Homeless children playing football with cans.”
They were not the remainder,
But the remained.
They were not an illustrious past,
But an ignoble future.
The loud and the slovenly,
Those who hid,
Relics of a world made mad:
The lunatics inherited it all.
Whilst those who tried:
The thinkers, the generous,
The less gregarious smiles at open doors;
The welcoming quiet,
As they always had,
But would no more.
Perhaps it was for the best.
Perhaps it was never meant to be.
Which shames me
As I type this final note,
For we should’ve tried harder
To change them.
She hid behind the trash cans like a nervous mouse, the steel rattling with her fear. A pair of blue eyes in a world of darkness, the child cowered so far back into the night, I thought her a hermit crab with refuse for a shell.
"I'm here to help," I said softly.
The girl froze.
"Please, let me help you."
"Men have helped me before," said a cracked voice older than it should've been.
I risked one more step; it was one too many.
She was gone in a flash scurring away like the mouse she so resembled. And strange though it was, I did not pity her then. I did not feel sorry for that poor little girl of the street, though I should've, but, instead, for everyone else. If we could do that to someone, we deserved pity. I just hoped the man above thought that, too.
There wasn’t one particular issue with Willard. That would have been much too easy to sort. Neither was there lots of individual issues. That too would have oversimplified the situation. No, much as it pains me to admit it, him being my brother and all, but Willard himself was the problem. Where most spoke, Willard chirped. Where you and I had houses, Willard had a tree. He refused to leave it squawking as much in his birdlike way, pooping on the cars below and eating berries off its branches. He was a strange one was Willard.
The problems came to a head when Willard’s tree got hit by lightning; it blew his fluffy feathers off. Naked from the waist up, his beak twisted round to face the wrong direction and his fake wings in tatters, Willard asked if he could move in with me. What could I say, he was my brother?
The rest of the town thought me mad, crackers, off my trolley. I was, and I wasn’t. Mostly not.
Willard, of course, refused to take a room and instead perched on my chimney pot. He made a nest out of twigs and an old deckchair and settled there quite content in his own weird way. Now and then, I’d throw him some seed, the odd worm, and a cracker or two and he was very grateful always eating the lot.
So why did I do it? Why? Let’s just say Christmas turkey was a whopper that year. There’s nothing like keeping it in the family.
The colony comprised of misfits and misgivings. I wish I could say better, but it did. Not one person trusted another nor wanted to. Every window remained closed even on the hottest days, every door padlocked and chained. I hated it with a passion. Everybody hated it with a passion. A couple of times a year we’d celebrate this or that, poke our heads from around dour curtains, light a firework out of the cat flap. We might even toast each other, then spit on the carpet. This was, however, the limit of our interactions.
Where was our colony you shout! You won’t have heard of it, but in our native tongue, we called it Earth.
When Two Are One
Regardless of the provocation, I resisted. Although my fists balled so tight that I thought my fingernails to burst out of the back of my hand in sprays of crimson, I bit back the pain and sought the meditative calm of Zen. But, as always, my temper was not mine to control. One word from you and I poured upon them like a tsunami of pent-up rage. No one was spared. No one cared.
The child, a young boy of perhaps ten, looked from them to me and back again, smiled, then took back his lunch box.
They expelled me, of course they did, but justice had been served. She took me in, or so I told my parents, gave me a job and respectability. I’d have done anything for her, fought armies, braved monsters, loved. I didn’t, but would have.
When I woke one day to find her gone, I collapsed. Not a word written or verbal had warned of it. Not a clue to my desertion did she leave. All that remained was a single voice in my head where once there’d been two. I hated its owner. I hated me.
Alanna raged about everything from the price of peas to the woman in too short shorts. She seemed capable of turning her anger upon anyone at anytime for anything. Nothing was safe, nor sacred. No topic was taboo, nor estranged. Alanna made fire from ice. I’d always loved a challenge.
Drivers race up and down the street as though late for their own funerals. Carry on and they won't be. The world's in such a rush. Everybody's doing nothing quickly. I watch from the rocking chair my grandfather made when people did instead of didn't, sip tea and consider things.
The problem with Ronald was everything. You told him to do something, he did the opposite. You asked for help, he’d fall asleep on the job. It wasn’t that he was bad or evil or any stereotypical resolution, he just couldn’t help himself. I often thought when God made him, he forgot one of his batteries, or wired him wrong, or did it on purpose just to get a reaction.
The aforementioned issues led to no one having high expectations of Ronald. You knew he was no astronaut, no great thinker, no Priest with words of kindness, in truth, you never expected much.
When Ronald emerged from the fire with my daughter in his arms, his jacket burning and a lopsided grin on his face, I forgot all the things he wasn’t and thought only of what he was: a hero. I wouldn’t judge him again, but then I never should have.