This week on Search Engine Stories the prompt is WHAT IS THE WORLD SEEKING?
Here is my story –
Mary saw the wheel in the water, moving in an arc so it looked liked someone was steering it from below. The spokes were green with algae, lush as a rainforest. The mosquitoes were out already, pricking at her skin. She slapped at one and a smear of blood spread across her arm. She wondered if it was her blood and was slightly repulsed that it might be someone else’s.
She and Brendan had been fighting again. The same old stuff. His habit of insisting she had said something she knew she hadn’t, knew she would never say to anyone, was beginning to grate. Her resentment was like internal bleeding, buried deep, not visible, but still, in fact, a wound. She did not like it when people who professed to love her, misinterpreted her character.
If Mary and Brendan were anything to go by, the world would always be at war. It was pettiness that stemmed the flow of the peace movement, an inability to let go of past slighted feelings, not a thirst for battle.
Mary’s hands were shaking; really badly now. It might be nerves, anxiety or the sadness Mary felt for her future lodging itself in her central nervous system, blocking her synapses. She flexed her fingers over and over again, hoping to stimulate blood flow. Her hands were cold, always cold. People in the shop jumped backwards when she gave them their change as if she had sent ten thousand volts through them. You should see someone about that, said one customer. Cold hands, warm heart, said another. Not in my case, Mary thought, my heart is wedged sideways in permafrost.
A Japanese tourist startled her with a flashbulb, photographing the wheel in the water as if it was a piece of art or an ancient relic. He bowed to Mary, gesturing to the wheel with a delighted smile on his face. Mary couldn’t help but giggle at his enthusiasm for what was really a piece of garbage. It got her thinking that maybe the wheel was imbued with more power than she had given it credit for.
She decided to play a game, to pretend the wheel had been sent to the surface by the creatures of the water. It was the wheel of fortune, telling her future, steering her in the right direction.
The wind stirred in the fig trees. The wheel swayed in the tide. There was a thicker globule of algae at the top. It was Mary’s marker. She picked up a stick, spun the wheel. To the trees, I stay. To the water I go, she said.
She spun the wheel. It agitated the surface of the water, sending out ripples like radar, bobbing and dipping. Mary knew she was throwing herself on its mercy, but she didn’t care. It was her moment of truth. Her moment of proof.
The wheel stopped, pointing to the water. Mary nodded as if she had known all along where it would end up. She bowed at the water, the way the Japanese man had done, then began to walk away, far from where the place she had called home was.
She thought she should be crying. She thought there should be a lump in her throat, but she felt like a child going out to play.
As she turned the corner she passed the old church with the wrought iron gates. Every week they posted inspirational slogans on a huge billboard. Sometimes they were funny, sometimes sad; often the slogans were questions. Mary decided the questions were meant to be rhetorical for she could never find the answers, but today, for the first time, she actually knew the answer.
What is the world seeking?
the billboard read.
Mary sighed. She felt she was entering a new age. She held out her hands, they were no longer shaking.
What is the world seeking?
She read the question aloud.
That’s easy, she said.
The right path.
Mary walked up the hill, marvelling at how rich the air was, feeling like she could be borne away forever by the clear blue sky.
I could so relate to the arguing all the time…my first marriage in a nutshell. Why do people waste their lives/time, living like this? Looking back, I resent all those wasted years but at least I finally had the guts to leave…sigh. 😦
Great story Selma. Loved the ending. You could write about anything and make it interesting!!! What a talent you have.
“Her resentment was like internal bleeding, buried deep, not visible, but still, in fact, a wound. She did not like it when people who professed to love her, misinterpreted her character.”
Awesome! Well-written story and sage advice all in one. Knowing when to make a change is hard, accepting and acting on it is even harder. You got it spot on, Selma.
funny, how one person can see the same thing in a different way, much like Mary and the Japanese tourist, I think maybe Mary has finally find her way and knew what she has to do, another great spin of an ordinary tale, I agree with Geraldine, you make even the simplest thing sound interesting
So often people stay on the old familiar path because they know exactly where it leads. No surprises, nothing to shake the foundations of their world, just the same old routine. It takes a lot of courage to walk away and find a better path. I’m glad your Mary had that courage.
Great story Selma. Sometimes we need a little nudge from beyond to confirm what we already know is true.
Another good read.
‘Gut’ feel tells me that a lot of us may already know (or have an inkling of) “The right path.”
The difficulty is in overcoming the ‘obstacles’: greed, a lust for power, ‘comfort’ zones (quite often they’re actually uncomfortable, so, its called taking the ‘lazy’ option) and fear of the unknown.
The old saying raises its wise old head again, “No pain, no gain!”.
The power of positive symbolism can have an amazing effect on people, its lucky that Mary found her “wheel of fortune”, but then again, she had to have been ‘looking’ for it.
GERALDINE – the arguing just eats away at you, doesn’t it? It is unhealthy and in many ways, demoralising. I am so happy you had the courage to walk away. You seem really content to me now. I am so glad!
KAREN – thanks so much. I know so many women (and men) stuck in marriages that leave them unfulfilled and grappling with their sense of self. It sounds contradictory but sometimes it is easier to stay than to go. I applaud anyone who can walk away!
LISSA – thank you. I can definitely say the same thing about you. I have learned a lot from your work!
