Short Stories on Tall And True

Not Lost Bench

Not Lost by Gabriel Shaw

  12+  Years. That’s how long it’s been. Years that have apparently flecked my hair with wispy white fingers and drawn the times of see-saws, slippery dips, and little lolly-smeared faces to a jarring end.

Everyone I know is gone.

There’s a gurgle of noise. Walk signals are shrilling, and cars purring. Lost inside are the conversations of old deaths and new lives, spilt coffee, and bad bosses.

I take a seat. The same seat I always take. The one just after the lip in the cement footpath. The one just outside the place that smells vaguely of pizza and better times. People walk past; I feel their air and smell out those who are wearing deodorant and those who aren’t.

I lift my head as something licks my hand.

“She won’t bite,” a voice says. “Just a pup I got the other day. Not sure I regret it.”

“Trouble?” I say.

“If you call chewing my hubby’s new shoes trouble, then yeah.”

I let out a whistle. “You a bad boy?” I say, reaching out my hand. It touches something soft, and slightly warm. Like a newborn. “Don’t let that get you down, eh?” I say.

“Oh, it won’t, not even Rob’s slipper got him down. He just stared like he couldn’t get enough. C’mon Roxy,” she says.

There’s a clip-clap of claws on the pavement, and then he’s gone. Like all the rest.

The bench seat is slightly rougher than I remember, slightly more jagged on the edges.

Murky pictures, loosely attached to fading memories, come like a tidal wave. Days when the sun shone, and the grass was green. I remember the sky, and I remember faces. The face of my daughter, golden light playing across her cheeks, then her eyes reflected in the fractured nursing home mirror.

They’re not lost; they tell me that every day. But voices aren’t the same. I can smell her frangipani shampoo and feel the wetness of her just-showered hair, but now her hair is always dry. It takes them half an hour just to visit, and it takes me half an hour to convince the desk staff

I’m not a POW.

They won’t let me out, telling me it’s too dangerous. Today, I crossed the line. Sarah says I’m welcome to call her 24/7, but last time I took the liberty, I wasn’t as welcome as she made out. We still went, though. Up to the top of the water tower at the very top of town. She told me the lights were sparkling, and I could, for almost a moment, see them.

The breeze was enough. The cold chill and the dampness in the air.

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I reach for my stick and feel the knobby handle. My other hand adjusts the sunnies.

“As if you need them,” a schoolkid said when I strayed onto the wrong street.

“Maybe not, but they say I should wear them all the same,” I replied. I can’t be sure if he heard me, but I don’t really care. Words don’t change the world, they never have. Words are lost on paper, lost to time, lost to ears.

But the sparkle of stars and the misty shroud of rainbows, and the faces of people…

They may be gone, but they will never be lost.

© 2022 Gabriel Shaw 

Thanks to un-perfekt from Pixabay for sharing the bench image.

I wrote this piece of fiction more as an experiment to see how challenging it would be to try and give readers a ‘visual’ without actually giving a visual.

I had been thinking about the concept and developing it for a while, then sat down one afternoon and decided to give it a go.

My name is Gabriel. I’m a young Australian who loves to write short stories, and I am currently working on the second draft of my first novel. I’ve been a voracious reader since I was aged 9 (thank you, Enid Blyton). I also love cats, chess, golf, and ancient history.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. ~ Maya Angelou

Tall And True showcases the writing — fiction, nonfiction and reviews — of a dad and dog owner, writer and podcaster, Robert Fairhead. Guest Writers are also invited to share and showcase their writing on the website.

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