Stirred, not shaken

Steve took another sip of coffee and pondered the lay of the cards. It was his fifth game of solitaire (he liked the feel of the cards so he played it the old-fashioned way) and truth be told he was getting more than a little bored.

The quote he’d read at lunchtime darted through his head again. He’d been working his way through The Writings of Herman Melville (like himself, no stranger to sorrow and hard times) when he’d come across the words that had stopped him: “There is nothing so slipperily alluring as sadness; we become sad in the first place by having nothing stirring to do; we continue in it, because we have found a snug sofa at last.”

He’d immediately slammed shut the book and grabbed the cards for another hand of Solitaire.

And now, there he was, face to face with those words again.

Steve could tell you how you become sad: you lose someone you love and have loved for 35 years and who feels like part of your skin. “Having nothing stirring to do”? – give us a break; when the fabric of your life has been ripped apart you don’t need stirring.

Nonetheless, the insult of the quote continued to nibble at him. “Slipperily alluring”? “SNUG SOFA”!!??

Agitated, he dropped the deck of cards. All right, he thought, let’s give the idea a fair play. What stirs you, you old bugger? What stirs you?

From the jar of pens nearby he grabbed a black felt marker. He poked at the playing cards spilled in front of him. He flipped over a card (two of hearts, lots of white space), and wrote: “Skin against skin”. That was something that stirred him, and something he missed fiercely.

With a certain satisfaction, he laid the defaced card, words up, neatly on the table in front of him.

He grabbed up the rest of the pack, flipped over another card (nine of spades) and wrote between the black spots: “Travelling to extraordinary places.” He hadn’t travelled since Addie died and in a flash he recognised that he missed it. Travel stirred him and always had.

The words “Rhythm and flow” landed on the ace of clubs. It felt good, somehow. He chuckled, and “Good humour” (three of diamonds) followed fast on its heels.

“Learning from the bush”.

“The love of children”.

As fast as Steve could write, cards flew, and a pattern – a life, really – began to emerge on the table in front of him.

Finally, from somewhere came: “Taking on the hero’s journey” – right there on the back of the eight of hearts. A frisson travelled up his spine. He was no hero, never had been, but life itself took heroism and he knew himself to be someone with courage and a sense of adventure.

He swung out of his chair. He strode to the window and dug his hands deep into his pockets. He noticed the car was in the driveway at Bruce and Kelly’s. Somebody was home over there and where there was life there was a teapot. Resolutely he grabbed his jacket and headed into the world.

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