GYPSY – absolutely. It’s the comfort of the familiar, I think. The fear of the unknown stops us in our tracks time and time again. But sometimes diving into the fear can be invigorating!
PUNATIK – my grandmother would have said the wheel was planted there by Mary’s guardian angel. She may have been right….
CHRIS – overcoming the obstacles is one of the hardest things in life, I think. They cause us to lose our way and to lose our focus. You are right about the gut instinct though. The number of times I have not acted because of a gut feeling have been many. I thought it was an irrational response at the time but it turned out to be the right one. Maybe gut instinct is the elusive sixth sense.
Well done! I love your use of the prompt, and the answer you gave. I just couldn’t think of anything. 😛
Thanks for your kind words about the adoption the other day. To say I have been preoccupied with it is an understatement – it shows in my disrupted creative flow. I keep telling myself, “Just get to Nov 12th…” 😀
I agree with GYPSY….
“It takes a lot of courage to walk away and find a better path. I’m glad your Mary had that courage.”
Have I told you lately that YOU write The Best Stories In The World.
TEXASBLU – please keep me posted with the adoption. I am keeping everything crossed for you. Best wishes XXX
MELEAH – you have made my day! XXX0000XXX
Selma your story made me think differently than the others. I’ve been thinking about your point that we can never have peace because even on our day to day personal interactions we get caught up in petty things and can’t let them go.
This is one of my own biggest challenges. I guess it is pride, or something of that sort and I’ve unfortunately chosen the ‘walk away’ route too often. I think it is sometimes the easier way, not the hardest. To stay and sort through the crap- really with honest intent- is very difficult. My marriage made of wildy diverse differences has seen solid weekends of nothing but tears and revelations not meant to be verbalised. Tough tough tough. I could have walked a hundred times and that would have been the easy way. if we could all get cleaned up, wipe our slates spotless and say- Okay let’s find a way forward- then maybe maybe maybe we will find peace.
Thanks for letting me think through this here. In the middle of a professional walk away I may be reconsidering. Thanks loads.
LAURI – Awww, hon, I am so glad to help. I now feel I must come clean with you and tell you I wrote this story about the state of my marriage at the moment. I am experiencing a lot of stress, tension, occasional acrimony, along with what I see as ill-conceived attacks on my character. I know it is all to do with my hubby’s dissatisfaction with his own life (particularly financially)rather than anything to do with me, but I am growing weary of it. My son was talking about world peace the other day. My friend Jules rang me in tears after a fight with her husband; I was fighting with my husband, and it occurred to me how difficult it really is to find peace on a global scale if our petty domestic squabbles are anything to go by. The story just came from that thought.
And I know all about the revelations never meant to be verbalised. Some of them have left me reeling. Someone said to me I am experiencing the nature of married life as it is in our 40s. I don’t find the thought reassuring. If I can help you in any way, please don’t hesitate. I am only an email away. XXXXX
Such a thought provoking piece. I think honestly confronting our own deep (sometimes cloaked) feelings, wants, frustrations, and desires is what makes these kinds of leaving/staying (literal or metaphorical) choices difficult. At least it is so for me. Separating what I truly need and know about myself from what I’m “supposed to” need, or what someone else may be projecting, is nearly crippling sometimes. And I don’t think I’ve ever been able to get to understanding whether leave or stay is the path to walk without some brutally honest mirror looking.
Much empathy Selma & Lauri. My Sisyphean rock is that I can stay beyond reason. Twenty+ years ago, I stayed rather miserably married to a man for several years after I knew I was gay, due to a misplaced sense of duty/loyalty, decades of ultra protestant brainwashing, plain old terror of the unknown, and a ream of other crud. Now? Seems inconceivable, but then…I think (hope) that whole period of my life taught me several reincarnations worth. Anyway, my heart goes out to you along with my most sincere well wishes & hugs.
if being on the right path was as simple as a spin on a wheel the path would be so crowded we would all be looking for the first off ramp….
read your comment it will work its way out… somehow or another it always does….
there is a great bit of unease floating about of late,, and i think it has intensified everything else to a place of almost surreal importance…
careful you don’t get caught in the undertow….
Hi Selma, I agree with the others. Your story is remarkable and thought provoking.
My suggestions for possible revisions would be more sentence variation in terms of sentence structure and length, whenever possible express thematic issues implicitly rather than explicitly, and, as an experiment, rewrite the story in the first person to see where that takes you.
Thanks, once again, for a great read.
KAYT – I had no idea you have been through so much. I have a gay friend (a man) who was married for ten years and had a daughter. I knew he was gay all along and obviously he did too but he came from an extremely religious background, so the brainwashing was a big issue for him too. I cannot imagine the inner turmoil he endured. He is happy now but every now and then I see a little speck of sadness in his eyes. His family have rejected him and even though he has a full life he wishes he could have their blessing. I wish he could too. Thanks so much for sharing your story.
PAISLEY – I am coming up for air right now. I don’t know if you realise what a calming influence you have on me. You always put things into perspective. Thank you.
DAVID – very good points. I am guilty of not editing my stories properly at the moment and am finding time to be a problem. All of these things I write are first drafts and sometimes I think one can tell. LOL. My internal editor seems to have gone on holiday. Thanks for your advice!
Hi Selma, another great story, very good descriptives and indeed very thought provoking!
AUTUMN – thank you so much. Great to have you back. I missed you!