Stories

A tablecloth and a jigsaw

By 25th April 2009No Comments

Dense air blossoms in the drawer to which I am confined.
Claustrophobic heat nestles between the layers, like a mouse. I am at
the bottom of the hierarchy. Forgotten. Left to dwell upon my own
neglect. I am a messenger of dark news for this girl whose lifetime is
confined to sorrow in accordance of one solitary act. Once upon a time,
so long ago.
Anguish embraced her as she entered our small but cosy house. The
atmosphere was sorrowful in the presence of weeping, which filled our
usually happy home and, as she placed her threadbare coat across the
table, curiosity made her approach the adjoining door.
“I won’t let you, you can’t leave us.” hesitant, “I, I won’t let you”
“Our country is in danger, you can’t expect me to sit around and
watch.” exasperated, “Over by Christmas that’s what they said but it’s
not, is it? It’s not, it’s nowhere near over.” As if this answers the
questionable doubt, preying upon his thoughts, “They need men like me”.
Crushing her until she couldn’t breathe, the words span in her head.
The knives of fate carved her life into an unforeseeable shape; her
father was going to war.
Bursting through the door, the picture she was presented with was
like a scene from a theatrical production. Her mother clinging to her
father’s arm and her father lovingly pushing her away. Both pairs of
eyes turned to her. Embarrassed she was suddenly aware of the
consequences. She felt instant regret, which had initially been dulled
by determination. Summoning her courage, which was quickly diminishing,
she spoke,
“You can’t go. Please don’t go daddy. You can’t, cannot..”
questionably yet resolutely “can’t. I won’t let you leave us.”
Overwhelming is but one way of describing the situation they then found
themselves in.
He defensively confronted what he believed to be a condemnation, “I
have to. I must, can’t you see” trialling his patience he explained,
“If I didn’t you would be scorned as you walked down the street. You
would be the daughter of a coward.” thoughtful “And I can’t do that to
you.”
“I wouldn’t give a care in the world as long as you were here, at home
where you belong.” Desperation is all powerful as she tries to persuade
his already set mind, “They can’t make you go. They can’t force you. We
could hide you…”
“When you say that, you don’t realise that you are messing with
things beyond your control, beyond my control even. It’s like, like you
are playing a game when you haven’t even read the rules.” Firmly “I
have to go to war. I have to fight to save our country and to provide
justice.”
She breathed one word -“No”. His lower lip trembled as he turned to
face her. He touched her lips softly and whispered,
“Yes”. I was there when he told her and I was there when he left her
and I was there when the envelope came.
Her father kissed her tear-stained cheek as her life fell apart. His
arms engulfed her in a reassuring cuddle.
So proud and important he looked, yet alien too in his new army
uniform. Holding her above his head he laughed before slinging her over
his shoulder and whispering in her ear the words I love you. Something
so delicate that it has never been stained by cliché. Handing her the
jigsaw to which I had been the guardian for weeks, protective over a
much desired gift now rendered insignificant. He held her hand,
unwilling to say goodbye. She dropped a single piece in his pocket and
then I carried the burden of the remainder of a jigsaw dropped aside.
Kissing her mother and promising that he would return, he walked out.
He was gone. I watched as I saw his shadow in the doorframe disappear,
never to return. That night was a solemn meal, yet the future was a
prophecy of anguish. The long, brown envelope posted through the door
much later was only the beginning.
I would grant the envelope the title of messenger of death but it
was placed on the table and on the table was a tablecloth so I feel
that I was the angel of death. I squashed her life and tore it into a
million pieces never to be together again. She had lost her father,
whom she loved with every fragment of her soul. And I had brought her
the news. Many years later she is still scarred from previous battles
with the past, as she tries to locate his grave. Searching for that one
lost piece of a jigsaw never completed. I, the tablecloth, am stashed
at the bottom of the drawer in a furtive attempt to abolish the past. I
am just a solemn reminder of the things that were, are and ever shall
be.

The pocket was warm but soon to be embellished with the dampening
rain and the excursions of rats with a brief layer of muddy paint. The
noises- beyond belief. We shared together the loneliness and I was
always an important mascot of home. Always. Even as I felt him fall to
the ground for the last time, as I felt myself sodden with the red of
my guardian, I knew I was an important connection and here under the
ground I know I will remain until earthworms eat away at my cardboard
shape. I am proud; courageous I embrace this last aspect of life. Never
reunited, withering into nothing for the benefit of others that will
forever scar this earth, I am the martyr of my jigsaw. A memorial for
one compassionate soldier, amongst a million others.

Sophie Meads

Author Sophie Meads

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