CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
I was taken aback, since no-one had ever delved so deeply into my mind, which had previously always been a private place. I was not sure what was expected of me but her question seemed to demand a reply. Not wanting to mention anything I should not—things, for instance, that perhaps my primary school teacher might frown upon—I told her she had a pleasing personality, at which point her personality transformed. She took the oar from me and tossed it into the lake, saying, “So, that’s what you think of me, is it!”
When the oar hit the surface of the lake I thought it threw up, what seemed like, congealed lumps of black water which landed in the boat, but when I looked more closely I noticed the lumps were alive and thrashing about. I lifted my feet clear of them and told her, “Well, it’s true; and also, you’ve always seemed most considerate.”
She took the other oar and tossed it over the side, sending more of those black lumps of living matter flying into the boat as she told me, “If only I’d known! I suspected something was wrong.”
The boat drifted on the barely perceptible current for a full eight years, all the time my body becoming ever more infested with those black fish-things which kept leaping from the water, landing in the boat and somehow finding shelter beneath my skin. I could not move without three or four of them stirring into action and testing the integrity of my skin as they did so, as a repeatedly opened wound is tested by the probing of a surgeon’s knife. Finally, it seemed my skin was no longer able to protect me from the world’s scrutiny, and yet still the woman kept beating me with my own words. I learnt to say nothing, which silence then became the club she would use to probe my wounds even more deeply with.
One day the boat came to rest on the shore and I ran for cover. I did not look behind me for two whole days, in which time the garden became a desert. My mouth was dry and as I continued to run—and my run gradually became a walk—I could feel those fish-things drying and falling from my skin, which, as the days and weeks went by, healed under the warm glow of the sun.
At the age of forty-two, I came upon a train carriage in the desert and I stumbled into it. It soon began to move. There was a feeling of inevitability about its motion, as though its passengers had no opinions of any value and would travel in whatever direction the train took them in. I noticed a group of people gathered around a table, watching the lighted candles on a birthday cake.
“Is this for me?” I said, amazed. I could not help it—the sight of that cake transported me to a period prior to when that first exam paper was placed on my primary school desk. Strange though it seems, I felt like skipping with glee. I watched a young child blow out the candles and then, as he looked up to me and said, “Thank you, daddy,” my heart sank.
I sat on a seat and watched the world pass by. I had no idea where the train was taking me. At the next stop, I got off and was in the garden again. I wandered its paths, looking for a haven for my troubled mind. A sign above a potting shed read “Place of Peace”. I, of course, entered. I sat in a deck chair, for I was tired after my journey.
In the first two minutes of my occupancy, I listened to the sounds from outside diminishing, as though they were retreating from me. All that was then left was silence, which I listened to like I had listened to no other sound in my life. The silence seemed to engulf me—as the darkness of a moonless night in the wilderness might. And out of that wilderness I then heard approaching footsteps. They entered the potting shed and a man’s voice asked, “Are you sitting comfortably?”
Over the past year, this little oversight of Sally’s resulted in an unpleasant situation in the goldfish bowl. In the beginning, Bruce taunted Sheila about his name—Bruce finding it immensely funny that Sheila had such a sissy, girlie name. And Bruce went on taunting Sheila for several months, until even Bruce eventually became tired of the joke. But to Sheila, Bruce’s “bit of fun” just seemed like wanton mockery. And right to this day, Sheila never forgot about it. But since (from Bruce’s point of view) it was all merely a bit of fun, Bruce could never understand Sheila’s reaction. Bruce (as far as he could see) had never done anything to hurt Sheila, so it always seemed that Sheila was behaving in a “moody” or “argumentative” way merely for the sake of it.
In this way, over the past year (as a result of Sally’s “help’) the relationship between the two fish became somewhat strained.
Bruce Softly was leisurely circling the goldfish bowl and then came to rest beside Sheila Softly.
Sheila said, almost spitting the words out, “There you are, Bruce!”
Bruce said, cautiously, “Yes... here I am, Sheila—”
“Well, where’ve you been?”
Bruce tried to glance casually out of the bowl while saying, “Oh, just swimming round the bowl, Sheila, just—”
“You didn’t tell me, Bruce; I might have wanted to come.”
Bruce sighed, “You can always come next time, Sheila.”
“But that’s not the point—you know I like to swim round the bowl.”
Bruce snapped, “You’re pathetic!”
“You’re pathetic—you should have told me.”
“I’ll tell you next time, alright—!”
“Are you shouting at me, Bruce?”
“No!”
“Yes you are.”
“I’m not!”
“You are!”
“I’m not! I’m not! Okay—?”
Sheila looked away and said nothing.
Bruce shouted, “Alright if I breathe, is it—?”
Sheila said nothing.
Bruce snapped, “Right! I’m going for a swim round the bowl—you coming?”
Sheila continued peering silently out of the bowl.
Bruce said, “Right... I’m going then—”
Silence.
“Don’t say I didn’t—”
Sheila shouted, “Just go!”
“Right—” Bruce turned, glanced back at Sheila, looked away, glanced back at him again, then angrily swam off.
Sheila sighed, glanced up at Bruce, then looked away and sighed again. Bruce swam by above him, angrily glancing down at him. Sheila continued looking away and merely sighed yet again—but this time even more deeply.

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