I have been quiet some because I am practicing my writing chops. Here is my first attempt at a short story. I would love kind, constructive feedback!
As she approached her bus stop this crisp fall morning she spotted a weathered looking old man stooped over his walker appearing to take a rest in the exact spot she always stood while waiting for her bus. She loved that spot because at this time of the morning the sun caught the dew just right and it looked as though there were a million tiny sparkles creating a glitter explosion on the grassy field directly in front of her. It made her heart leap with joy and began her day on just the right foot which helped because she found high school to be tougher than she thought it would be. She bounded up next to the old man grateful to have someone to share this spectacular view with. She smiled at him and how could he not respond to that smile for it made her face glow warmly from within and radiate out a shine that was brighter than the sun. He scowled at her barely noting the joy emanating from her and quickly looked away.
“What a beautiful morning, don’t you think?” she asked in an attempt to bring some warmth to his scowl.
“What’s so great about it?” he grumbled.
“Life, nature, new beginnings, oh I could go on!” she ventured.
“Please don’t” he murmured. He then looked up at her with an expression she couldn’t quite read. “Would you like me to tell you a story?” he asked.
“Oh, very much” she responded eagerly. And, so he began.
“When I was a little boy – younger than you are now, I was approached by a crotchety old woman. I had been heading to my father’s barn to help him with the days chores admiring the sparkle in the morning dew much the way you just were. I was eager to share the beauty with her too yet she stopped me mid-thought to tell me I was headed for disaster. She began to explain to me all the ways life would tear me down. She explained that it has always been ugly and always will be but the young have yet to realize it. She felt it was her duty to warn me about life. She warned me to harden my soft edges and build walls around my heart so that it might hurt less. I took her for an old fool for how could anyone believe that something so beautiful as life could be so cruel. But she was right. I left her with the warnings still ringing in my ears, but with a twinkle still in my eyes that would dull before the day was done. As I rounded the corner toward the barn I heard the tractor far closer than I would expect that time of morning. Before I had a chance to react I heard, “Watch out! Turn quick!” Father was allowing my young brother to drive the tractor with him in his lap. Father wasn’t able to grip the wheel fast enough and brother wouldn’t budge to swerve around me. They ran over my legs. All I remember from that moment is laying there feeling no pain, only numbness. I looked down at the awkward direction my legs were laying and knew life would never be the same. My baseball dreams dashed; I had been a shoe-in for the pros. No one would ever want to marry a cripple. Would I even be able to take care of myself independently ever again?”
At this point, the girl looked at him with a puzzled expression that he couldn’t understand. She should be feeling pity, sorrow, a loss of hope but her expression held none of these. He continued.
“By some fated miracle, the doctors were able to save my legs, but I have been unable to walk unassisted since. I was unable to help father with the chores anymore, not that it mattered. Father was so distraught by what happened sure that it was his fault. Mother didn’t help for she blamed him every day. She would scream about how she would never be free from her children for she would have to care for me the rest of my days. She reminded him that my brother should never have been allowed to hold the wheel and that father was clearly too weak if he couldn’t yank the wheel out of a 4 year old’s hands. She berated him every chance she had and never once thought about the guilt he may be feeling all on his own. In the meantime my brother withdrew more and more until he officially stopped talking altogether. Finally, less than a year later my father killed himself. So, here we were, a young, single, angry mother; a mute boy and a crippled young man all alone on a farm none of us could manage to take care of. Eventually we lost the farm to the banks. My mother began leaving us for days at a time and each time she returned she seemed happier and lighter than the last. This bright mood would last for shorter and shorter times while she was with us. It was clear that we were dragging her down. How we survived while she was gone I honestly don’t remember, but we did. Eventually she left for good. I knew she wasn’t coming back that day by the look of rapturous joy that emitted from her whole body. She was going to be free of us and knew it and she had never looked so lovely. My brother and I were still pretty young so the state came for us. I guess neighbors alerted them to our lack of parental guidance. My brother and I got separated . From what I hear he found a family who loved him as their own and he eventually came out of his shell and began talking again. I didn’t care one way or another. Life held no meaning for me any longer. No one was going to take in a cripple so, I endured the foster homes until I was old enough to attempt being on my own. Clearly the state didn’t think I was capable so I have been shuffled from facility to facility ever since. Now, I am just waiting to die, but it’s a long time coming. Just another cruel trick of life. I figure for as long as I am alive it’s my duty to warn other youngsters of the agonizing fate that is life just as that woman warned me all those years ago.”
The girl heard the bus coming and knew she had just a moment before it would come to a stop and she would need to go. She registered the sorrow and anguish in his story and knew she would have difficulty concentrating in school as she interpreted the turn of events in his story. She unzipped her pink bag covered with flowers, butterflies and dragonflies, searched through a pouch and held out a small envelope to the man. He looked at her quizzically. That unique expression was still on her face but was quickly being replaced with sunbeams and sparkles. He snatched the envelope out of her hand and quickly looked away. How could she not have heard him? How could she not understand the harm she was headed toward? No matter. He did his part. She will understand in time.
The bus approached and she swiftly found a seat at a window nearest the old man. Although he wasn’t looking in her direction she still managed to sneak a small wave in his direction.
After school the man was no longer at the bus stop, not that she expected him to be. She slowly skipped home eager to discuss the day’s events with her mom.
“Mom, I am home!” she yelled.
“Great! Welcome home” her mom joyfully yelled back. “Would you mind bringing me some soup, crackers and that tea that relaxes me when you come to my room please?”
“Of course Mom” she replied compliantly. When she entered her mom’s bedroom the wonderful aroma of the chicken soup mostly drowned out the metallic smell of the medicines and foul smell of sickness.
“I had chemo today so I am feeling a little drained, sweetness” her mom explained, then continued “only 3 more months of chemo they say. Isn’t that just wonderful news?” she wondered aloud.
“Oh mom! That is the best news I have heard all day” she gushed. Then her mom asked if she would like to put together a puzzle with her that evening. It sounded perfect to the girl. Her father left when her mom was diagnosed and ever since, their nightly puzzles became a ritual that filled her soul with love and comfort. She didn’t blame her dad. She understood how difficult it was for him to stay. After all he had watched his own mother wither away and ultimately die of the cancer that ravished her body. He had shaken like a leaf the day Mom told him her news. He didn’t have the strength to endure it again and the girl couldn’t help but forgive his weakness.
She remained with her mom until she tired of the puzzle and light hearted conversation. As her mom lay her head to rest on the cozy nest of pillows the girl so lovingly arranged for her, the girl tilted her head to the side in such a way her mom questioned her. “What is it dear? I have noticed you appear to have something weighing on your mind this evening?”
“I guess I was just wondering why everyone can’t be quite as blessed as we are” she sighed.
“My sweet girl. We are so blessed. I thank God for that every day” her mom explained.
“So do I Mom, so do I.” The girl leaned in to give her Mom a soft gentle hug then brought her homework in to her bedroom. As she settled in for the night she dressed in her nightgown, sat down on her bed and with the quick motions of someone accustomed to such things, removed her prosthetic legs covered in flowers, butterflies and dragonflies feeling blessed. So utterly blessed.
That evening, the old man finally got the courage to open the envelope the girl had given him. It was a red heart sticker. In the center were the words, Love Matters. A tear slowly trickled down his wrinkled, softening face.
(Please accept this blog as my virtual hug to you.)