Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Like Living in a Goldfish Bowl (11/07/13)
TITLE: Looking Out From the Inside
By Pauline Carruthers
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It was difficult to discern where the sea ended and the sky began. An endless march of white tipped waves advanced, retreated and advanced again up the stretch of brown sand. The old man sat on a bench, hunched against the wind, clumps of thick white hair escaping from beneath a well worn cap. A woman and child invaded his vision, the little girl blowing bubbles, excitedly watching the wind catch them, sending them flying high above her golden head.
“That’s me” thought Sam. “Trapped in a bubble and the wind takes me where I don’t want to go.”
The little girl reminded him of his daughter Sarah. He pictured her as a child, golden curls bouncing, tiny hand held in his own, trusting in his wisdom to know what was best for her. Now the roles seemed reversed and she expected him to allow her to know what was best for him. He wondered what his wife Emily would think. But Emily had been gone over a year now. He had just left a posy of wild flowers on her grave. She had always loved the wild things of God’s Creation.
The woman sat beside Sam on the bench and began to chat. She had a smile that lit up her face and a warmth that drew him to her. He thought he recognised her as someone he had last seen in the church he used to attend with Emily and remembered her name was Martha.
“You were lost in thought.” she said.
“I was just thinking. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a bubble, no privacy and all choices made for me. I love my daughter dearly. She and her husband are so good to me and my grandson is the light of my life. But I miss my freedom and I don’t feel useful anymore.”
Sam sat quietly, deep in thought again. He could almost hear Sarah’s voice above the wind.
“Hurry up and shut that door dad. Take off your shoes; put your slippers on. Hang up your coat and come into the kitchen. Put your bag away. What have you got in there. Have you been to the library. Did you remember to take your books back? You will have to clean your shoes for tomorrow. You know we’re going to a Coffee Morning. Don’t forget to wash your hands before dinner.”
He turned to Martha, giving a half smile, feeling she had given permission for him to unburden.
“I feel like I live in a glass house. If I make coffee it has to be weak, because Sarah says strong coffee is bad for me. She watches, ready to mop up the spills. She hands me a plate before I even know if I want cake. She anticipates my every move. Right now I’m still capable of looking after myself, but if I stay with Sarah much longer I will become the child she thinks I am and she will become the parent she should not be. I want to get out of this bubble, yet I know she has encased me in it for my protection, because she loves me.”
Martha sighed, reflecting on Sam’s words. She sympathised and offered advice, based on her own experience. After losing her husband she had moved in with her son and his family for a short while.
“You need to take control again. Burst the bubble and step out into freedom. Come back to church. We have missed you in the Bible study group.”
The little girl circled Sam and Martha, laughingly blowing out a cascade of coloured bubbles that slowly rose on the wind, bobbing to and fro above their heads. Sam jumped up from the bench and grasping his cap, waved it backwards and forwards, popping the glorious bubbles until only one remained. Reaching into his pocket he drew out the keys to his cottage, stretched up and victoriously pierced the last beautiful bubble.
Sam sat in the garden in the comforting familiarity of his own home. The grass needed cutting and the borders weeding. Still he remained sitting on the old garden chair, sipping a cup of luxurious strong black coffee. He sighed contentedly, feeling more like himself again, able to fix what needed fixing as he had always done. He turned as the gate creaked open and Sarah appeared, struggling with a heavy bag.
“Dad, this lamp broke yesterday. Can you fix it for me?”
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