This is a theme for Saturday’s where I post short stories I either host or have written myself.
‘Moss’ is a powerful story written by a talented young man Nick Watkinson. Enjoy, but watch out – it will play with your emotions.
Through the Teign valley, the river meandered between high crags
and dense forest. Where it was visible from his vantage, it shone gold with the late afternoon sun and a scattering of pearl stood a clear warning that the river ran faster and rougher than it might appear at a distance. Marianne pulled at his arm.
‘I’m cold, Papa.’
He caught her hands in his and dropped his knee to the slick grass. ‘Do you want to go back, Marie?’
She scrunched up her face for a moment, then shrugged, then said ‘Chase me!’
She was out of his hands and bounding from the boulders before he could stand. He paused when his knee cracked, waited for the pain to wash through him. It was always accompanied by a smell, a grey nothing that never the less smothered all other scents, and a prickling fire in his skull. A hangover from the crash. With learned caution, he picked his way between the broken stones as his vision swam.
‘Papa, chase me faster!’ He heard her shout and, somewhere in the distance, saw the violet of her coat.
Faster, with a laugh forced out, he stumbled down the sheep track. Marianne screamed and laughed and her splash of violet bounced up and down, and down. He saw the shape of her hood, the dark sweep of her hair, her cheeks red with the cold. When he caught her he swung her up and fell, rolling on the generous wetness of moss and grass. Marianne caught her breath and climbed onto his belly.
‘You’re crying again, Papa,’ she said and pawed at his cheek.
‘It’s from the grass, Marie.’
He tore a handful of stems from the ground and brushed them on her face. She batted him away with tiny hands and helpless giggles. Smiling, he eased his head back into the dry cocoon of his hood. Gunmetal clouds choked the sky above, though the west still glowed golden.
‘Not because of Mummy?’ asked Marianne. ‘Grandma says we’re allowed to cry.’ His daughter sounded reproachful.
‘I don’t need to cry, Marie.’ He rolled over so she toppled onto her belly, and he shifted so he was too. He pointed down the valley. ‘The river cries for me. The moss, the sky. If I cried I’d do nothing else. I’d not be able to cook you dinners, or wash the clothes. The world cries for me, so I can look after you.’
Marianne lay still. He couldn’t see her face. She threw out her arms and dug her fingers into the moss and earth.
‘Thank you world,’ she said, with a moss-muffled voice.
With his face pressed to the moss, he said in a strange deep voice, ‘You are very welcome, Miss Marianne.’
She giggled and burrowed into his side. He gathered her up and stood carefully, biting down on the pain. He walked back towards home, up a path he could hardly see, while his daughter tucked her nose into the crook of his hood and shook without sound in his arms.