The Short Story

Entry by: writerYNKGHTYLDE

22nd May 2015
He sat. Took a deep breath. And listened.
Listened to nature.
Summer's evening birdsong. Bleating lambs.
And watched.
Watched cows walking slowly across the pasture.
Smiled at swallows swooping.
Marvelled at a flock of gulls flying high on the evening thermals heading out towards the deep blue estuary.
Smelled the sweet cut grass of the manicured lawn near where he sat on the old weathered wooden chair.
The smoke of a compost fire from a house across the field, rising gently into the pale blue evening sky.
Felt the hairs on the back of his neck, a knot in his stomach, and touching his chest, the gentle beat of his heart.
Most of all he felt alive.
He'd quit his job only hours earlier.
He'd never felt so free.
He'd told no-one yet.
This was his time. Amid the calm. The storm could wait.
His time to think about the short story he'd always longed to write.
On the small table which he'd inherited from his recently deceased father, next to his favourite drained, stained golden Wedgwood mug complete with scripted signature, lay a pile of books. Among them well-thumbed copies of Life's Little Ironies, one of his favourite childhood short story collections by Thomas Hardy, and his modern favourite Roddy Doyle's Two Pints, alongside a faded, copy of Norman Nicholson's Five Rivers.
The poet's latter collection was written only yards from here, looking across the Duddon Estuary, more than 70 years earlier. The hardback, first published in another era, even had the receipt still inside where it had been bought at the treasure trove that is Barter Books in the former Alnwick Station.
But unlike those accomplished, published, and famous names, this aspiring author didn't know where to start his own short story.
"What did he want to say?" a friend had asked. "What did he want the world to know?"
He could feel it, the energy, the desire inside to get it down on paper. It burned so bright he knew he had it in his power, in his mind, within his gift, he could almost cradle it in the palm of his hands.
But like a shy child, the words wouldn't flow.
In his mind, looking back on his life, what he wanted most was the world to avoid his mistakes.
To grasp opportunities in front of them before it's too late.
That's what he'd tell any decade now. Whether aged 10, 20 or more, grab hold of life, live it, love it. Don't hold back for fear of embarrassment or personal pride. By the time you near 50, you see the futility of such reticence.
The shortest of short stories, life itself, revolves around words of one syllable.
'Yes', 'No'.
It doesn't matter whether they're uttered amid the swirling noise of Trafalgar Square, or the tranquility of a Lakeland field, their repercussions change lives.
For the person listening, in the very moment of the lips parting, the mouth opening, the first hint of a word being formed, they stand there motionless, powerless, awaiting their fate.
And, after that briefest of moments, the person uttering that shortest of words, has the whole of the rest of their life to sit and regret the wrong word chosen, the wrong decision taken.
Such simple words, yet with the power to make or destroy them both. There is no going back. Trust either bonded, or broken.
Doors opening. Doors closing. The noise disappearing into the distance of a last underground train missed, the warm summer air flowing away behind it. Then. Just. Silence. Like the whole world stops.
The temptation. Screaming 'no'. Running down long, dark tunnels, that lead to nowhere.
The hardest journey, dragging yourself up into the harsh, blinding light, to step out into the deafening cacophony of noise and face the world once more.
The more knocks, the more 'no's, the harder that climb becomes.
Then one-day when you're not looking, when you've given up searching, when your head is down, your heart long-hidden, it's as if you're hit by another tube train emerging from nowhere, hurtling in the opposite direction, screeching out of that dark tunnel at breakneck speed, only one word, three letters, 'yes', written large up front.
It thumps into you, takes your breath away, smashes into your stomach, rips into your heart, and carries you along like some crazy fairground ride, jolting you from side to side, your feet dangling in mid-air, like they will never touch the ground again.
It's the best, purest, most exciting, feeling in the whole world.
You wish the train would never stop. Wish you never have to get off.
Life gets in the way, say so many. Throws you off eventually. Battered and bruised.
But does it have to?
Who says it does?
What do they know anyway?
Even if it's never been done before, who says we can't ride in that whirling carriage for ever?
If, when, the crash comes, it's no wonder the result is almost fatal.
Heart smashed in two, feelings strewn all over the tracks, mind in pieces, body in bits.
Recovery and recuperation is a long, painful despairing journey.
But years on, sitting now, looking and listening, he at last feels some joy.
He sees the beauty in nature once more. He listens, he sees, he smells, he feels.
And most of all when he thinks of her now, his heart still misses a beat, and he smiles.
Not only because he remembers that warm glow, but because he knows he's got what it takes to put it down in words, how wonderful, how precious, life is.
That short story, those words, like those from the names who have gone before him, will live long in the memory after he's gone. That's his legacy.
That's what's behind his summer's evening smile.