Wishing everyone a Happy New Year! We all want to believe that 2022 will be a better year.
I've started to collect ideas for the 5th book in the Meg Sheppard Mystery Series, but I'm not ready to share anything yet!
So, I looked through my short, short stories and selected one that I think is upbeat.
I hope you think so too.
By the way, this is a piece I wrote for the Uxbridge Writers' Circle. The words in italics are ones that members selected to be used in our writing for the next meeting.
It's called The Good Guys:
The man is seated on the park bench again today. I can smell his body odours as I turn the corner on the hot black asphalt path. The shade from the maples is not enough to stave off the oppressive heat which singes my skin and makes me wheeze.
I was determined to get here because the city has issued a heat-warning.
I pull out two bottles of cold water from my insulated bag and offer them to him. He takes them and nods without uttering a word.
People tease me because I say I can tell what kind of person someone is by their eyes. He has alert, intelligent eyes, but his body looks defeated and crumpled. Something has happened to him and I’d like to know his story.
I’m an author and I’m watchful for people who’ll inspire me. I create character sketches, much as an artist might paint a picture, but I use words. I’ve got an urge to write about him. I know he has a fascinating tale to tell.
I linger briefly, but I know I shouldn’t intrude. I watch as he unscrews the cap. He drinks the entire bottle without a break, which makes me think I should have brought more.
Although this heat and humidity saps my energy and makes unwanted salty moisture seep out of my pores, I hope for a heat-warning tomorrow. Perhaps I’ll have the nerve to say something to him as I hand him more bottles of water.
I can’t get the image of his dark brown, shiny eyes out of my mind as I struggle to manhandle my wheelchair up the wooden ramp. It’s too steep, but there’s nothing the landlord will do about it because it complies with the building code. When I leave the old apartment building, I check the sidewalk is clear because, especially on days when I’m weary, my chair can propel me at quite a lick and I’m less able to maneuver it at high speed. I just missed Daisy, the large grey poodle, only yesterday. She was at the end of a very long invisible leash extension, and I’d not seen her beside the ramp until she dove in front of me.
I didn’t sleep last night. I heaved myself up in bed to watch the weather station and stayed there, dozing on and off. The heat-warning was announced just as the sun hit my window.
I can’t imagine why I feel this energized by the anticipation of seeing that strange man again. I pack six bottles of cold water in my insulated bag and put a spiral-bound notebook and a pen in the bag attached to my wheelchair.
I’ve made up my mind to speak to him today. I reach the top of the ramp. I’ve forgotten my gloves and my hands slip on the driving wheels and career down the slope. I collide with someone at the bottom of the ramp as he grabs my wheels. He’s now stooped over me, and his warm breath touches my flushed face.
“Do you always break the speed limit?”
I look up and see the man, the man whose bottles of water I have in my bag. I’m tongue-tied and break out into a sweat. He stands upright and smiles. His even teeth are only slightly off white.
“Thanks for the water. That’s the kindest thing anyone’s done for me in a long time.”
“Would you like more? I have some with me.”
“I’m on my way to a drop-in where I hear they have showers and a small laundry. I’m trying to get myself back on track.”
“Okay. You don’t need water then?”
“If it’s going, I’d appreciate it. I can only stay in the drop-in for two hours. Then I’ll go to the library for a bit because it’s air-conditioned.”
“It’s designated as a cooling place.”
There’s a pause and we look at each other.
“I’m an author and I do character pieces,” I blurt out.
“I hope you don’t want to write about me.”
“I only write about people who have agreed. Otherwise I just get ideas for characters for my stories which are a mish-mash of various people I’ve talked to.”
“I don’t mind being part of a mish-mash. Meet me in the library. There’s a condition, though.”
“You have to tell me something about you.”
“Oh, I suppose that’s okay.”
The library is blissfully cool, and it has a coffee shop where we decide to sit and talk. I order a latte and buy Giovanni a double espresso.
His hairless face and clean clothes have transformed him into a reasonably respectable person. He isn’t as crumpled-looking, and his shiny eyes have a little sparkle.
He was a composer of choral music and loved to innovate, having singers make interesting sounds like birds or animals. He used harmonies but also liked discordant voices which gradually resolved, layer by layer.
I have to ask why he isn’t a composer anymore.
“In my heart, I’m still a composer. I think of music every day.”
“Carol Bolling accused me of plagiarism or, rather, of stealing her work.”
“Did you know her?”
“You’re warm. She was a girlfriend. She was in the music business, and I thought we had a lot in common, but she was controlling and manipulative. I ended the relationship, which didn’t go down well. She stole some of my scores and made out they were her work. Having my name smeared all over the media was devastating to an innocent like me. See this?” He opens a three-ring binder, revealing the front page of the newspaper and his picture in the bottom right-hand corner, with ‘more on page 5’.
“This is just an example. I sank into a deep depression, having no will to fight, and haven’t been able to do much of anything since. Living on the street seemed like a great escape but this heat-wave has woken me up.”
“I’ve never heard of a heat-wave waking somebody up.”
“Ha!” He smiles. “Your kindness restored some of my faith in humanity, especially since you obviously have challenges of your own. Tell me a bit about you. You’re an author, you said?”
“That’s a fairly recent thing.”
I tell him how I enlisted in the army and that I broke my back in a training exercise.
He wants to know how it happened.
I haven’t talked to anyone about it other than my therapist, but I blurt it all out.
The male recruits didn’t want a girl, as they called me, amongst other less flattering names, on their team. So, they found ways to make life difficult for me. I managed to cope and did well, which made them more determined to see me fail. It got deadly serious one day when one of them pushed me off a tall tower. It was so unexpected that I didn’t fall well and broke my back. They cheered when they saw I couldn’t move.
As I went through rehab and got used to the wheelchair, I thought to myself, there must be good people out there. I’m going to find them and write character sketches to inspire other people, to spread a little kindness by example.
“You’re doing a good job of spreading kindness. Anyone charged?”
“No. It was a training session. They said I fell.”
That’s how it all started. Giovanni and I met several times and worked on the musical 'The Good Guys', which comprises real-life stories of good people overcoming the bad guys. Of how people get back up on their feet, of how people help other people, of how each person can make a difference, and of how it’s cool to be kind. It was intended for school audiences, but has caught on because adults are looking for hope–hope that the bad guys aren’t winning, that we good guys will prevail.
Vicky Earle Copyright 2021