“Where are you going?” I ask again.
“To see a man about a dog,” my father replies.
“Why?” I ask.
“Hair of the dog,” his voice ghosts through the rapidly closing crack as the front door shuts behind him.
“Why?” I cry out.
Years later I remember this episode. The mud nest nestles tight against a beam beneath our garage roof. Tiny yellow beaks flap ceaselessly open. Parent birds sit on a vantage point of electric cable, their beaks moving in silent encouragement. A sudden rush, a clamour of wing and claw, a small body thudding down a ladder of air to crash beak first on the concrete.
“Why?” I ask.
The age-old answer come back to me.
“Wye is a river. It flows through Ross-on-Wye and marks the boundary between England and Wales.”
The swallows perch on the rafters watching their fledgling as it struggles on the floor, the weakening wing flaps, the last slow kicks of the twitching legs.
“Why?” I ask.”
“Y is a crooked letter invented by the Green Man of Wye.”
“Why?” I repeat. “I want to know why.”
Silence hangs a question mark over the unsatisfied spaces of my questing mind.
A golden oldie. We would all like to know why. But there are no answers. Just riddles cast, like two trunk-less legs of stone, on the sands of time. Nothing beside remains. Yet still we ask the age old question: why? And still we receive the age-old answers from those ageing wise men who ruled our childhood and taught us everything they knew.
Alas, we have lost our hollyhocks, not all of them, but most. They have been drowned in torrential rain, blown and bent, ravished by raging winds, and they have been scorched in a heat-warning scorched earth policy that left them and the garden all forlorn. As for the lawn, between chinch bug, crows, raccoons, and a surge in weeds and bugs, it is a desolation.
What is worse: they were so beautiful, those hollyhocks. Multi-coloured, stately, and tall. Hopefully, they will return next year. We do hope so. And equally hopefully next year will be a better year for them. And for you and me. Meanwhile, I savour the photos and mourn their loss. Meanwhile…
“Why?” I ask “Why?”
The answer echoes back across the years in well-known voices that have long been silenced.