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by shaunsouthern 

Posted: 12 July 2003
Word Count: 687

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The stifling heat held the city under siege into a second week, but there was a cavalry of thunderclouds on the horizon. Tonight was the night. Soon it would be over, one way or another, for another year or so, anyway. His friend called before his shift to wish him luck. If he saw the lights later, then it would be all right. He hoped that the rain would hold off till at least a few minutes past midnight. He put on his jacket and got into his car. Together, as one, they slowly climbed the winding single-track road to the summit, the tarmac glinting in the full moonlight. Far below the city slept. At the top he turned round. Thousands of shimmering orange lights. There was hardly a sound, only a breath of wind. He was angry, yes, but not suicidal. He wanted to live so much it ate away at him. He checked his watch. Time. He wiped his hands and his brow, put the lights off and the car into gear.

That morning, she had got up as usual. She had gone through the motions and tried all the usual places, but it had seemed that her friends were avoiding her. She hadn’t blamed them. As the sun had collapsed on another long boring summer day she had blagged the car from her brother, and had gone for a drive, nowhere in particular. She had stopped once she was far enough from the city and had got out. She had stared up at the moon sadly, for what had seemed like hours. She hadn’t been able to see a way out, or how things could ever have changed. Maybe she was just stuck in a rut, but it was one that she couldn't be bothered trying to get out of. She had been woken from her trance by the sound of distant midnight bells. She had got back in the car, tears in her eyes.

Seventy, accelerating down the flat summit approach, braking late, round the first corner, the hair on the back of his neck on end, tyres on the limit, foot back on the floor, two left-handers at ninety-five, then, eyes closed, counting, hard on the brake, into the chicane, dust sliding under the token barriers over the edge, back up to a ton, another hard right-hander, another screeching chicane, and then, lights on, down into the city and back under the speed limit.

There had been no skid-marks on the road, just the useless broken barrier. Down below in the trees there had been a trail of twisted metal. In the pale morning light, fluorescent coats had scoured for detail, suddenly attentive, then gone. No big mystery. The official report had contained a lot of ambiguous phrases like ‘no noticeable mechanical failure’ and ‘nothing to suggest coronary attack or seizure’. Unwritten, was that one unmentionable word, which the inquest verdict had confirmed. No-one had understood. No-one had ever really seemed to understand her at all.

He started breathing again. The mobile rang. He pulled up outside the flat and hit OK.
"Welcome back” he said. “You feeling..."
"Oh yeah, I'm feeling... I'm... I'm good."
"You know that.... one day...." the voice trailed off.
"Don't we all." As he climbed the stairs the thunder broke and when he woke at noon it was all a distant memory, buried somewhere far back in his mind. The air was fresh. He went for a walk, to the top of a hill, through a deserted oak forest with a single evergreen pine. He could see movement in the distant city, as people went about their business. He turned and faced into the summer breeze. He smiled. It was indeed a beautiful day.

It had been three years since his sister's suicide. He still blamed himself for lending her the car. Why hadn't he noticed that something was wrong? The fir tree they had planted would live for her and every anniversary, he would relive her thoughts, in his eyes. He had two lives to live now. Not a moment to waste. Every chance to take.

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Comments by other Members

Nell at 08:54 on 12 July 2003  Report this post
Hi Shaun,

You don't say whether this is a short story or whether it continues. After reading I felt I wanted it to carry on.

I like the contrast in pace and mood between the paras. - the first somewhat brooding, the the quiet description of the girl's morning, then speeding up negotiate those bends.

There's a mystery here though. Who died? And how? It seems as though it was the girl: 'No-one had ever really seemed to understand her at all.' And then 'he' does arrive at the flat and speak on the phone. It seems as though the two events are connected - I'd like to read on...

Post more soon, best, Nell.

shaunsouthern at 02:44 on 13 July 2003  Report this post

Thanks for yur comment. I've never had anyone comment sensibly on anything I've written before, apart from 'Yeah Right, Cool'. Anyway.... Yes it is mysterious. I think that I write things that ssemn right at the time, and I guess, if I analyse them myself afterwards and I like them, then I'm happy... I suppose you could equate it to the Big Brother producer deciding what is worth showing, only hopefully with more taste....

