Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: FAMILY (01/21/16)
- TITLE: POWER CAPE
By Ruth Walker
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Dark, anxious eyes glanced at the speaker then quickly at nowhere. Nineteen years had taught him the rules of engagement applying to him; you have to reply politely, you don't have to sit with everybody, you have to eat something and you don't have to look. He settled into his corner, shielding his face with his hand on the dining room side where everyone had noisily gathered for lunch. He never missed a gathering like this.
And it was his month.
Someone's voice demanded attention over the excited babble at the table. "JJ's almost had the courage to go down the waterslide, but he's sure he'll do it if All-the-Family comes. 10 o'clock at the pool tomorrow."
In the corner, he grinned broadly, brushing his cheek with his hand repeatedly as he imagined the thrill of the ride.
"I think it'll only take a second," he'd said to his Aunt as they'd looked back at the blue sausage-tube snaking from the tower outside the pool the day before.
They'd gone there five days already. Three of those days, they'd lingered in the big pool to watch the dripping kids impatiently dancing on puddled cement, waiting in line, while every few moments another human missile shot out of the tunnel and splashed into the mini-pool beside.
On the fourth day he'd stood at the bottom of the tower, arm stretched back to touch the pillar behind, other hand shielding an eye, and one foot hovering tentatively over the first stair. Skinny kids dashed past, glancing uncertainly to see if it was okay to push in.
On day five he gripped his Aunt’s hand stiffly and made a dash up the stairs, pausing briefly at each landing to make the peace sign to a public he imagined was watching.
Only the tunnel entry to go.
Another vial of courage shot through him and he was in there, the rush of water urging him, his body stretched full length down the entry of the surging tube.
"FIVE - FOUR - THREE - TWO - ONE!" the waiting kids had yelled brightly. That did it. No way could he go now. They'd invaded the story and it didn't go like that. Quickly he jerked himself out of the tunnel entrance and let them pass.
"It's the last day of the year", Aunty Bunch had said to him, "How about you have a fresh start next year?"
"Yes I think next year I'll go in there,” he’d said. He took her forearm and pulled her urgently down the stairs. "I think it'll only take a second."
It had been his month. All-the-Family had been rallied online to pray every day for him. On the last day they gathered for a meal and one final prayer, no touching. They told him he hadn't been given a spirit of fear, but of power. He liked that. He could imagine his Power cape.
The little kids didn't know the touching rule and sometimes when the family got together they'd pull on his hand. At 10 o'clock at the pool the next day, little Jordie-May tried to yank him to the stairs. Rigid, he held onto the poolside and looked away.
Cousin Beth always made things look like fun. Up they dashed. "FRESH START!" she yelled as he gripped the tunnel, knuckles white, resisting the surging water.
"I KNOW! HOW ABOUT I GIVE YOU A PUSH!"
The words were like electricity on his wet form, bolting him from the tunnel entrance in one powerful burst of strength.
They called at Maccas on the way home to celebrate nearly doing it.
Mary arrived on time, got her instructions with her pay and drove him to the pool. She had a headache still from New Years.
"No, I'm not up to it today," she replied when he said he thought he'd like her to come up the tower. "You do it. I'll watch from here." She sat down and took out her phone.
Later, she couldn't quite say when he did it first. Her Facebook session over, she looked up just as he spewed from the tunnel, a mound of water thrust before him and spilling over the pool's edge. Shining, he gave Mary the thumbs-up and grinned broadly, baring his teeth and squinting his eyes in an expression of pained exhilaration. Claiming his place in line, he reached back for the pillar and adjusted his cape.
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