General Fiction posted December 21, 2014

This work has reached the exceptional level
an exploration of kindness


by mfowler

Story of the Month Contest Winner 

rotting forest foliage
gives succour to new life, new forms
brown leaf, green shoot


The old man is brown and musty. I'm not saying that because I don't like him. It's just that he smells like my grandfather's cupboard, like umbrellas put away before they dry, lying with piles of yellow newspapers with headlines saying 'Queen Victoria Dies'.

But he's my friend. Overlooking musty is easy enough if I suck on those aniseed lollies he gives me for reading to him. It's only once a week. Mother calls it charitable. I leave it at that because there's no harm looking selfless when you're really doing something you love.

'Lad,' he says, 'lad, read Ivanhoe. Loved that book when I was a child.' I have never heard of it but when he says it's good, it's better. Maybe, when the old man was a child they had knights like Ivanhoe. My father says no-one today would cross the road to help a stranger. Ivanhoe did. Lay his life on the line for a thing called chivalry.

Father's wrong really. I cross the road on Monday afternoons and sit with the old man. Mother says he's lonely, but I think he has dreams that keep him happy. There's feelings in that musty old house. The pipes creak like old people trying to walk. He says it's ghosts. I know he says that to see if I'm curious. But it's pipes.

Sometimes, I think too much about the story and he dozes off when my voice fades away. His snores are more like short, long snorts. I swear he'll slip right off his tacky old armchair if I don't read with more enthusiasm.

He loved my version of 'Lord Jim'. Stayed awake through battles and adventures. It's no trouble really. The writers are so good that reading them aloud feels like I'm there, tackling tigers, fighting the enemy with mighty blows.

This month's been hard. The old man drifts off more often. The winter's closing in and he finds it hard to keep warm. The fire's stoked. I can see the red horses running and leaping through the crackling flames. It's way too warm. Yet the old man shivers and finds it hard to say much. He coughs a lot, his concave chest bloating and caving with each effort. His eyes look empty, the sparkle that once accompanied my best renditions of 'Robin Hood' has been extinguished.

Since his wife, Doris, died two years back, the old man's only had me looking out for him. Really, he's been looking after me. Friends are hard to find for me. Books are all I ever really liked, and the old man has given me a world of literature to explore that someone of my class would never find.

I do other things for him now, like warm the milk and cinnamon he likes to drink as he listens. I clean his plates and sometimes tuck him into the chair with a musty old blanket when he falls asleep properly. And Monday afternoons have become every afternoon as the winter chills our lives.

Today, we came to the last chapter. His sleep is forever now.

grey goose flies south
empty nest of broken sticks
life shifts abound


Story of the Month
Contest Winner


This is a non-traditional haibun.
Traditional haibun consists of tightly woven prose and is connected to one or two haiku which illuminate the theme.

This non-traditional(my term), the prose is essentially narrative and could stand alone. It is longer and mor ecomplex in it sintent and content.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Save to Bookcase Promote This Share or Bookmark
Print It View Reviews

You need to login or register to write reviews. It's quick! We only ask four questions to new members.

© Copyright 2018. mfowler All rights reserved.
mfowler has granted, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.