Monday, August 29, 2011

The End of the Road

Carl sat in his car which was parked in his garage. The garage door was closed and the car engine was purring gently.

Carl sat in the unnatural darkness, his hands on the steering wheel, his mind full of sad thoughts.

He was ashamed of his melodramatic tendencies, the banal way in which his mind chose to occupy itself. He knew – and resented the knowledge – that he was going to end his life following the same mindless, self-pitying thoughts that had occupied him for several decades.

Carl’s fingers gripped the staring wheel, his knuckles turning white from the effort. I should be thinking about my wife, he thought, how will she feel? She bought me this car to remind me of the newness in the world, and here I am using that present as a weapon against myself.

And Carl started to think of all the things his wife had done for him, the sacrifices she had made to be with him. He thought about her patience, her love. He realised that she had never doubted him, even when he was full of doubt.

Carl suddenly understood: she didn’t need me to answer those questions; she loved the questions that had no answers.

Carl began to feel tired then – so very tired. And as his eyes drooped and closed, his only regret was that he hadn’t loved his wife better.

Carl’s wife returned home to find Carl’s body slumped over the steering wheel of his new car; the engine was still whirring softly.

“Carl!” she screamed.

Carl sat up with a start; a guilty look crossed his face.

“Carl you old fool,” Carl’s wife’s voice held a gentle sadness, “this is an electric car."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Small Step

It was an unplanned happiness; a happiness that came to him quite by chance, quite unexpectedly. When Ian thought about it later, he realised that this happiness was the result of the coldness, the late bus and the long walk. For it had been a day that had started as any work day starts, with feelings of monotony, of anonymity and a weariness that no sleep would ever cure.

A chill wind had met him as he opened the front door. Ian took a backwards step and removed a black woollen greatcoat from a rack that was just inside the house. He pulled it on as he walked towards the bus stop.

That big old coat played a part in his happiness, Ian was sure of it. There was something about it; the way it seemed to cover up his insecurities, his anxieties; the way it made him feel a kind of strength, a semblance of certainty. It made Ian stand a little more surely as he waited for his bus. An observer might have said he stood with confidence, but Ian would have said it was really just an act, or, at best, a kind of mock confidence.

The bus failed to arrive and Ian began the long walk into the city. He felt as if he were on a treadmill; around him the same grey streets and faceless buildings played from an endless film loop.

But then, ahead of him, he spied something different: two teenagers sitting on a small step outside a shoe-shop. They were staring right at him, and, as he got closer, Ian overheard one of them saying, “That’s him alright.” The other one pulled a camera out of his pocket and took Ian’s picture. They both smiled and waved as he walked past.

“Love your work,” the teenagers called.

Ian couldn’t help but smile. “Thanks,” he said.

Something quite unexplainable happened to Ian in that moment. It was as if something had solidified inside him: the thing that was only an act had been real all along.

Despite everything: the coldness of the day; the bus that never came; the subsequent walk through bleak outskirts into overcrowded city, despite these things, Ian was happy.