Ryan’s grandfather had suddenly died at work, just a year before he was supposed to retire. Heart attack, the coroner would later say in a polite phone call to his mother. Unable to cope with a grieving family which smothered him in teary embraces, or his own overwhelming sense of loss, he had run away 24 hours later. So upset were his parents they never noticed him digging out the small tent and a sleeping bag from the storage closet, or packing his spiderman backpack full of bread, cheese, biscuits, a waterbottle, and his Legend of Zelda comic book his grandad gave him for his last birthday.
He tiptoed out the backdoor, and crossed the yard to the back gate. The laundry was still hanging on the clothes line from the day before, sodden from a light mid morning sprinkle and forgotten. He made his exit while a neighbor consoled his teary mother, and his father sat alone in the sitting room nursing a strong drink, a Patsy Cline CD lulling him further into a grieving stupor.
Ryan knew these woods well that lined the edge of town, only a few blocks beyond his home. They were filled with thick eucalypt and ferns. He’d spent a great many weekends exploring or camping in them with his grandad when the threat of bushfire was low, or playing with his friends during long summer days. Although he started out wondering along a familiar well known trail, so caught up in thoughts was he that he wondered off the trail and eventually found himself lost.
Before the sun went down he found a clearing. Remembering what his grandad had taught him, he carefully set to the task of digging out the rocks so that the surface below was flat and relatively smooth to pitch the tent on top of. He lay out the sleeping bag and crawled inside for warmth. He began to doze as the sun settled for the night and the moon began to rise, but the buzzing of a flea, followed by the scurrying of little animals outside, the cracking of nearby branches, and the hissing of a possum in the opposite direction alerted his senses, woke him up like coffee, and prevented him from getting any further sleep that night. The woods were alot scarier without grandad and he missed him more than ever.
Finally when the skies showed hints of light in the horizon, and all had gone quiet, an overfull bladder pushed him out into the damp air in thankful relief. Everything was covered in a thick layer of dense greyish white fog, like snow sticking to the air. Even the morning birds seemed lost in the fog as they too barely muttered a peep. He walked in a straight line until he found a tree to pee under, but the snapping of a branch nearby as he was finishing up caused him to turn suddenly, take a few steps, look around, and forget which direction he had come in. He only figured this out when another rustling sound, closer this time caused him to bolt back in the direction he thought he had come in, only he didn’t end up at his tent.
He wondered through the thick icy fog, shivering with regret, tripping over tree roots and barely dodging trees, and as the fog began to slowly dissipate he began to cry. He cried big fat drops which ran down his cheeks and landed on the muddy earth below. It was as if the fog had consumed him, for every piece of him felt cold, damp, grey, empty, and lost in nothingness, and he cried for what was now gone.
He cried until the tears ran dry and there was nothing left. He lay down on the ground, lifeless and numb, cheek pressed into mud. “I’ll miss you grandpa” he whispered. He closed his exhausted eyes and willed himself to sleep.
This is a slightly altered snippet of a longer story I am currently writing. It’s a story about grief, loss and finding a re connection within it, a topic I have been exploring recently. I altered it so I could post it on World of My Imagination, for the weekly Wednesday short story blog hop. The topic this week is the picture above, and the five words found in this story: task, digging, flea, price, legend. I had to get a bit creative to fit those words in (Legend of Zelda comic book? Seriously who reads that nowadays?). Click here to read the other entries for this week.