The Gaps

Grandad, slumped in his tatty armchair, turns slowly to face me as I walk in with Mum.
‘Is that my favourite Grandson?’ he says, his voice thin.
‘It’s your only Grandson.’
Mum disappears into the kitchen as he struggles to sit up. I hug him. I can feel individual ribs. His breathing sounds like a collapsing bouncy castle. He smells of betting shops.
‘How’s school?’ he says.
‘Always fine, huh?’
I nod as I scan the room for stray biscuits and pull out my phone to check for messages. Grandad puts his bony hand on my arm.
‘Sit here,’ he says, patting the sofa. ‘And put that phone away.’
I do as he says and he takes both my hands, forcing me to look into his rheumy eyes.
‘Do you know what I did before I got old?’
I know the answer, but it doesn’t seem possible. I can’t imagine his face as a young man.
‘You played cricket.’
It occurs to me for the first time that he was once strong, athletic.
‘Correct,’ he says. ‘And I could have been a good batsman. Not great, but good, instead of average, which is what I was.’
I nod again.
‘Do you know why?’
I shake my head.
‘I spent my life looking at the fielders, not the gaps between them,’ he says. ‘That’s where the truth is, in the space between each thought, each breath. In the gaps between our knowledge. Don’t spend your life looking at the fielders. Focus on the gaps. Find space and tread lightly.’
I think I understand what he is saying.
‘Also, move your feet. I was terrible at that and was always out lbw. Keep those feet moving.’
Grandad smiles.
‘Go on, you can look at your phone now.’
But I leave the phone in my pocket and we sit in silence while we wait for Mum to come through with drinks and biscuits.
Outside, a squirrel scampers up the fence holding a nut. Its head twitches from side to side, wary of its exposed position, before it has a nibble. It is joined by a tiny bird, that buries its minuscule beak into its fluffy chest before shaking its head as if it needs to sneeze. The squirrel watches the bird, nibbles some more nut, before leaping down and haring across the lawn. The bird waits a few seconds before darting into the clear blue. I imagine the view it must have up there, how dark and trapped we must look sat in here, then Mum brings in the biscuits and turns on the TV.
Danger Mouse is on.