Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Compass Is Broken And Does Not Point North

The world outside was cold, dark and smelt of burnt cinders. He drew his coat close around him and set out for the barn. He looked out across his father’s land, so different to what he had once known. The spindly, barren trees reached up desperately into the night sky, as if searching for God’s hand to pull them free of the scarred earth.
They had been lucky. The fires had come awfully close.
The winds picked up as he reached the gate, and he saw that his father had been right again. The horses were spooked all right. The gales howled through the rafters with a haunting melody.
He moved to quiet the horses, their eyes like liquid fire.

* * *

His mother moved about setting the table and fretting. His father and Eli took their places at the table as he opened the door and came inside, shaking off his coat. He sat down as if in a dream, his mind in other worlds. His mother closed her eyes and began to say grace, but he didn’t hear or see it. Instead he saw the quivering ghost of his dreams: a place far away: a city.
A land so bright in his imagination, it shone and rippled like heat rising from the tarmac on the highway.
The highway.
The only paved road for miles, at least half an hour away from here.

He picked at his food. His father said nothing, eyes never leaving his plate.
The clock stuttered from its place on the wall.
Mother began to clear the plates. Eli excused himself and scampered upstairs to bed. His mother disappeared into the kitchen and returned with tea and coffee, setting the tray on the table and smoothing the tablecloth. He reached for his cup in the implacable silence, unnerved. He shut his eyes tight, unsure of what he feared most: continued silence or the questioning.
The steam rising from the cups seemed to cover the room in sinister mist.

* * *

He walked up the stairs with shrieking voices in his head, loud enough to cover the hushed tones of his parents’ voices down below.
The silence in the house lay shattered like glass.
He walked into Eli’s room. The little boy was in bed with a book in his hands, brow furrowed in concentration. He sat in the seat by the bed, watching his brother.
“Bobby, what does this word mean?”
“Aw c’mon. You know I’s never one for them fancy books.”
Eli looked pensive for a moment and then put down the book.
“Bobby… what did Mr Jamison say?”
“Ain’t no good news. Still no work for me,” he said with a grimace.
“Does that mean you’re gonna stay and keep helpin’ Daddy on the farm?”
“Don’t look like I got much else to do,” he said, smiling and punching his brother’s arm. He tousled the kid’s hair and said goodnight as he got up to leave. At the door he stopped and turned.
“Hey Eli. Whatchoo wanna be when you grow up?”
“A fireman,” he said sleepily.
“A fireman? Why you wanna be a fireman?”
“What’s better than being a fireman?”
Bobby smiled and shook his head.
“Goodnight, little buddy.”

* * *

He walked to his room, shut the door behind him and gazed out the window to the stars. The darkness hid the destruction from sight, but in his heart he knew it was there. No matter what happened tonight, come morning there’d be no birds singing in the trees.
The scars would remain.
He shut his eyes and leaned his head against the glass, hoping it would cool his burning mind. He wanted to rest to purge all thought from his mind. There were so many tough choices ahead. He thought about his little brother, so sure of himself.
A fireman, he thought.
He wished it could all be that simple.

No comments:

Post a Comment

SOUL ON TRIAL | Powered by Blogger | Entries (RSS) | Comments (RSS) | Designed by MB Web Design | XML Coded By