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The Flower

The Flower

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Published by Ed Burton
A man relives his life through his dying daughter.
A man relives his life through his dying daughter.

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Published by: Ed Burton on Sep 12, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/31/2010

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The rain hammered down over Tim’s hunched back, making a rattling noise as the waterreverberated from his plastic overcoat. It was a rare extremity for Bournemouth weather, but theold man didn’t seem to care. He just plodded along his garden paving in green wellington boots. Asa booming roll of thunder shook the earth a gust of wind knocked the hat on his head to theground. Only a few wisps of white hair remained underneath, but Tim looked up at the sky with asmile. As he bent to retrieve his hat, the stone steps ahead of him grew progressively further apartand the garden began to slant downwards so that water streamed in muddy banks to his side. Theslope steepened and so Tim stumbled downwards until the ground tapered to a small enclave.On top of the hill carefully tended tulips and roses plateaued. The grass was mown tocircumvent a graceful water feature. But the enclave at the bottom was wild. Where grass still hadthe strength to grow underneath an oppressive rock wall, it wisped randomly up towards waistheight. All around him, muddy puddles greedily engorged themselves on the rainwater. But Timdidn’t seem to mind. He walked over to a cracked stone bench which was half crumbled into theearth and he sat. He sat down on the bench, in the midst of the fierce storm and rested his chingently in his hands. After a time, he reached into the pocket of his raincoat and withdrew a cigar. Ittook him several efforts to light in the pouring rain, but he eventually managed. And so he was sat,umbrellared by his cheap plastic hat as the smoke from his cigar teased his nostrils beforeeventually surrendering to the fierce weather.The storm calmed and the rain slowed to a drizzle. With a sigh, Tim rose to his feet. Hisknees now struggled with the walk back up the hill, and he was not helped by the bulky wellingtonboots on his feet. But with a grunt he pulled himself up to the well-kept garden and began on thepath back to his house, taking care to wipe off as much mud as possible. He pushed open thepatio doors and exhaled as he walked into his house. Standing there with her hands on her hipswas a plump woman in her late forties.‘You,’ she exclaimed with a quiver of her lips, ‘will catch your death of cold.’Tim looked down at his rain-drenched figure as though in astonishment, but he winkedmischievously as he hung the clothes up on a peg. ‘Me?’ Tim replied. ‘A man who fought for hiscountry. Who has lived to be eighty-six years of age? Now come on Margaret.’‘Honestly,’ Margaret reprimanded, unable to help herself from smiling, ‘you have to lookafter yourself, you’re not a young man anymore.’
 
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‘What is the point of breathing if you can’t live?’‘Just look after yourself! Do it for me if nothing else! What would I do without you to cleanfor?’ Margaret light-heartedly pinched his arm as she calmed down. Her tone softened as shecame to rest her hand on top of Tim’s. ‘Any news on Dawn?’Tim stared blankly before responding, ‘I’m on my way now.’‘Give her my love, won’t you.’‘I will my dear, thank you so much. You know, you know that she struggles now... to...’‘I know.’ Margaret continued as she patted Tim’s arm.Tim cleared his throat and picked up his car keys. He walked out of the front door andraised himself into a green Ford. The car purred to life with the windscreen wipers pushing awaythe lingering rain. Soon Tim was faced by a light blue door with the name Dawn Smith engraved onit. As he entered, he saw that his daughter was sleeping. Her greying hair was matted beneath heron the plain bed. A family photo stood on the bedside table. It was a relief when she was like this,so he sat in a thick armchair to her side and looked down upon his only child. Her rythmaticbreathing reassured him and he relaxed. Tim reached into his pocket and reverently withdrew atatty piece of paper.The old man’s glazed expression was drawn from the letter as his daughter began to shakeher head from side to side. He knew she was about to wake and so he folded the letter and placedit back in his pocket. He placed his hand on his daughter’s arm. Her eyes began to twitch andshortly afterwards her left eye cracked open. She jerked her head up in shock, in the way of oneunfamiliar with their surroundings. Dawn scanned her bedroom in distress. Tim stroked her armuntil her attention came to focus on the man to her side.‘Who are you?’ She asked.Tim’s body shook, it was the question that always got him. But he forced himself tocontrol his emotions. ‘It’s me dear.’ He replied. ‘It’s your father. Remember?’He carried on looking at his daughter as she tried to process the response. The look on herface was one he had seen a hundred times, but each time the confusion and the sadness failed todull.‘Oh.’ Dawn replied, ‘I don’t... I don’t...’‘Shhhhhh.’ Tim reassured. ‘I know. It’s ok. It’s ok.’Dawn turned her head away from the stranger as a tear fell down her cheek to rest on thepillow beneath her. They remained in that position for many minutes, Tim’s hand resting on his
 
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daughters arm. Eventually Dawn twisted to face the man at her side, her mind still searching forrecognition. Failing, she looked at him with a curiosity. After several moments she noticed a longscar on his right bicep, something clicked deep within her.‘Where did you get that?’ She asked, pointing at the scar.Tim smiled, it was typical. His Dawn, asking the one question he had always tried toprotect her from. ‘Where did I get that?’ Tim replied, ‘September the twenty-third, nineteenthirty-five is where, in a flat in Dorset.’***‘Tim.’ A shrill voice shouted, ‘Tim! Dinner’s ready.’‘I’m coming,’ the young teenage voice replied, ‘what is it?’But there was no response, and so the fourteen year old placed down his book and rose tohis feet. He looked around. A single bed behind him was crammed into the small space, taking upfully half of his room. A solitary blanket lay on the worn mattress. Above, the window filtered whatwas left of the day’s light through murky glass. Across the room a wooden shelf struggled to attachitself to the crumbling plaster. Tim had to balance the few books he had just perfectly, theslightest pressure would cause the plank to crash to the floor. Sighing, the teenager stepped outto the landing. His mother tried to greet him with a smile as she faced him from the kitchen table.Will looked at the stove and sink behind his mother, seeing how she had tried to clean the potsand pans. The thick stew that was to be their dinner would not shift from the iron cookware. But itwas not his surroundings that upset the teenage boy as much as the appearance of his mother.As she smiled from the rackety wooden chair, her hair fell over her face in an uncontrolledcascade. It shot erratically in every direction, as though someone was hovering over her head witha particularly strong magnet. He noticed that she had intentionally pushed handfuls of the coarsebrown hair over one side of her face, so that only one eye could be seen. He pretended not tonotice and returned her smile.‘I cooked meat stew,’ she said, ‘your favourite.’Tim didn’t have the heart to remind her that he had given up meat earlier that year, aftera previous meal had bedridden him. He still hadn’t regained the weight.‘It looks lovely!’

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