Short story LSO
I see a sun-bathed field strewn with children, laughing, screaming, running. I see one tag another and backpedal. The new It takes off like a shot. As I watch, two of them give up the game. While the others continue, they sequester themselves in the embrace of a watchful oak tree. The taller one, his cheeks as round and protuberant as his belly, waits gallantly while the small raven-haired girl practically leaps into the branches, before he struggles upward himself. And there they sit, talking, for hours.
What about, I can't say. It's not my business.
The next day, there they are. Days pass and there they are again. Day after day, week after week. And when they're not in the tree, they're in the playground, with friends and siblings, entertaining themselves in all the creative ways children will. But before long, they're back up in the tree, swinging side by side, lying in the grass to admire the clouds or stars.
I lose track of how many days go by like this. I forget how many hours they spend together in blissful companionship. I can't say how many years pass before the tree becomes empty, and the swings creak only by the force of a passing breeze.
She still comes. But he doesn't. Where did he go? I suppose that's not my concern.
The tree sighs in the wind and weeps with the rain. It seems lonely without the two children nestled in its branches, as bare as it would be stripped of its leaves.
I notice her step beneath its canopy. I pause to watch. She caresses its bark. I wish I could see what thoughts pass through her mind, that I could comfort her and assure her. She wipes away the tears and turns her back on the tree.
Most of all I wish that I could find him and bring him back.
A year passes. Two. And then, at last, he returns. Yet so much has changed in those two years. He has changed. She, when they lay eyes on one another again--she, too, has changed.
It pains me to watch the pair, who had once interacted so closely, all but ignore one another. However, as I watch I can tell--yes, I can see it; he missed her. Maybe he didn't even realize until now, but he misses the old times. In his set jaw, his slackened smile, his heavy footsteps--it shows all too clearly.
Poor boy. It's too late now. It's too late. Those days are over.
But still, as I watch over the ensuing months I see them talking. I see them still playing tag and all the other little games a youthful mind can concoct with the children. Maybe they've only changed in size and shape. I see them swinging side by side again. They are walking together, their hands nearly brushing.
Oh, but she stops in her tracks. He turns and speaks earnestly.
It seems--yes, as it seems to me, he is trying to recover the propinquity they used to share. But words will never do for something like that. He's trying--oh, dear, he's trying far too soon, and far too hard. . . .
I can't hear them; it's no business of mine what they have to say to one another. But it's all too clear. She avoids his gaze. He continues to speak. She gives only short, simple responses, the curt words that females are so skilled in uttering. It hurts him. She's hurt, too. They're not angry, rather trying not to show any emotion at all. Then she walks away, leaving him standing alone, watching her go.
With a sigh I turn down another street, keep walking. It's no business of mine.
Days pass. He still comes, she still comes. They won't speak, they won't even look at each other unless the other's back is turned. But then, yes, then the doleful, yearning eyes look up. And then they look away.
It's none of my business. None of my business at all.
But does that mean there's nothing I can do?
Two sheets of paper. An ordinary pencil. Such are the ingredients that comprise an old wizard's magic potion.
The right words. Two doorsteps. Does it take anything more than that?
The remaining requirements will come naturally to them.
If it ever even happens that one realizes it was not the other's doing, they will never know whose it was. If they're sensible, they'll be content with the results and ignore the unknown cause.
I see them walking together. I see them talking. I can't hear what they say, but it's all too clear. The embrace they share speaks louder than any words.
They're coming along the sidewalk toward the bench where I sit. Even as they pass behind me I don't bother to listen to what they have to say. It's no business of mine.
~ * ~
In other news, my entry for the COT Short Story LSO contest is posted. The Twilight Game, my Library submission, is already up against a second- and third-placer. And no, I'm not complacent. I'm the humblest man alive!
. . . Okay, maybe I'm a little complacent.
Until next time,
Sincerely, Nuile: Lunatic Wordsmith