We drove up the A28 in my granny’s green 1982 Renault convertible. Top down, no seatbelts in the back. We were going to see the cactus man.
The village had been rebuilt post-war around a slightly sad Norman church with green pin boards by the entrance. Water had seeped through the cracks in the perspex shells and the ink on the printed prayer notices had become blotted and illegible. An advertisement for SUNDAY MORNING PRAYER now read SUN PRAY as if the quiet Church of England schedule was slowly being perverted in the rain.
The surrounding homes had been built with mauve-coloured bricks and tightly fitted windows. Poor planning meant the road was narrow and the cars drove too quickly as they slipped round the bend. They made a whooshing sound as we stood on the thin side path outside the house, semi-detached with a wide side return and a small balding front drive. It listed on rightmove as sold for £326,000 in 2013— which is about right for the area.
Maybe I was projecting my own excitement, but his house seemed to push out from within itself. The windows were bloated- like an Erwin Wurm sculpture or a berry squished between two fingers. Their smooth, reflective surfaces had the voluptuous quality of taught silicone or the silly putty I would push through my hands as a child.
The cactus man’s long hand gripped the cast plastic doorknob between the hall and the kitchen. His knuckles were matted with white hairs, like the cephalocereus senilis that he doted on so carefully. He leaned into my granny and whispered as he opened the door.