Another monday, another chapter of Grandma’s Note. Here’s chapter five.
Having organized with a hotel room for the night Winston was taking an evening stroll through the dark and silent streets of central Black Reef. He had found a hotel merely a block away from where he had parked the car, along the river bank, and to his surprise it had turned out to be of rather high standard, obviously mainly catering to the business community. Of course this meant that the price tag for his room would be quite a lot steeper than what he had anticipated but as it appeared to be the only place offering lodging in the convenient vicinity, apart from a couple of shady looking hostels that might or might not still be open, he quickly decided to spend the extra money and secure for himself a comfortable stay. Not that it appeared to be any risk at all that the hotel would run out of rooms though. From what he had seen so far he might very well be the only current guest. The room he had been given was fresh and modern and he had considered hitting the sack as soon as he set his foot inside the door, but as exhausted as he was from the day’s activities and excitement he felt he might have some trouble falling asleep and not in the mood to watch television or read a book he had decided to go for a walk in the seaside smelling outside air.
Walking through the narrow streets and passageways that made up the quarters behind the tall buildings along the main street he was forced to further reconsider his first rushed judgment of the town. Rather than, as the main street had done, make obvious its modern fate as a ghost town these houses instead stood as an intriguing testament to its former glory and he could almost picture what life there must have been like in another era, imagining boys in knickerbockers running in and out of the small brick walled urban yards. The sound of a church bell in the distance made him think of how nineteenth century literature use the occurrence to let the reader know what time of day it is as well as where in a city the story finds itself at any given moment, by naming the nearest church. ‘The bells struck eleven times for eleven o’clock in…’. He saw before him, but of course couldn’t name the particular church that he himself was hearing at the moment. Slowing his step, he listened more closely to try and make out if it was only the one church he could hear or if there were other ones in the distance but if there were he couldn’t tell. ‘…eleven times for eleven o’clock…’. He thought once more and it struck him that the bells made quite a lot of noise for that late in the evening. Winston tried to remember if he had ever heard church bells that late at home or indeed if the churches there even rung their bells at any time of day. If they did he didn’t think he had ever been aware of it. The sound of them had most likely only formed one more nuance of noise among all the other and never made its presence known. At least not in any way near the way it did there in the back streets of central Black Reef where he felt like he was walking in its shadow.
When the sound of the church bells had since long died away and he had finally grown tired of studying the surroundings Winston moved on to wondering what tomorrow might have in store for him and what in fact his plans were. He knew his grandmother was supposed to have spent a large part of her youth in Black Reef but he had no idea whatsoever where she had lived, for how long or who with, and he also wanted to find out for sure if she indeed had had a brother named Erik, and if so where he had been in age compared to her. Would he be able to get a hold of documents with such information there in Black Reef or were they stored somewhere else? In some larger city? Which one would that then be since there were no larger cities around for hundreds of miles? Should he try to hitch a ride up to Black Reef Island to look around and see what he could find there? Probably not, he decided after thinking it over. As curious as he was to get a look of the place he had to recognize that he might not get too many chances to go out there and he would be well advised to hold off the temptation until he had at least some clue as to what he was supposed to be looking for.
Pondering where he would go in the morning in search of documents relevant to his quest Winston hadn’t paid much attention to where he was now going and suddenly he stopped without really knowing why. Had he heard something or seen something in the corner of an eye? It was still dead quiet and he didn’t think that was it. Looking around he saw that he seemed to have wandered into some very old industrial district that had not yet been either demolished or turned into housing and which seemed to have served as a leisure area at some point in time not quite as long ago, with boarded up old pubs and clubs of various sorts still their to remind of it. He looked back at the one he was just about to pass and saw that it was still advertising ‘live music every night of the week’ even though that appeared to have been a lie for at least a few decades. Wondering if there was something about the place that had subconsciously caught his attention he looked it over with a scrutiny that it was unlikely to have received in a long time but the only thing he noticed that could possibly be of interest was the wall of posters with pictures of performers that had appeared at the club at one time or another. He hadn’t much hope of finding anything worth noting there either but taking his time to look them over his jaw suddenly dropped and he stood frozen, just staring, for a good minute before he could even believe what he was seeing. What he was looking at was … practically himself. Perhaps a decade or so older but there in the old black and white picture on the old brick wall stood a figure that he couldn’t help thinking might just as well have looked back at him from a mirror, holding and resting on a contrabass.
When it had finally sunk in that what he was seeing in fact really was what he was looking at Winston managed to break the spell he had been put under by the sight of what appeared to be himself and could study also the rest of the poster. It was a picture of what had apparently been the clubs resident jazz band in 1946 and below it were all of their names in order of appearance. The name of the man with the contrabass was … he couldn’t believe it. It was Robert. His grandfather’s supposed name. And all the way to the left in the picture, holding a saxophone, was an Erik. So he was looking at a Robert and an Erik, performers in a jazz band in Black Reef in 1946. And here he had thought that the walk was only to clear his head and tire him out before going to bed. With newfound energy and excitement he carefully studied the names and pictures of all the women on the wall but there was no one that either looked like his grandmother or had a name that could possibly be a variation on Wilhelmina. There was however, a few posters over from the one with the jazz band and considerably bigger, a poster with the picture of a young girl who appeared to have been a solo performer, and a popular one at that. Her name, written in large shiny letters across the top of the poster, was Alice.