Hello! I wrote a rather long post then my internet dropped out and it didn’t save the post grrr. Anyway to sum it up I haven’t been able to post as much due to some tragic life events. But things are becoming more positive again and next year is shaping up to be a good year. The latest goss is i’m about to submit two manuscripts too my publisher for consideration but if things don’t go well there I will self-publish. Expect the first instalment of a sci-fi novella trilogy and another anthology about love overcoming adversity. I’m finishing the two synopses and will keep you up to date as to the progress once submitted. Any way lets get on with the short story.
This short story is called, ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’ that tells of a man who is stuck in a rut until a hippy girl challenges his view on the world and how to get up and go get it. For those to lazy to move your eyes back and forth I have an audio version from my page on SoundCloud. Be sure to check out the rest. So without further adue or adew or Andrew. Here it is!
A Breath of Fresh Air
‘So, what’s your name?’
‘I’m sorry. What?’
‘Your name. What is it?’
‘Why do you want to know?’
‘So I can introduce myself.
I blinked, confounded by this girl’s forthrightness.
‘Peter. My name is Peter.’
An enchanting young woman with a sparkle of life in her eyes and two braids in her hair offered her hand, ‘Nice to meet you, Peter. I’m Julie.’
I took her hand and gave a limp shake, unsure of her intentions, ‘Nice to meet you, Julie.’
I nodded again and gazed down the busy street and waited for my bus to arrive. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Julie rummage around in her tightly-knitted handbag, the kind of bag you’d associate with hippies. I was curious to know what she was searching for.
‘Where is it? Ah! Gotcha!’ From the bag she pulled out two gum sticks. She unwrapped the silver packaging and popped one strip in her mouth and chewed. Julie caught my attention and offered me a stick. ‘Want some?’
‘No, I’m right. Thanks though.’
Behind the slurping sound of her chewing gum she said, ‘I love gum. I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t love gum. Do you like gum?’
I looked at my watch then down the street. ‘I think my bus is late.’
‘Isn’t it strange,’ she continued, ‘that when you’re young you can’t live without chewing gum? We chew it in primary school and in high school, though we’re not allowed and all that. But when we get older we stop. Why is that?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘C’mon, you must know!’
‘I don’t know. Maturity maybe.’
‘Yes! We’re like on the same wavelength or something. We stop chewing gum because we think it’s not cool so we take up drinking or smoking. They’re killers you know, alcohol and cigarettes. Have you ever heard of anyone dying from chewing gum?’
I thought about it, ‘Well, if you swallow it you can’t – you know – the whole toilet thing.’
‘Is that a joke? Oh my god, you are joking! I thought you were all serious. I love gum, it gives my mouth something to do when I’m not talking.’
Oh for the silence of gum.
Julie eyed me up and down then asked, ‘So what do you do? You look all corporate.’
I looked down at my black suit and tie, the leather briefcase sitting by my suede shoes,
‘Why do you want to know?’
‘I don’t know. Just making conversation, man. You want to know what I do?’
‘I’m an aromatherapist. Isn’t that great?’
‘Yeah. That’s good,’ Come to think of it I wondered why I could smell jasmine.
‘I’m doing that part-time, I’m studying to be a taxidermist. I love animals.’
‘Well, that’s one way of looking at it.’ I raised my eyebrows and thought, okay then! There are moments in uncomfortable conversations like these where you deeply ponder, if I suddenly got up and started running away from this crazy person would it seem overly rude?
‘So what do you do?’
Thankfully my bus arrived with a screech of its brakes. I stood up and said, ‘Well, it’s been nice talking to you, but this is my bus.’
‘Oh, really? Mine too.’
My luck, I thought.
I stepped onto the bus, paid my fare and found a seat by the window. Sure enough, Julie sat down on the empty seat next to me.
‘Isn’t this great? Now we can be Bus Buddies. Have you ever had a Bus Buddy? So many people have lots of interesting stories if you talk to them. Tell me what you do for a living.’
‘I don’t really want to talk about it.’
Julie playfully shook my shoulder, ‘C’mon man, spit it out.’
‘Okay, okay. I’m a Settlement Officer. I work in a bank.’
‘Oh, my God, you’re a banker?’
‘Oh, nothing, sorry. Did you know bankers have the highest rate of suicide? Or was that accountants. I don’t know. Do you?’
‘Ever thought about killing yourself?’ She sounded intrigued.
‘Every day. Like right now.’
‘I don’t think I could kill myself. Your body is like a will so you want to leave something worthwhile behind. The bullet in the head is a bad look if you want an open coffin, you know? How would you kill yourself?’ She twirled a braid with her finger.
