Monday, July 10, 2017

The Walk, A Short Story

This is a short story that I have written for the second anniversary of my father's death. It has been two long years and the ache remains. My parents had a great love story. I hope this does it justice.
 (This is my first attempt at creating a story video. The full, unabridged text is below)

She left the velveteen rabbit and patchwork quilt in her home and placed the soles of her Mary Janes on the California dirt and headed east. The day’s first spray of sunlight kissed her skin. As she stepped, calico flowers flitted around her ankles in a dance of sorts, celebrating the morning.

A dark figure, dwarfed by the mighty sequoias, stepped out of their shade and into the clearing. Awash in sunlight, he was dashing and when he noticed her, the breath caught in her chest. He crossed the grassland confidently, persuaded by the cawing blackbirds above. His greeting was smooth. His voice was laced with the intonation of another world. He was a stranger to these parts and he asked if he might join her on her stroll. Yes, she replied.

He brushed a lock of soft brown hair off her forehead, tenderly, and as they ambled across the field, her skirt swayed to the rhythm of his stories of back home.  He was wise and worldly. His sly smile made her blush and her blush made him smile. He slipped his hand in hers. He asked about her journey. East, she replied.

After a while, he carried her over the short stone wall, marking the threshold of the road ahead. The pavement was smooth, but winding—a great adventure that she hadn’t imagined from the clapboard house of her youth. A happy child sat alongside the road. The man lifted him onto his strong shoulders and the boy giggled as the breeze teased his wisps of hair. When the boy begged to run, the man set him down and put his arm around the woman, who kissed the infant with the sky-blue eyes in her arms. He asked if she was content. Not quite, she replied.

Soon, girls and boys frolicked and jostled around them. The road ducked under trees, up and down the foothills. Childhood chatter turned to boisterous laughter. It was a good journey, the woman thought. He asked if she was happy. Undoubtedly, she replied.

Just when the sun had chased away the long shadows of morning, dark clouds stole his light. Thunder bellowed and animals scampered for home. When the stabbing rain fell, the group sought shelter in a cave. As the woman breathed words of comfort to those beneath her arms, she peered up at the man, standing above her. On his shoulders, the roof of the cave rested, crumbling under the weight of the storm. His sly smile was gone, replaced by cool, hard stone. His eyes were dark with worry. He asked if she was afraid. Not with you, she replied.

The cave held and the sun triumphed over the clouds, burning away the cold rain. To a symphony of chittering birds and insects, they continued their journey. They paused a moment to cherish their world. He asked if there was anything else she needed. Nothing at all, she replied.

As they descended the peak, the boys and girls—now young men and women—began to veer off onto their own roads, with a wave and a smile. They passed deserts of sand and fields of corn. The woman, finding herself alone with the man once again, slipped her hand back in his. Bridges traversed waterways, glittered with the orange light of sunset. He brushed a lock of grey hair off her forehead, tenderly. He asked if she was tired. No, she replied.

Sun seared against the ocean. If the salt water sizzled, she didn’t hear it. The man’s coughing filled her ears. He rubbed his pained chest and tried to reassure her with that same sly smile. He asked if they could slow down a bit. Of course, she replied.

She helped him walk along the coast under the moonlight. He was slow and his breathing was labored. He asked if she was afraid. Yes, she replied.

He needed to rest a moment. She closed her eyes a moment, pulling strength from her depths to continue the journey. His hand slipped from hers without warning. When she opened her eyes to the moonlight, she could no longer see the man. He was gone and she was alone, cold and frightened. Not yet, she begged.

Her legs were heavy. All her strength battled the sobs which compressed her lungs and burned her throat. The darkness of the night blinded her. No more, she pleaded.

A small pinpoint of light pierced the black. Then another and another. A child’s giggle tickled the dead air. By the fireflies’ glow, she saw the familiar faces of her children and their children around her. The small frail hand of a girl of five clasped the woman’s palm tight. A boisterous laugh of a young boy broke the sorrow into shards. Though it remained, the sadness lacked its full power. No regrets, she replied.

The children retired to bed and she stood alone once more as the blue of a new morning flooded the sky. The moon and stars bed adieu as the sun stretched its first tendrils of light above the ocean, pulling itself onto the horizon. A dark figure appeared down the beach.  Awash in new sunlight, he was dashing and when he approached her, the breath caught in her chest. He brushed a lock of soft brown hair off her forehead, tenderly. He asked if she had a good day. A very good day, she replied.

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