It was a glorious Saturday morning as James stood leaning against the front door frame of his tiny cottage sipping a warm mug of coffee gazing out into the far distance as his mind started to wander.
He had been travelling across the country for months, finding work where he could, never sticking around for more than a day. He had felt like a wanted criminal on the run from the law.
It's been exactly a week since he came to live in this small seaside town. He'd been practicing medicine at a reputed hospital in the big city for nearly six years.
He was tired, tired of the noise, tired of the crowds, tired of the city. He felt like his life was going nowhere. He longed for a quieter life, a quieter place, so he made up his mind to hit the road in search of one.
All of his colleagues had laughed at the impulsive idea, of him packing up and driving across country. He had been wanting to get away for so long.
It was by sheer luck that he ended up in this place. He was just passing through. He had seen an advertisement pinned on the notice board of the Diner where he stopped for lunch one afternoon.
Apparently the town's only doctor has just left for greener pastures, and the townsfolk were looking for a replacement.
The position came with accommodation, which suited him perfectly as he liked the quiet atmosphere the town presented. This was exactly the kind of place he was looking for.
It was a quiet little seaside town where simple folk went about their daily routines from dusk till dawn. Where everybody knew each other as well their business he thought, chuckling to himself.
His arrival in town had caused a certain frenzy among the townsfolk who was eager and curious to know about the young doctor, who had taken up residence in their neighbourhood.
The front doorbell had never ceased ringing for the first two days as curious neighbours came bearing housewarming gifts to welcome him into the community.
It was already summer, so there was plenty of things happening to keep him occupied, with patients filling in and out of his small clinic adjacent to the tiny house he lived in.
Apart from receiving patients, he made it customary to make house calls whenever possible.
He thought this would be a good way to get to know the lay of the land and most importantly to get to know the people. Especially the ones that are unable to visit the clinic.
One morning he was on his way to see a man with a broken leg. It was a fifteen minute’s drive by car, but he decided to walk instead so that he could stretch his legs and get some exercise and breathe in the fresh salty air blowing in from the sea.
Halfway up the road he spotted an almost run down old cottage and on the front porch sat an old woman, knitting. She nodded smiling. He smiled and nodded back and continued on his way, as he was in a hurry to get to his patient.
By the time he finished tending to the man with the broken leg, it was close to lunch time. He promised to look in on him in a couple of days and stepped out of the house making his way back down the road.
As James neared the cottage again he saw that the old woman was still sitting on the porch, busy with her knitting.
He decided to introduce himself. He climbed the few steps that led to the porch, as he came closer, she looked up from her knitting and smiled at him.
He made his introductions extending a hand toward her, which she took graciously extending a wrinkled almost withered old hand and introduced herself in return.
They fell in to a deep conversation chatting about life in the small town and it's people.
As he sat there listening to the old woman, regaling him with tales of a bygone era, he couldn't help but notice how old and fragile she looked, with silver hair, wrinkled skin, clad in a tattered black garment and worn out shoes which had seen better days.
James found out that the old woman had lived there all her life. She was born here, grew up and got married to a local fisherman. Who lost his life at sea. He noticed the sad look in her eyes as she related the story of her husband's tragic end.
He did not realise the time passing as he was so tea-timed in her tales. He stood up to leave hesitantly, as it was nearly tea-time, and he was feeling hungry. He said his goodbyes and started to make his way toward the Diner.
By the time he reached the Diner, it was half empty, except for a few locals. He seated himself at a table near the window and ordered his usual.
While waiting, he struck up a conversation with the waitress Vicky, who served him coffee.
She happened to be the daughter of the owner and seemed to know a whole lot about her neighbours. He decided to inquire about the old lady he had just met, to find out whether she knew anything about her.
“Old lady? Which old lady?” the young girl asked, perplexed. So, he started to tell her about his encounter with the old woman at the cottage.
At once she gasped and dropped the pot of coffee on the floor! Her father came rushing to see what the commotion was about.
She stood there staring at the young doctor, with her mouth agape, horrified.
Her father asked what was wrong, so the doctor told him that he only asked about the old lady at the cottage, to which the owner replied, “Doc, there is no one living at that cottage. It has been left derelict for quite sometime. The old lady who used to live there died two years ago!”
It was the doctor’s turn to stare at the owner with his mouth open, in disbelief!