‘I don’t know. Maybe suffocate myself with my life.’
Suddenly Julie jumped to her knees on her seat and looked around the bus with all its passengers. A look of concern was etched on her face.
‘What are you doing?’
‘I’m checking the Feng Shui of the bus. I think it’s blocking you from positive energy flowing from the north.’
‘How’s it looking?’
Julie slumped back in her seat, ‘Not good, I’m afraid. You look like a bloated sponge.’
‘I’m a what?’
Julie pulled me to her shoulder and started to massage my temples. I didn’t quite know what to do. I felt alarmed at the softness of her body.
She massaged my forehead and said, ‘I’m trying to open your inner mind. You can cry if you want to.’
‘Is this normal?’
An elderly couple looked on, then turned to snuggle one another. Together like this we must have looked like a couple to them.
‘I want you to close your eyes and think of a rainbow,’ she said calmly.
‘Listen. I don’t think you should be doing this.’
‘Shush, just relax and think of the rainbow. Imagine each differential colour and with each one I want you to let your body go limp. Start with your temples and feel stress leave the muscles.’
A part of me told me to find another seat and move away from this crazy girl and her ideas. But another part found the massage soothing and I had not felt so calm for a long time.
In a soft mellow voice she guided me, ‘Imagine a bright shade of orange and feel it flow through your chest to heal you as it goes. Your breath is deep and slow like the rising of the sea.’
Down the rainbow of tranquility we sank with my head resting on Julie’s shoulder. I didn’t care what people thought. All that mattered was my blissful nothingness.
‘Now take a deep breath and let all worries disperse in the air to be carried away. How do you feel?’
‘Like a suspended state of falling,’ I murmured.
‘Now tell me about your life.’
I took a deep breath and thought about the question. No one had ever really cared enough to ask me much about anything. ‘I’m an ant,’ I said. ‘I get up, go to work, pay my bills, go to sleep, wake up and its deja-vu. In my office it’s like Lord of the Flies, everyone fights to stay alive. Job security is nil these days. I sit in my little cubicle, stare at the computer screen, punch in numbers and wonder, where and at what stage in my life did I want to grow up and be like this?’
‘So you hate your job?’
‘My job is like a cancer. It kills me slowly each day.’
‘What about your parents? What did they want you to be?’
I sighed, ‘Stable … independent … financially secure, all the things to get me out the door. They showed me love in between their days off before I was told how to grow up in a childcare service. You could say I was their protégé, I became just like them.’
Julie stroked my dark hair and the feeling was bliss. I’ve never sunk so low in myself yet felt so good.
‘So what do you want to be?’
‘I don’t know – anything as long as it isn’t this … no wait, a writer. I always wanted to be a writer.’
‘So why don’t you be one?’
‘I don’t know, it hardly pays the bills and I don’t think I’m that interesting anyway.’
I nestle into the warmth of Julie’s shoulder smelling the sweet smell of jasmine perfume from a thousand tiny essence bottles.
‘Why do you think you’re not interesting?’
‘Because I’m only a space filled up with nothing.’
Julie slapped me hard across the face. She grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me. My little rainbow moment disappeared.
‘Don’t you ever say that!’
‘Never say you’re nothing! You are a beautiful human being blessed with enormous talent. Can’t you see? It takes courage to fulfil your dreams. If you’re unhappy, build a bridge and get over it. Open your eyes, let the world shine in, then explore. Explore, Peter, explore.’
Before I could answer, Julie swooped in with a passionate kiss. I tried to pull away but couldn’t. It felt like heaven. All your life you work until you die but a moment like this slows time down and makes you appreciate life for what it is. After we kissed and pulled away, Julie cradled my head in her hands and smiled.
‘Your life is like a room of doors, Peter. Behind each one is a new world and you need to be brave enough to open one and dive head on in. Don’t be scared. Everyone needs blind faith at some time in their life.’
The bus stopped and she disappeared out the door leaving me in a state of enlightenment. It lingered like her kiss on my lips.
Then it passed.
I was on a bus full of strangers all probably heading to a job where they would chase their tail in meaningless circles.
I looked at my briefcase. At my suede shoes and felt the dog leash tie around my neck. I sat and stared hard at my life and what I really wanted to do with it. Julia was right there’s more to it than this.
With a knowing smile I pressed the bell on the bus. Got off. Then walked in the fresh air towards a new goal: to make my life better.
Copyright © Dion J. Crowe 2013