’



     ‘You mean the VW. The one we painted with psychedelic pink, purple and orange swirls with a love and peace slogan on the side?’
     ‘The Love Machine we called it. Do you remember?’
     How could I forget, I thought to myself? We sold it and used the proceeds for a deposit on the house. It caused arguments at the time. Mike wanted to keep it. I wanted to sell it.
     ‘Anyway,’ he continued, ‘you’ll like them. There’s something about Ocean reminds me of you.’
     Ocean! Who on earth calls themselves Ocean?
    ‘And does Mr New Neighbour have a name also?’ I asked, with a tinge of sarcasm. ‘Perhaps Zappa or Phoenix?’
     ‘Arlo,’ he replied.
     ‘As in Guthrie?’
     Mike laughed. ‘Perhaps. That’s what I like about them. They’re refreshingly unstuffy.’
    ‘I see. What’s that supposed to mean?’
   ‘For God’s sake, Linda, you’re touchy. What’s got into you? I thought you’d be pleased. You used to like people who didn’t conform.’
     His comment stung, but he was right.
    ‘They’ve invited us over for drinks,’ he continued. ‘I accepted. I was sure you’d agree. I can always cancel it if you’re not up to it.’
    ‘No, I’d like to go. What time?’
    Mike bent over and gave me one of his tender kisses. ‘Wonderful. Eightish.’



I looked through my wardrobe and deliberated over what to wear. From Mike’s description, the new neighbours sounded like free-wheeling hippies and the last thing I wanted to be was “over-dressed”. Most of my hippie clothes had either been replaced by smart conservative ones as befitted my job, or had seen better days. I decided on an ankle-length wrap-around skirt and the off-the-shoulder, drawstring top that Mike bought for me in Spain. It looked good with my summer tan and long dark hair. I looked at myself in the mirror. Somewhere in the reflection, I saw a younger me. Mike was right. We had changed, and I wasn’t quite sure if it was for the better.
     Mike was waiting for me in the kitchen, dressed in a pair of bell-bottoms and a tight-fitting, faded purple top. It was years since I’d seen those.
      ‘We look like Sonny and Cher,’ he laughed.
    I picked up the cheese and pineapple hedgehog I’d made earlier and off we went. The night was young.
     Walking along the driveway, past the VW with the name “Daisy” painted on the front, a pungent smell of incense emanated from the house along with the strains of a Bob Marley number. We rang the door chime and waited. Mike had the grin of an excited child on his face. Moments later we were greeted by a swarthy complexioned man with shoulder-length black hair, wearing a braided feather headband. With his brightly coloured trousers and teal coloured shirt patterned with a chakra mandala, he cut a striking figure. In that moment, I saw Mike as he was when we met in ’67 – the Summer of Love.
     Arlo planted a kiss on my cheek and introduced himself. ‘This must be the lovely Linda,’ he said to Mike as he ushered us inside. ‘You didn’t tell me what a gorgeous wife you had.’
     I blushed. Arlo’s easy-going nature was catching and I immediately felt at ease. We followed him through to the lounge where Ocean was changing Bob Marley for Jim Croce. She came over and hugged us like long lost friends. The pungent smell of her patchouli oil was intoxicatingly sensual. She took the hedgehog from me, popped a chunk of cheese and pineapple in her mouth, and told us to make ourselves comfortable on one of the many floor cushions thrown haphazardly around a brightly coloured Moroccan rug on which stood a large metal tray and a water-pipe.
     If I thought Arlo an attractively sexy man, then his wife was something else. She had long, curly blonde hair and reminded me of a water nymph, graceful yet wild and untamed at the same time. The name, Ocean, fitted perfectly. I glanced towards Mike. Clearly he was mesmerised by her. Over a few drinks the conversation covered everything from the Vietnam War and the books we were reading, which in my case was The Second Sex, to their travels through Europe in “Daisy”. After a while, Ocean grew tired of the conversation, put on a Procol Harum number and pulled Mike up from his comfortable position on the floor cushion.
      ‘Come on, let’s dance,’ she said and ushered him outside on to the lawn.
      I watched them through the open French windows. Ocean draped herself in an intimate embrace against Mike’s body. Clearly, he was enjoying every minute of it. Arlo saw the look in my eyes and pulled me up too. We joined them on the lawn. I closed my eyes and let the music drift through the warm night air and lull me into a pleasant feeling of euphoria. I don’t recall whose idea it was to call it a night, but I do recall lying in bed that night and Mike saying, ‘You see, I knew you’d like them.’

Over the following few weeks, Mike started to come home late. When I questioned him, his excuses were work-related. One evening there was a knock on the door. It was Arlo with a bottle of wine. I could tell by the look on his face, he had something on his mind.
      ‘Ocean disappears for hours on end,’ he said. ‘I’m worried.’
     I decided not to tell him Mike did the same.


Arlo called round a few times over the next few weeks. Each time we comforted each other in a pleasant interlude of wine, music and idle chatter.
     Then one afternoon, I decided to take a walk by the river. In the distance was a cafe. As I neared it, I happened to spot Mike and Ocean having coffee together, clearly oblivious to the comings and goings around them. I could hardly say it was a surprise. I vowed to keep it to myself.
     One week later, I looked out of the bedroom window and noticed “Daisy” missing from the next door driveway and the estate agent putting up a sign – For Rent. As quickly as they arrived, they had left.
      ‘What’s wrong?’ asked Mike.
     ‘Arlo and Ocean – it looks like they’ve gone.’ I turned to face him. ‘Did you know about it?’
      ‘I’m as surprised as you,’ he replied.
      Then he said he had something he wanted to say. I braced myself.
     ‘Me and Ocean,’ he said, barely able to look me in the eyes. ‘We had a small thing going on for a while. We used to meet at the same cafe. I wanted to tell you but...’ He paused for a moment. ‘Anyway, it’s over now.’
      I put my finger on his mouth. ‘Shush!’ I whispered. ‘It’s Okay.’
      I wasn’t going to tell him I knew. Maybe it was my own guilt that stopped me. How could I tell him I’d found comfort in Arlo Jones’s arms also? Mike smiled and hugged me. Perhaps he also knew.

song: Me and Mrs Jones by Billy Paul 1972 




about the author:

Kathryn Gauci was born in Leicestershire, England, and studied textile design at Loughborough College of Art and later at Kidderminster College of Art and Design where she specialised in carpet design and technology. After graduating, Kathryn spent a year in Vienna, Austria before moving to Greece where she worked as a carpet designer in Athens for six years. There followed another brief period in New Zealand before eventually settling in Melbourne, Australia.


