I’ve had a really rough time coming up with stories. Either the inspiration isn’t there, or I start but don’t have the stamina to finish or the story just doesn’t materialise. It’s so annoying! But today, an old trick helped me out (mentally making up opening sentence one-liners until something felt right) and I ended up having a little fun. The original opener was : ‘I hadn’t intended to make her cry.’ But once the story came together, I ended up modifying it for a better fit.
Balance of a Cat
All I’d wanted to do was surprise her, not make her cry. But she was a crybaby–a fact I never let her forget–and the tears and snot glistening on her pinched, pink face were as expected as the annoyance I felt every time. Still, she was my cousin, we were the same age, and in a town as small as ours, choices of playmates were slim.
‘I hate that you always get me in trouble,’ she moaned from behind me. She swatted at the tree branches whipping her in the face, her crying intensifying by the second. ‘I have a math test second period.’
I kept a steady pace on the trail, leading the way into the woods. The shrubs were thick, and the ground almost bouncy underfoot from they layers of dead leaves and dirt. ‘Then why’d you come?’
‘Because you told me to!’
Of course. Like some kind of living robot, she didn’t have it in her to say no, though I guess that’s why I always dragged her along on my expeditions. Hearing her sniffling and sniveling behind me, I felt a little bad. Unlike me, she was smart and could actually one day get out of this pinprick of a town. She was aiming for a scholarship to a good university and had the brains to do it, too. I handed her a balled up tissue from my pocket so she could wipe her snotty face.
‘I like school!’ She blew her nose. ‘You’d better not mess this up for me.’
I sighed. ‘I’ll get you to school before your test, OK? Anyway, we’re almost there. You’ll see, it’ll be worth it.’ I pushed through the last of the trees and kept going until I reached the cliff’s edge. I stood on the cusp, took a deep breath, and spread my arms into the rays of the early morning sun. ‘Isn’t it amazing! From here, you can see the whole world!’
‘Cow-Town’, or Dunsville as it was officially known, was more farmland than anything else but, to me, it was a green stain on the fringe of everything else that lay beyond it’s borders. ‘The world is waiting for me, cousin. One day, I’ll find my own way out of here.’
I heard her quiet step behind me.
‘Well?’ I asked, pointing.
‘It’s kinda scary. Everything looks…so big, so spread out.’
‘Makes you feel small, right? Maybe even insignificant?’
‘Maybe. I don’t know.’ She pulled at my shirt. ‘Let’s go. You could fall, and I wouldn’t want that.’
I waved her off. ‘I’m not going to fall. I’ve got the balance of a cat.’
‘You don’t have a tail. They use their tails to counter-balance, or something like that. I learned it at school, which is where we should be right now.’ She leaned a little closer towards the edge, though her feet remained glued to the ground.
‘Come on, not even one step?’ I waved towards the great beyond. ‘It’d be hard to find a better view than this—‘
My foot slipped before I ever knew what had happened. Actually, her scream and the sudden rush of cold air on my face stirred the latent sense of fear within me.
But the world fast approached. A growing green patch of grass, looming before my eyes.
In truth, this was probably the only way a poor, dumb boy like me could earn salvation. So, I closed me eyes and embraced it.
Copyright @2017 by Dyane Forde