The garage had been converted into a makeshift bar. A handful of folding tables and chairs dotted the concrete floor. Matilda had tacked up some lines of old Christmas lights that she found in a box in the attic. She didn’t plug them in. There was no electricity to light the small bulbs, but the colour, she thought, added something to the bar. Devlin was in the back courtyard checking on the distillery.
“When the times are shit, Tilly, people need to forget how badly off they are. We are doing a public service by selling this.” He said with a grin as he patted the stainless steel tank he had foraged and set up on the old picnic table.
“Besides, the money we make we can buy a car and get out of here. Try to have a bigger vision Tilly.” He said. She saw the pout creeping along his upper lip. Matilda did not say a word to Dev; not one for or against what he had planned. She didn’t care what they did. If it lead to them leaving this godforsaken city, she would be happy. She gathered what wood she could find so Dev could keep the distillery doing what he thought it could. She wanted to ask him how long it would take for him to do the first batch, but she knew already that he had no idea. Matilda kept her questions to herself.
She had found a box of books in the attic when she was looking for stuff to decorate the garage. The original owners of the house had long since left. After the crash in October last year, most people just walked away from their homes. There was no recovering this time, no way for the country to bounce back. No money left for bail outs or paycheques. Those who did still have money stashed away, knowing somehow that the mattress was a better place than the bank for saving it in, packed what they could carry, loaded their cars and suv’s and disappeared into the sunset.
The chair scraped along the concrete as Matilda pulled it out to sit down. She fingered the worn edges of the book. She opened cover and found someone had written in it.
May the wisdom of the winds guide you.
All my love
Matilda ran her finger over the indents made by the pen that wrote the message. The letters were smooth to her touch. She wondered briefly about who Jonathon and Katrina were and about where they were now five months later after Katrina had given Jonathon the book. Matilda turned to the last page of the book and scanned the page. She sighed. A typical ending. Nice story neatly tied up for the reader. Everything works out just perfectly. The hero wins the girl and all is right in the world. Anger flashed from deep within Matilda. She snapped the book shut and threw it across the garage, just missing Devlin who walked in from the back yard at the wrong moment.
“Hey!” he shouted, ducking out of the way. “what the hell?”
“Sorry” Matilda said standing up and hurrying over to him. “It didn’t hit you did it?” she asked. She picked up the book and saw that the spine had been broken when it smashed against the garage wall.
“No, just barely missed me. You could have broken my nose with that.” Devlin said sulking behind the bar. He side stepped as Matilda came closer to inspect his face.
“Don’t be a baby.” She said, leaning over to look closely at his nose. “You don’t even have a paper cut.”
“Yeah but I could have. I could have been hurt bad, bleeding everywhere and then what would you have done? What if I get an infection? We’ve got no money to get medicine. The hospitals are closed anyway. You can’t just go around throwing things.” Devlin said crossing his arms and puffing his chest out. Matilda rolled her eyes.
“Oh please.” She said, turning her back on him. The street beyond the garage door was empty. No cars rolled by curious to see what was happening. Devlin disappeared under the bar and started to set out empty bottles he’d been storing there. Matilda looked back when she heard the clinking glass.
“Is it ready to bottle?” Matilda asked. Devlin shook his head, still pouting.
“No. maybe another day or so.” He said finally. He counted the bottles, mouthing the numbers as he touched the bottle necks. Matilda nodded thoughtfully. She wasn’t completely convinced that there was anyone left in the neighbourhood to come, and if there were, they probably wouldn’t have money to buy homemade hooch but anything was possible, she supposed. Matilda left Devlin to the bottles and turned to go back into the house, but at the last moment she changed her mind. She heard Devlin call after her as she walked out the garage door onto the driveway.
“Where are you going Tilly? You can’t leave. What if someone comes?” he said. His voice echoed in the empty garage, making it sound hollow and distant. Matilda shrugged.
“I’m going for a walk. I’ll be back” she said. She didn’t wait for Devlin to protest. Matilda felt a sudden rush as she stepped onto the asphalt, as though she could just start walking and never stop. She didn’t look back once. Not even when she reached the end of the street.