Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Pros and Cons (08/14/14)
- TITLE: Meditate at the Crossroads
By Pauline Carruthers
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I couldn’t resist laughing as I turned the corner, pushing my cap back into my pocket. Red roses tied with ribbon. He was a pushover, leaving his flowers in buckets of water all around his pathetic little stall. Marianne would love these. I got right to the front door of our second rate apartment, put my key in the rusty lock and scraped another sliver of peeling paint from the doorway. Marianne would know they were stolen. Sometimes I loved Marianne and sometimes, like right now, I hated her. If I went in with the flowers we would end up fighting. If I went in with nothing, she would sulk. Snatching the key from the lock, I walked round to the back of the apartment, dumping the flowers in the bin.
“Is that you Nick?”
“Who else has a key?”
Her wheelchair was still by the window. Her lovely raven hair hung over the scarred side of her face, brown eyes tearful. I felt the anger rising again. The familiar guilt feelings threatened a torrent of verbal abuse. She had once been like a beautiful butterfly, dancing her way up the ladder in the ballet world. Now she couldn’t even bear to listen to the music. If I hadn’t driven that car she would still be my free spirit. I had known it was risky but had weighed up the odds, guessing I wasn’t much over the limit. She could see my hands were empty, yet still asked if I had food. Wrenching my phone from my pocket I called Pizza Place and ordered two giant size with garlic bread.
When I swung the door open an unfamiliar figure stuck his foot in the doorway. It wasn’t the weedy guy with the limp and I was thrown off guard for a second. But taking him by surprise I snatched the pizza boxes and slammed the door shut.
“What did you expect me to do?” Thank him and say buy now, pay later.”
Marianne’s trembling hands irritated me as she devoured the pizza.
“You’ve changed Nick. We used to be happy and we still have options. We can get help.”
“I didn’t get a degree to take any job Marianne and I didn’t ask to get stuck with you in a wheelchair, living in a place like this. So just keep quiet and leave me to figure out the alternatives.”
“You were the drunken driver Nick.”
Throwing my pizza box against the wall I got up and left the apartment. I could hear Marianne’s wailing as I slammed the door shut. Sometimes I wished she would get angry, anything but this passive acceptance. It wasn’t even definite that she would be in that wheelchair for ever.
Striding down the road I almost smashed right into that blonde haired, blue eyed rugby playing friend of hers. They went to the same church. Facing him squarely I flicked my hair back, took the cap from my pocket and put it sideways on my head.
His expression softened my anger. It was hard to be angry in the face of such candour and humility. There was no threat in his eyes nor violence in his stance. He followed me to a nearby bar and bought drinks.
“You can get up and walk away Nick or you can listen. You can stay the way you are or you can quit feeling sorry for yourself. And make a life for you and Marianne.”
I stood up, thought better of it and sat down again. Beat and out of time, hating the person I had become.
“Register for work, any work. Look for a better apartment. The deposit is available. Just a loan. Or you could consider another college course and part time work. Or you could find other options. Weigh it all up Nick and make decisions, because you’re running out of time.”
He rested one hand on my shoulder before turning and walking out. I sat for a while, diffused and thoughtful, considering other options, before downing my drink and leaving the bar. Taking the longer route back to the apartment I passed the flower stall. The old guy was packing up for the day.
“Here you are mate. Last bunch of the day. Have them on me.”
I clasped the red roses tied with a wide ribbon, put my cap back in my pocket and strode purposefully back to the apartment. Maybe I’ll take Marianne to church tomorrow.
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