Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Daisy Chains by Rufus Woodward

Rufus Woodward's character recounts how a serendipitous series of events stoked a precious old memory.

I was moving boxes from a store cupboard. I had piles of things I still needed to keep, and piles I'd made of things I didn't want anymore. Everything on the second pile I was moving out of the house, taking them outside to be picked up with the rest of the trash. That's when I first noticed it.

It fell out from a box of old notebooks. Some were mine, some were books you'd left behind when you moved out. I'd decided I didn't want any of them anymore. I didn't stop to look at them or check what was in them or anything, I just decided they were to go and that was that. A small folded scrap of looseleaf paper slipped out of the box as I lifted it and fell down on the floor beside me. I saw it as it fell. I don't like leaving a mess behind me, so I bent down to pick it up and stuffed it in my back pocket. That was all. I didn't think anything of it.

Much later on, days later, I was rifling through my jeans pockets looking for some change for a bus fare and I came across it for a second time. This time around I was too rushed to look at it for what it was but for some reason, for no reason at all more likely, rather than scrunch it up and toss it in the bin I held it in my hand for long enough to put it down on the table by the front door before I left the house.

This tabletop is the place I put things I don't have time for right now but might want to look at later. Anything that lands there often stays put for a very long time. This little scrap of paper was no different. It sat on top of that table and it did what all such papers do - it gathered dust and it gathered company. Within just a few days it was covered over and buried under receipts and torn envelopes, letters from the Council, take-away fliers. It lay there and it waited for me to be ready for it again.

I can't say for certain how long it waited. It is a small miracle really that it ever survived at all. I did tidy things away occasionally during those months, I tossed other things out as rubbish, but for some reason never this one little scrap of looseleaf paper. I don't recall paying it any attention, but at the same time it's also true that neither did I discard it completely. Whatever the reason, it happened. It survived and it remained there long enough for me to find it again one more time.

This time there were no distractions. This time I opened the folded scrap up and saw what it was you had left there for me. It was a drawing of me. Black ink lines scratched on smooth cream writing paper. I recognised the paper. I recognised the ink too. This was the paper you used to write to me with, in that year before we lived together. This wasn't from a letter, though, it was something you drew one day to make me smile. I remembered it clearly. I remembered sitting watching you draw it. It was just a simple stick figure, but obviously me all the same. I was sitting on the ground under a tree. Around my knees, around my neck, around my wrists was wrapped a long chain, tying me down in restraints like a prisoner. Except these were no ordinary shackles. I was trapped in a chain made of daisies. Every link in the chain was a flower, every tiny petal beautifully caught by your clever pen. On my face, in the drawing, I had an enormous grin. Under the drawing you had written some words:

John bound in chains
stronger than iron
as strong as wishes
stronger than words
as strong as kisses.

I laughed when I saw it. A loud laugh that burst out of me then quickly caught in my throat and became a lump in my chest that swelled and swelled until I had to stop looking at the picture. I had to fold it up and put it down to stop me from crying. I remembered that day so clearly. I could smell the grass that we lay on. I could see the sun through the trees and feel the heat of it. I remembered all the things we did that day, all the things we said. I remembered the hours we'd taken making those daisy chains. Hundreds of daises, our fingernails green with sap and yellow with pollen. I remembered laughing as you tied me up. I remembered too the things you didn't put in your drawing. Like the chains we made for you too. The chains that wrapped around your neck and your hands. The chains that held you down. The chains that bound you together with me.

I remembered all these things and thought suddenly of all the dozens of small miracles that had led this small scrap of paper to be in my hand. The box of notebooks you forgot to take with you when you left. The removal men who carried them to my new place when I'd left them out for the rubbish lorry. The second life it found in my jeans pocket and on my sideboard. All these tiny pieces of good fortune that kept this daisy chain from being forgotten for ever. I thought of all these miracles and I wondered why none of them came to help us when we were trying so hard to stay together. I wondered how many miracles we would have needed for that to have happened. I thought of this and I wondered how many chances we missed, and whether we would ever have been wise enough to take them if they arrived.

13 comments:

  1. A beautiful, wistful short story told with care to let the the feelings build. I enjoyed it immensely, Thank you,
    Ceinwen

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  2. i found this superb, thought provoking and beautifully written, conveying perfectly the narrator´s feelings

    Mike McC

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  3. A good portrayal of a relationship gone bad.

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  4. Elegant and riveting, simple and sweet, just right - I love it. Thank you.

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  5. Chuck, Charity, E-bay, Keep. I love a good clear out! But the missing category which Rufus has so skilfully inserted here is ‘Limbo’. The scrap of paper exists in a state of uncertainty which only increases on opening it. There’s no resolution; only that void of anguish over something gone, vanished, missed. Packs a lot of reader emotion into a few words.
    B r o o k e

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  6. Touching, sentimental, and wise. Words well spent. A couple paragraphs were pronoun-heavy but not enough to derail the flow. Well done!

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  7. Thoughtful story written in clear and flowing prose. Great stuff! :)

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  8. I so enjoyed this sweet story --- excellent.
    "I just decided they were to go and that was that."
    But it wasn't.

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  9. What a dear, heart-filled story. And written with a very authentic and sympathetic voice. Loved it!

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  10. Very nice. I like how the straight-forward writing lets the emotion come through.

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  11. A lovely story - fiction, I presume, although it needn't be. The past does tend to linger, doesn't it? And it's the paper chains that seem hardest to break.

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  12. The forgotten scrap of paper is a deceptively simple way of evoking a whole relationship. Lovely.

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  13. I was moved by the image of chains which were not strong enough to bind, yet too strong to completely let go. Well done.

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