So..... It's a snapshot of a life (no more, sorry) about a brothers reaction to his sister's suicide (by HIS car) and his way of dealing with it. He takes his chances, solely on his skill and his beliefs and his desire to live. If you want to look a it in this way, just as suicidal as his sister, who couldn't find a reason to live, his reason requires him to prove it. Each anniversary.

Still they have planted a single oak in an evergreen pine forest (symbollism or what?) and the brother is suddenly free of his 'guilt'. For another year at least. Even though he knows that next year he may not be so lucky....

I wrote this, logically, then thought about it, and got lost myself within its depths. Guess everyone does that, unless they are German. Nein Offenza. (Germo-Italia border, somewhere in Cyprus....)

No, honestly, I try to look for the good in everyone, and my writing is the same. The music I listen to is positive and I love positive writing. I love the way that English can say so much within a few words and I respect the way that people can feel such a way that no words can ever describe. In this way we are both immortal and worthless in the same sentence.

I'm sure this comment is longer than my original post, so I wil end with my favourite 'poetry' ever, a line from a Waterboys song....

Put your face to my window
Breathe a night full of treasure
The wind is delicious, sweet and wild with the promise of pleasure
The stars are alive on nights like these
Were born to be sanctified, like you and me
Lovers thieves fools and pretenders

And all you gotta do,
All you gotta do,
All you gotta do is surrender

Come with me, on a journey within the skin
Come with me, on a journey under the skin
We'll live together, for the pan within

Close your eyes.....

And there is always 'The return of Pan' on their best album ever

'Dream Harder' including the 'Glastonbury Song'

I shed some weight
Changed my address
Haven't felt so great
Till I first went West
I've got Brilliant intentions
Unthinkable Plans
I'v got sparks and electric shocks
just exploding in my hands....

I'm preparing to fly
Uner my own steam
I'm preparing to fly
Into a dream....

This is only somehting in my own head, I'm sure, but when I was younger I read 'Danny Champion of the world' and I loved the way it (or Danny's father) made me feel. Wonderful, part of the web we live in, and totally full of belief in myself.

Sorry if this offends anyone, but from this vantage point, God, Jesus and the church are vapid colourless also-rans.

If I do nothing else with my writing, I would love to explain to just one person how I can feel.


Thanks for reading, for listening, perchance to understand, not in any way to follow....

I am the brother in Alive. I could never understand. I would be there proving myself, each year, until either 'God', 'Nature' or my own skill failed me. I love the World. This is the continuance of the story. To quote (Kipling?) to end this rant... Strive to be happy! Love the World. Stay Alive. Dream Harder!!!!

shaunsouthern at 11:20 on 13 July 2003  Report this post
....to anyone who reads this....

Please excuse my drunken rantings above. I now have a headache I thoroughly deserve.

Nell at 12:17 on 13 July 2003  Report this post
I love mystery and ambiguity in writing. I've just read your story again, and although I loved it the first time there was such incredible satisfaction and pleasure in reading for a second time after your explanation. Couldn't you give the reader just a little more of a hint of the hidden story behind the story?
I understand about Danny, champion of the World, I used to read it to my children.

I loved your rant and read it with pleasure, you've explained how you feel very well - such passion - and joy too - keep writing, keep posting, take care.

Best, Nell.

Nell at 12:20 on 13 July 2003  Report this post
And I hope the headache's better now. Drink lots of water. Vale, Nell.

shaunsouthern at 00:44 on 14 July 2003  Report this post

I guess because I know the 'story' it's hard to give too many clues as it already seems obvious to me. I'll work something out.

Thanks for your opinions - it makes all the difference


stephanieE at 12:26 on 14 July 2003  Report this post
Shaun - I feel as though I need to comment on two completely separate things - your story as posted, and your story as understood following your (drunken) explanation. so...

As a story, I would agree with Nell that it's just a bit too impenetrable. There's a sense of something dramatic, some tightly held emotion, something snapping, something resolved... maybe resolved? So a few more clues to the uninitiated would make it more powerful, not less so.

As a bit of cathartic writing, I think it's astounding. It takes a lot of guts to throw such personal emotion down on paper, and you've managed something that reads as strong and important. Your rant is a great pinhole of insight. Don't lose that passion and that sense of urgency about the need to enjoy life. Good luck with your future writing.

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