Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Walking On - Short Story

Back in March I joined a writers' group in the town where I work during the week.  Partly it was because aside from the unpleasant situation at work and trying to remain happy and yet deal with problems at home, I realised I was not talking to anyone.  To some degree that got me into a situation of simply bouncing between the demands of home and work with no let out.  Even after the first meeting I realised I should have come to the group much sooner as I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and the people, a real mixture, were friendly.  Having a common interest in writing, which can be very much influenced by yourself and the challenges you are facing is a good outlet when under stress.  The sessions are split into two parts with us doing an activity in one part and reading our own work in the other.  This has led me to write very short pieces of fiction in response to the stimuli we are given and I have decided to post them here.  In length, this one is 380 words, they are more like what is now fashionably termed 'flash fiction'; the Bridport Prize competition defines flash fiction as being under 250 words, so maybe I do not fit with that precisely.

This story was inspired by listening, at the writers' group, to the Clair de Lune movement of the Suite Bergamasque written by Claude Debussy in 1890 and published in 1905.  Not knowing the background of the piece I was inspired by the music itself to think of sunny fields.  Whilst the latter parts of the piece seem to have a 'darkness' I translated that into grief rather than actual night-time.  The sense I had was that this story is set in the 1920s and features a woman returning to the battlefields of northern France where her brother was killed in the First World War.  However, as it is written it could easily be applied to the post-Second World War period or to other conflicts, probably in Europe given the landscape described.

Walking On
The wind swept across the wheat as they walked along the track.  The clouds skittered across the sky sending bands of light and dark over the land.  Anne looked to the horizon.  Beyond the woods lay the shore, but from where they walked now, it was concealed.  She looked across the fields to either side not really knowing what she was seeking.  She both wanted and did not want to catch sight of some scar, some ruin from what happened here barely four years ago.  There was a derelict farm building but that could have been seen many decades back, nothing showed her that it was shells that had wrecked it. 

David walked a little ahead of her and she stepped to draw level with him: to gather from more than simply his stance how her felt.  His hand clasped Charles’s; the boy’s entirely encompassed by his father’s.  That gesture should have been something signalling hope and yet, like so many shards of things; things that would come to any of her senses it thrust into her.  It thrust painfully as she remembered holding her first Charles’s hand much the same way: the hand of her brother, not so much smaller than her own, not as much as the difference between that of her husband and her son. 

Was it a mistake to be here?  Not for the first time did her brother’s form watch her from the shadows at the edge of the woodland.  She banished it once more with the shake of her head and looked up the road, beyond the trees to where the painfully light, shard-infested blue of the sea beneath the smooth paste blue of the sky came into sight.  Anne stared hard, trying to catch as many glints as she could in her eyes to burn out the hanging weight of grief.  She took her son’s other hand in her own to make a structure, a fence of life, of young and mature skin, of energy.  She felt that she could draw strength from it and whilst David could not see her she gazed at his red-touched skin that she knew by every pore and down to the hair of her son, swept like the wheat by the breeze.  She walked on.

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