The Hemingway Day with five seconds of Friday fiction…
Amidst unfamiliar pandemonium, she remembered loneliness.
Letting my pencil run away with itself again today with a free writing task…
As each limb twisted you could see muscles sliding beneath dense black tufts of fur. He was short and stocky, a compact beast with a thick skin. He thudded through the green reeds and shook the ground with every step. Any obstacle that sat in his path was torn or battered with a fierce might that would strike down most in one fatal blow. His shoulder blades rippled underneath the skin as he forced his way through the jungle, his thick fingers grasping at everything within reach, inspecting it before throwing it away or throwing it down his gullet.
They usually travelled in troops. But he was a lonely soul. Originally it wasn’t by choice, but today he wouldn’t want another way. They were forever taught they needed each other to survive, but he had proven that the strongest need only themselves.
He spied her cowering in the distance. He could sense the eyes on his back and he turned to find her recoiling between the vines, looking tentatively upwards at him. Her eyes weren’t like the others. He recognised their haloed amber. This is what had drawn him in before.
The mighty beast bowed his head and held his hand out to her. She edged at the beckoning gesture, slowly foot-stepping towards him. His eyes had grown sadder since the last time. Then she was drawn in by the pools of fury but now they were saturated with longing.
As she reached his side there came a cry from behind, he tensed without hesitation, pushing her behind him, flaring his chest and standing tall whilst scrutinising every corner in search of the noise. He winced as she grasped his rigid arm, but he dismissed her and started to violently hack at the surrounding wilderness.
After moments of study he admitted defeat and retreated to her side. She touched his face with her forefinger and turned to show him what she had been cradling on her back. The miniature beast had the same amber halo of her eyes, but it was flecked with the burnt orange that blazed within his own.
The taut muscles in his face started to soften. His thick brow raised upwards and his menacing glare turned into something that she had never seen in him before. He was smiling.
I started my first retail job in a children’s shop at the innocent age of sixteen. Apart from having to tidy up after masses of misbehaving little ones, it became the norm of a Saturday job for a teenager funding her first summer holiday away from the eyes of a watchful parent or two. As was expected, I witnessed the odd tantrum, whether it was courtesy of a little girl not getting the party dress that she wanted, or a boisterous toddler not in appreciation of the smart outfit he had to wear for a weekend wedding in the country. Nevertheless this story comes from a new mother not quite keeping her eye on the ball, or her baby for that matter…
The boutique’s tumbling displays stretched around a wooden playpen. As was a mother’s prerogative to shop, so was a child’s to be entertained whilst waiting.
The playpen was filled with various second hand toys that reminded me of my childhood; the Fisher Price phone, the Playmobil house and a pack of wobbling Weebles.
After browsing for some time, the latest dithering stressed mother had decided to go for a coffee and return caffeine fuelled and decision made. I thanked her and went about tidying the chaos she’d left in her indecisiveness.
As I wandered towards the aforementioned mess I noticed the strap of a handbag snaking across the floor. Quickly seizing the bag, I ran out the door to see if I could set eyes upon its owner. She was, of course, nowhere to be seen. Ambling back into the shop I bent down to place it behind the counter in the hope that she would realise and return to collect it. As I did so, a noise emanated from behind me, in the direction of the playpen. I slowly stood up and turned around with trepidation to come face to face with a smiling toddler chewing on Mr Potato Head’s arm.
Panic washed over me as I wondered if the woman had expected a complimentary babysitting service alongside her coffee and decision time.
Nevertheless, amidst my horror and alarm, the little bright-eyed toddler was seemingly unbothered by the fact his mother had walked away without him, and more concerned that Mr Potato Head’s body wouldn’t completely fit in his dribbling mouth.
After what felt like a lifetime, but actually transpired to be just ten minutes, a panic stricken mother ran into the shop at full speed.
“My baby, my baby, I am so so sorry!”
“He’s fine” I replied, hauling his body out of the playpen as she took hold of his face, simultaneously inspecting him and giving him kisses in a bid to wipe away the guilt.
“You left your handbag too” I said, gesturing towards the bag I had found.
Embarrassed, she walked over to pick up the handbag and placed it on her toddler’s pushchair. After apologising profusely, she paid for her gift and went to open the door, checking she had all her belongings tucked up safely into the buggy. As her foot touched the pavement, she gave a knowing smile, rolled her eyes and came back to my side of the counter.
I somewhat begrudgingly passed the child into her arms as she apologised again and strapped him into his seat. As she left I couldn’t help but worry about what little adventure he may be subjected to next.