Sometimes we struggle to sleep, or fight to stay awake.
It would have been better if the door had remained locked.
"Benny! Oh Ben!" His voice rose in a bellow thick with phlegm, a quavering groan, trailing off to blend with the restless leaf canopy sighing above them all.
The reflection of his drooping head in the polished lid began to blister as fat drops of spitting rain formed tiny bubbling patterns. Strings of clear liquid beads linked with those from his eyes, to fall and roll across sodden petals.
Martin Bellchamber’s mouth hung open, small white flecks in the corners; his eyes remained unblinking, for once as unseeing as the eyes of his wife. He ignored the gusts, the distant thunder and the weeping crowd. His blonde haircut was frizzy with angry denial of the dampness.
"Mum, why is the man staring like a birdie?" The child’s voice, though clear and sweet, went unheard by the stooping man. “Shush!” hissed scolding red-eyed parents, clutching the child tightly to them, their eyes downcast, avoiding the scene.
Martin's head was cocked to one side, listening. He saw a sun-drenched yard, swing set, sandpit and toy trucks.
He could hear one of Chopin's Nocturnes tinkling faintly on a piano, Jenny his wife practising, with a sliding cello** bow joining her ivory keys in acrobatic union.
Legs in a tiny pair of jeans, dancing footsteps tottering this way and that, keeping step with the music; the little boy with mischievous chortles, minces across the back porch with chubby hands held aloft. His arms surround an invisible friend.
The grass is freshly cut and the sprinkler lulls Daddy to sleep. Lying on the warm deck chair like lost baggage, Martin is claimed by shift worker fatigue.
The lawn mower sits cooling, out of reach of small fingers through the shed door. Past the RAV* and out across neighbor's paddocks, distant cattle graze, black hides hot and shiny.
Martin in his sleep, reaches out toward the shed door. His lips form fuzzy sounds in his dream. You are safe now, my son. The cello throbs indistinctly through the glass pane and purrs in seductive agreement.
It would have been better if the door had remained locked
He awakens to a puzzling dread; a strange dog on their property. How did it get in here? Whining, the cold nose pokes his shins, shaking water over him, tail drooping.
The sprinkler was strangled by the timer; evaporation has erased the dampness from the pavers.
“Jenny…. Jenny!” his voice cracks with volume and alarm. The Nocturne that haunts his dream still floats from the windows; blinds drawn in defence against the evening sun.
As he leaps up and runs, he knows her eyes are blameless. She wouldn't damage them if she stared into a solar flare for an hour.
The cello swells like a warning siren but the shed door is closed.
Unfathomable, the yard though full of objects, shouts absence.
His heart that was flung as high as the clouds now drops to cower in shadow. He refuses to consider. He turns to listen to Chopin’s finest notes, the player's enjoyment of the chase as she gallops the scales to leap over rows of semi quaver hurdles; the cello diving and twisting like a swallow in flight.
The deceptive barrier yields to his unwilling hand as his fingers seek. The answer comes with a loosely swinging door bumping open against the corrugated iron wall.
It would have been better if the door had remained locked.
Chopin fades behind him, the notes instantly cease as his shoes slap across the concrete, skid behind the RAV*. The four wheel drive seems to shrug its panels and grunt, “I don’t care”, as his shins scrape painfully over the rear bumper contours and tow ball.
There is the muddy trail, culprit trotting at his heels, panting with spent exertion. A narrative of sandy footprints meanders beyond the driveway to merge with mud at the water’s edge. Martin Bellchamber reads each chapter with solid direction.
Here he sees the doggie’s efforts to drag the heavy soaked boy from slippery danger. There where the dam’s meniscus curves away, the struggle has teetered on the edge of “if only.” Over there, the unknown dog walks away, back into obscurity from whence it came, leaving behind a man kneeling in the squelching mud to hold their boy to his burning chest.
Jenny's ears, having the gift of perfect pitch, hear the silence. Guided by touch and echo she leaves the house through the deserted yard. Her slow motion is white hot calmness. Her control breaks as she knows, and runs to his side, folds over him, their puffing breaths blowing spittle unheeded.
They become sopranos harmonizing notes of desolation; knowing the ambulance is redundant.
As the gaping accompanist stumbles out of the shed, and steps toward the huddle, the fading sun loses its eternal battle and settles behind the far bank of earth.
Watched by a digger operator in yellow wet weather gear, they all rushed for their cars, some glancing at watches, already late for their board meeting or the washed out yearling sale. Today's yarding will clear early; improved beef prices with the general rainfall.
Chased away by lashing rain, ducking projectile thunder, they all left behind another bank of earth, the crowds along with Martin and Jenny Bellchamber sat drained as most of them partake of refreshments. No one will remember what they ate today. White mesh covered ceiling speakers haunt the empty rows of pews in the ceremony hall with Chopin's Sonata Largo.
The rain paused like a valve turned off.
In sprinkled converse, one penetrated the numbness. They turned as the group of gossipers announced their shrewish judgement into the sudden gap of quiet.
“It would have been better if the door had remained locked!”
The rain roared applause like a clapping audience.
Word count 1184
Written for the "Once Upon A Time Workshop/Contest"
*RAV is a Recreational All-terain Vehicle or common, garden variety four wheel drive.
**Dear Reader, and Reviewer.
I have been asked who the ellusive and invisible celloist is, considering there is no description of this person, nothing about them at all except that they are there. It's a good point to raise.
On reflection, I beleive this person is the witness to these events in this story. And, dear reader, that person is you. Yes, you were there at the beginning, at the funeral. You were also there playing the cello accompanying Martin's wife and then you heard and saw the events on the worst day of their lives. You probably comforted them, or tried to, made coffees for well meaning visitors, phoned relatives and police. You may have even been the one who rang for the ambulance, although it didn't need to rush, no lights or siren needed. Yes, it was and is, you. So the point of view is essentially Third person without the Omniscient input of me the writer. Well, that wasn't my plan, but it seems to me, that is how it formed in my mind as I wrote this piece. You decide. Thanks for reading this. Sparky.