Sunday, 30 October 2011

Irene - a story

She’d seen the others watching her in meetings, noticed them looking up mid-sentence to gauge her expression. A firm rebuff would bring the most confident proposal to a stuttering halt. Sometimes just a look was enough; a disdainfully raised eyebrow, a contemptuous frown. They all knew she could control the silence, that she could impose it on others, force a meek, wordless, acceptance. They’d felt the force of nature that swept away the opposition and moved relentlessly on.

As evening fell, Irene sped home; taking the route through the park only because it was quicker, more direct. The relentless drumroll of her heels kept time with the pounding in her head, only faltering when she kicked at stones, swiped at debris on the path. She didn’t hear the shouts of children in the playground, didn’t see the boy pedalling towards her, or the McDonald’s takeaway bag swinging from his handlebar. She barely registered his anguished cry, or the sound of metal scraping on tarmac, didn’t connect it at all with the small pebble she’d viciously struck out of the way.

Irene didn’t turn to see the boy on his knees, desperately trying to reassemble pieces of burger and place them back in their polystyrene trays. It was another person’s kindness that brought the hot embarrassed tears to his eyes as he finally sat back, acknowledging that he’d never be able to brush the dirt and grit from the fries lying scattered across the path.

At the other side of the park, there were crowds of people leaving the cricket ground. Old men shuffled past, trying to bring life and movement back to arthritic legs that had sat still for too long. Irene increased her pace; she didn’t want to get caught up amongst them. As she whirled past she didn’t see the couple trying to move out of her way; the grey-haired lady juggling a picnic blanket and a cushion, the elderly man leaning heavily on a walking-stick. Irene didn’t hear the woman’s sharp intake of breath as her husband’s stick caught in a small pot-hole, didn’t see the panic cross that frail lady’s face at the thought of another fractured hip, more weeks in hospital, slow, painful healing and the struggle to walk again.

It wasn’t Irene who rushed to check if the old man was alright. She didn’t hear his faltering insistence that he was still in one piece, that he should have looked where he was going. She didn’t see the gentle care with which two equally aged men helped him back to his feet, nor the kind arm of reassurance one of them offered to the trembling wife.

As Irene headed away from the centre of town, it became quieter. She came to a place where there were no people, no birds in the trees, only dead leaves and litter blowing along the street. As she neared the house her pace slowed; ahead of her was the one silence she couldn’t control. In the now-empty rooms, only the walls would echo her strident views, and only the mirrors would see her frown.

The key in her hand felt cold and heavy, the door resisted her tired push. Irene sank down on the step. Her storm was spent.


32 comments:

light208 said...

I love your writing. I get entirely wrapped up in your characters so that even here, where she isn't likeable I end up wishing she could change. You have a gift.

Bobby Stevenson said...

No calm in her eyes - great characterisation Sharon and a smashing story well told. Many thanks.

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Really enjoyed that. Now I feel sorry for her.

Dicky said...

That’s a fantastic post Sharon. I didn’t see the ending coming at all.

Debbie said...

Hurricane Irene. That was great.

Kirsten said...

I'm so delighted that I've discovered your blog. As unlikeable as Irene is, this post also caused me to ponder the moments when I, too, allow myself to rush through a day, ignoring the people around me. Life is so much better when you stop to soak it in.

Danielle said...

The devastation a hurricane can cause finally hit home with your beautiful paintings of the small tragedies. Very good.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Powerful on so many levels. So glad I found your blog through MLS.

Lizzie said...

This was fantastic. I love how Irene's devastation was left behind her, almost in whispers. Your stories are like pieces of art, they leave so much open to thought with so many different facets to them. Really lovely.

Nessa Roo said...

wonderful. I know somebody like this in real life, and she is often described as a force of nature. You did an excellent job with your character.

Sandra said...

I found myself reading this with a speedy fury, because your descriptive words propelled me -- the same way Irene swept through her path. Then I read it again slowly to really enjoy the words. Thanks, Sharon; I always love to read your writing.

Bill Dameron said...

Irene, I knew you so well. A wonderful story.

Susan Cooper said...

Wonderful, we have all been Irene or have known Irene.

Susan Cooper

anne said...

Simple words, powerful storytelling. Totally beautiful!

The Elephant's Child said...

A powerful and salutary piece. I have been Irene, though I try not to be these days. Thank you.

Starlight said...

What a fantastic post, perfectly written as always.

Ivanhoe said...

Beautiful. You have a gift. Have a Happy Halloween!

lorna said...

wonderful prose

lily said...

Another hit rendered out of the park. I have come to find your syllables all strung together in perfect story lines. I am a bit let down if you haven't posted a new tale but then that in itself adds to my pleasure (almost glee) when a new one is birthed!!

Thank you again.

Suman said...

Great piece once again Sharon. And the way you have sketched Irene's character is just brilliant.

Linda Myers said...

My goodness! What a story!

Pearl said...

Oh, I loved this. I raced through, then read it again.

Wonderfully written.

Pearl

Nari said...

I love it when a writer can evoke humanity into something inhuman.
It takes great skill to do it properly and you have done so impeccably.

Jacksquatch Detangled said...

how many times can a person write the word "great" in a comment box? Thanks for sharing your art.

Sharon Longworth said...

light208 - thank you. I quite like the idea of writing about unlikeable characters - but I don't want people to hate them completely - and I'm so pleased you could see some of that.

Bobby - as always - thank you!

mybabyjohn/Delores - really glad you enjoyed this. I feel sorry for her too!

Dicky - thank you!

Debbie - really glad you liked it - thank you.

Sharon Longworth said...

Kirsten - thank you. There is probably more of me in Irene than I'd like to admit.

Thanks Danielle

Blissed out Grandma - thank you - I have a lot to thank MLS for!

Lizzie - that's such a smashing thing to say - thank you so much

Nessa Roo - I'm sure she can't be too comfortable to be around! Thank you

Sharon Longworth said...

Sandra - I can't tell you how flattering it is to think you took the time to read this more than once - thank you.

Bill - now I want you to write your Irene story!

Susan - very true!

Anne - that's a lovely thing to say - thank you.

The elephant's child - me too! I try not to be, but I probably still am, too often.

Sharon Longworth said...

Starlight - as always, thank you!

Ivanhoe - thank you!

Lorna - and thank you to you too!

lily - goodness me - that's very lovely of you!

Suman - too kind, but thank you.

Sharon Longworth said...

Linda - not sure if that's a good 'my goodness' or a 'Oh dear, my goodness' but thank you anyway for reading and leaving a comment :)

Pearl- I'll say it again - I'm always thrilled to bits when someone reads something more than once - thank you!

Nari - words fail me - thank you!

Jacksquatch detangled - and how many ways are there to say thank you - thank you!

Glenn Ricafrente said...

Someday I'd like to be able to write something as compact, vivid, precise, and powerful as this.

what cause high cholesterol said...

I just love the way you delivered your story. There's something in it that I can express but I'm pretty sure that I could feel the emotions.

Anonymous said...

hi just registered ,, tina