Lapis

Meanwhile in town and despite the dense summer crowds, my grandmother had to peruse every section of postcard-based tourism. Lulu and Delphine found this as fun as licking tar. Every time, they hung behind her morosely. ‘I bet they don’t even read her postcards,’ Lulu muttered. ‘They probably get them and throw them over their shoulder. “Weird stalker,” they say.’

‘I think you have something there, Lulu.’ My mum nodded enthusiastically. She both approved of and never missed an opportunity to scrutinise her mother.

When I walked with my grandmother, we never took the bus of the mountain pass; the horse and carriage. This time was a first.

‘No way she’s going to walk,’ my mum. She was right; my grandmother wouldn’t be able to walk the length of the valley up to the mountain lodge, the Hala Ornak schronisko. The mountain guide góral in charge of the horse was nice. ‘Don’t grimace,’ he said. ‘I’ll take you.’ My mum closed her purse.

Lulu hopped on. Actual shotgun style. The horse, large and magnificent, had a flower behind his ear. ‘Name’s Lapis. He’s nine and has an exhaust pipe in one direction.’ Our góral told us about the robbers’ cave in the cliff. The shrine the robbers prayed at. The field on the way to the mountain lodge where the miners lived. ‘They smelted ore here to make iron and found high quality silver in the river.’

Always the river was on one side of our clopping Lapis. Port or starboard as we crossed bridges. Our carriage was bumpy. Our journey uphill. Lapis worked up a hay-smelling sheen and had a bell that jingled like Christmas. People stopped on foot to let us pass. My grandmother shook her head derisively. Said something I didn’t understand.

‘Well you won’t make it on foot,’ my mother replied.

‘What is it?’ I asked.

‘She’s embarrassed. Your grandfather would NEVER have gone on a horse.’

My grandfather. Twenty-one years gone. My grandmother; eight-years older than he had ever been. Her hair blowing in the wind. Making Delphine sitting next to her laugh.

I turned to her. ‘He might be looking down on us and shaking his head but he’s still paying.’

My grandmother nodded. Smiled wryly. ‘That’s true.’

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