I was mad for a choc ice, but the kiosk was afar, on the other side of the lake. Several times, in the past, I had walked the path all round the lake, and I knew what a long long walk it was. From where I stood, anent Nitty’s Jetty, gazing hopelessly at the kiosk, I knew it would take me an hour, an hour and a half more likely, in my flimsy pumps, to walk that far. No man should wait so long for a choc ice – was that a saying?, or had I just coined one? The sight of the kiosk taunted me, so I shut my eyes.
It is a curious fact that whenever I close my eyes, for longer than a blink, I run the risk of falling asleep. The great French artist Delacroix held it as a tenet that the key to a long life lay in getting up early in the mornings and, most important, not dozing off again once one was awake. If that were the case, it is a miracle I am still alive in my eighty-eighth year to heaven. I doze off all the time, even here, choc ice mad, standing up straight on the edge of the lake, with nothing to cling on to. The wooden posts of Nitty’s Jetty long ago rotted to stumps.
And as I slept, so I dreamed. I was five or six, at a different lake, queuing in a line at a different kiosk, a now-redundant coin gripped in my tiny fist. Though I could not see him, I knew the kiosk was manned by an ogre, and a Cyclopean ogre come to that. He is a figure who recurs in my dreams, and though his countenance is fearsome, I feel nothing for him but boundless devotion. I do not think he is a god, this ogre, but the emotions he stirs in me are those I imagine one would feel if one came face to face with God. I shuffled slowly forward, for the queue was long, and I felt my heart beat the faster as I got closer to the kiosk. Soon, oh soon, I would reach the head of the queue, and I would look up into the one blazing eye of the ogre and I would proffer my coin and ask politely for a choc ice, and the ogre would grunt and thrust towards me his hairy paw, in which was clutched . . .
My eyelids snapped open as I awoke from my doze. The dream fell away in an instant. Scudding towards me, upon the lake, came a kayaker in his kayak. Now I knew a thing or two about kayaks, or once did, for in my long ago youth I had been a keen kayaker. I kayaked on several lakes and rivers, remote distant lakes and wide important rivers. I admired this kayaker’s technique and told him so as he came nudging against Nitty’s Jetty. We fell into the kind of easy conversation that obtains among kayakers, even when one of them is eighty eight and unkayaked.
– Do you know what?, he said, after a while, I could kill for a choc ice. How about you? Jump into the kayak and we’ll kayak across the lake together and I’ll buy a couple of choc ices from that kiosk. My treat.
I told him he was very kind, and clambered into his kayak. It must have been forty years since I was on the water. Since the terrible day of Mopsa’s drowning I had shunned it. Another lake, another time . . .
And the sky blazed blue as I was ferried in a kayak across the lake towards the kiosk.