The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

23 April 2010

The beginning - a story

From a writing assignment came this beginning to either a full-length or short work of fiction:

Oh for heaven’s sake! What now?” Rachel stomped to the side door as emphatically as she could in her knitted slippers, leaving pasta on the point of boiling over and tomato sauce conducting a Jackson Pollock experiment on the stove. Flinging the door open so hard the hanging stained glass “Peace reigns within” picture rattled against the window, she took a moment to see who it was before growling, “Typical. I’m too busy right now, David.” Flapping her hand at him in the hopes the man would vanish, she slapped at the door to shut him out and hurried back to the stove to rescue what was sure to be another disappointing meal.

“God in His heaven, woman, what are you doing?” Rachel jumped at the voice which came not from the stoop beyond the kitchen door, but from right behind her. She spun to glare at the man, dripping yet more crimson splotches over the stove and floor as she went.

“Don’t you say a word, David Wilkes. You haven’t spoken more than two words to a soul, so far as I can tell; it’s a wonder your voice hasn’t rusted clean out of your throat”

“I need to ask a favour.” David’s voice really did sound rusty, Rachel thought, startled to hear him speak. “From your dad, actually. Is Russell home?”

“It’s Wednesday night. If you did more than growl at people when you left your house, you’d realize Wednesday is card night at the Lion’s Hall, and my father doesn’t miss that unless the Queen is in town.” Got to work on that sarcasm, she admonished herself. Just as soon as she got a handle on the laundry. “Tell me what you need, and I’ll pass the message to daddy when he gets home.”

“Rachel, listen to me.” Tapping the back of her hand to get her attention, he continued “Timmy Mulligan is dead. His unit came under attack while on a recce, and he was killed by an IED yesterday. He was one of mine, and I want to be there when they bring him home on Friday. I need to borrow your dad’s car so I can get to Trenton for the repatriation.”

Having said it all at once, he waited silently for her reaction. Timmy was a local boy – Willoughby born and bred. This news was going to hit the whole town hard. “We’ll take my car, David. I’m going with you.”

“”Abby didn’t know him, Rache. Tim’s never been home since she was born.”

Struggling to process the news and her thoughts, she looked up at her old friend with grief-shadowed eyes. “You’re right. She never knew her uncle, but he was all she had left. After the accident, I promised myself I’d do everything I could to make sure she would know about her parents, that I would always tell her their stories. I wanted Timmy to be a reminder of her dad.” She angrily swiped at the tears on her cheeks.

“I get that. I do. Look, I know it’s been hard for you, Debbie dying and all that’s happened. But you don’t have to do this out of guilt. I should have been there with him so I owe him this, but he would understand that you can’t get away.” He held his hand up to stall her protest and continued, “It’s a long drive, Rachel. It’ll take at least 15 hours and that’s too much for a little kid. It’s going to be very sad, and hard to watch, and then it’s 15 hours in the car again to come back home.” He looked at her, and could see the newly etched lines on her face; this new responsibility was weighing heavily on her. He really should have pulled his head out of the sand and seen that she needed help. “Do you really want to come?”

Rachel nodded. “I feel like I have to do this for her. Even if she doesn’t remember, I have to be able to tell her we were there, that he was important to her, ‘cause he was family.”

He scrubbed his hand over his face, and sighed in defeat. “Ok then. Can you be ready to leave by six? I’ll pay for the gas if you can look after some food for us. Tell Russell we’ll be back late Saturday night.

She nodded once more, and getting up she briefly lay her hand on his shoulder, and began clearing the table.

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