Before turning to writing full-time, Kathryn ran her own textile design studio in Melbourne for over fifteen years, work which she enjoyed tremendously as it allowed her the luxury of travelling worldwide, often taking her off the beaten track and exploring other cultures. The Embroiderer is her first novel; a culmination of those wonderful years of design and travel, and especially of those glorious years in her youth living and working in Greece – a place that she is proud to call her spiritual home.

Amazon UK
Amazon US
website: http://www.kathryngauci.com/



Note: There is copyright legislation for song lyrics but no copyright in names, titles or ideas
images via Pixabay accreditation not required
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The Full List of Authors

December
1st        Philip K. Allan     
 2nd      J J Toner         
 3rd       Catherine Kullman    
 4th       Helen Hollick              
 5th       Richard Tearle    
 6th       Barbara Gaskell Denvil
 7th       Nicky Galliers
 8th       Angela Macrae Shanks          
 9th       Katherine Pym  
10th      J G Harlond    
11th       Anna Belfrage
12th      Richard Dee
13th      Inge H. Borg
14th      Annie Whitehead
15th      Louise Adam
16th      Charlene Newcomb
17th      Alison Morton                         
18th      Kathryn Gauci
19th      Helen Hollick 
20th     M.J. Logue
21st       Helen Hollick 
22nd     Cryssa Bazos               
23rd      Jennifer Wilson                       
24th      Elizabeth St John  writing as Julia Darke                         
25th      MERRY CHRISTMAS 
26th      Helen Hollick
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26 comments:

  1. This took me right back to my youth - wraparound skirt, off-the-shoulder blouse, cheese and pineapple hedgehog, even the VW, though ours wasn't psychedelic - and we didn't have such interesting neighbours.

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    1. One reason I wrote this, Catherine, is because a part of me still yearns for my old, carefree, hippy days. Incense still occassionally wafts through the house even now. Yes, lived in those wraparound skirts.Great weren't they?

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  2. I wonder if Mike and Linda patched up their relationship. Yes, it was a "small" thing, but even "small" things can send scyscrapers tumbling down. Loved how you understated the emotional turmoil while letting enough peek through that it was made very apparent Linda was quite affected.

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    1. Thanks Anna. Yes, it's the small things that crop up when you least expect them and shake us up. I like to think they were both richer and closer for the "flings".

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  4. ah, walking down Oxford Street in the days when I was slim enough to carry off a tye-died Granddad Vest, flares, cheesecloth shirts and Hare Krishna's in saffron robes - that's where you have taken me, Kathryn!! Old hippies never die, they just get more laid back. And I wonder if Mike and Linda had got to that stage? Peace and Love, man - love not war. Never got the song, so well disguised. I'd have gone for Hi Ho Silver Lining!! Well done indeed!!!

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  5. Thank you so much, Richard. Yes, they were the sandalwood and pachouli infused days of love and peace.

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  6. What a great story, rather bitter sweet I thought, and two people who maybe have learned a lesson. I hope they have.

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    1. Thank you. So glad you enjoyed it. I hope they've moved on too.

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  7. Brilliant story, brilliant song. Thank you.

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  8. Ah, just got out my patchouli oil, tie dye, love beads and loons from Carnaby Street. What a lovely flashback Kathryn - I think we all had a summer of love in our past. And one of my favourite tunes - along with "Killing me softly with his song". Thanks for a very mellow start to my day!

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    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. "Killing me Softly" was also a great favourite.

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  9. The 60s for me was rolling up the waistband of my below-the-knee skirt on the way to / coming home from school. Really funny because I now only wear calf-length or full length skirts! Gosh also the days of Tony Blackburn, Kenny Everett and such on Radio One (I was there outside Broadcasting House many a time to collect autographs.) And of course the predecessor, Radio Caroline ... ah I was into 'pirates' even then LOL

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  10. Very evocative of the times, Kathryn; not just the clothes, vans and pineapple and cheese hedgehogs, but of the free and easy attitude that nevertheless hid Linda's hurt. I'm a bit vague about the 1970s; I was a student then and it's probably best to move past the waft of incense and be grateful Facebook didn't exist!

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    1. A time without facebook!! Communicating through love and good vibes was what it was all about!

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  11. It must have been difficult not to accuse him; but she was a wise woman, that Linda. I think they'll be all right now. (How did I miss all that Hippy-stuff in my youth?)

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  12. I think their hippy soul wanted them to move on!! Yes. I miss all that - too much. Living at "floor level" with all those cushions!!

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  13. I love the way you bring the story alive, I feel I'm walking alongside. Thanks for a highly entertaining read.

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  14. Bellbottoms - I loved my bellbottoms! Lovely story, Kathryn, and tied perfectly to the song! But what would have happened if Arlo & Ocean hadn't moved?

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  15. I remember the summer of love. I met my wife in 1967 and we married in 1968. All that 'free love' and the rugs sailed past us unnoticed. :) Very enjoyable story. Thank you.

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