TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
The air pressure changed suddenly and the wind began to wail. Yawning to pop her ears, she glanced out the cabin window, and saw dark purple storm clouds racing over the hill. It looked like a bad one. Remembering the puppy was still outside, she ran to the door, and called him. He didn’t appear. She quickly walked outside, and found him frantically digging at the dirt near the rickety fence. She called him again and he looked back, whined, and continued digging. A blast of ice cold air slapped her in the face and then…
(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)
THE HAPPY DOG, splashing muck everywhere, worked furiously, digging at something along the fence, ignoring the beckoning whistle. The prize appeared to be anchored to something unseen. Watching from the stoop, the man sighed, pulled his sweater close, and stepped out into the cold, heartless rain.
It was a purple ribbon–her favourite one. Kneeling in the growing puddle, one hand gripping the dog’s collar, the other hand tightened on the rumpled cloth lifeline. How many times had they searched for this same ribbon? The angry wind howled as his mind followed the twisted silk deep into the earth, the wind screaming and moaning, pelting him with rain.
Motionless, head bowed, his shoulders, so strong one might think the world could be balanced upon them, slowly crumpled as memories flooded his mind.
It was just a ribbon, but it was purple, and that made it specialóso very special.
How did something as cheap and disposable as a dollar store ribbon prove to be more enduring than his bold, unstoppable child? Fate was mocking him.
His mind wandered back to the yard, the swing, the many hours spent in song, so much song! It wasn’t the dog snuffling under his hand, nor was it the hard cold rain smacking his head and face, soaking him clear to the bone, or the arthritic knee he blew out playing soccer as a kid. What reminded him he was still alive came from far away, carried on the wind, gently and sweetly, and if he kept his eyes closed he could hear that sweet voice.
It was a memory, yet in his mind it was clear and strong and beautiful, the song in the chaotic wind moved around him and through him, finding its way into his damaged and weary heart. With his eyes closed, he could see her playing on the swing, giggling in the sprinkler, gently digging worms, naming each one before tucking it gently into the flower bed.
He remembered all of it. Insisting mother cut her hair short, then wearing coloured leotards on her head, claiming it was her magical wig. Not just the one time, but for three years straight. When she finally let her hair grow, it was the richest shade of chestnut, thick and shiny. No leotard could match such a crowning glory!
Younger still, in her high chair, being handed a bowl of pasta. The noodles carefully dumped out on the tray, spoon tossed aside, the bowl placed haphazardly on her head, and then the meal would commence. Grinning with joy as red, sticky sauce dripped down her face, rouging her cheeks. She would gobble the noodles one by one until a nap claimed her.
Nothing kept her spirit down. Every day was full of laughter, song, and dance. There were no boring moments. She LOVED life!
When exactly did the smile begin to fade? It was hard to say, really. Teen years are always hard, a rite of passage. She was fine, cruising along, navigating life so well…and then she was not fine. Maybe if he had been watching a little more closely, not expecting her to simply figure things out like she was so damned good at doing. Maybe he had missed that fleeting window of opportunity, when someone might have noticed there was growing angst, some poison seed of doubt, slowly germinating. Maybe jumping in, acting on that gut feeling, could have stopped what came after. The songs stopped one day, far too soon. No more laughter on the wind. Just silence.
She stood at the screen door, looking out through the rain at her husband, crumpled in the garden, hugging the dog. Approaching, the woman didn’t need to see his face in the dark to understand. She read the lines of his back and shoulders well enough. He’d changed little with the years. On this night, however, his pose held more grief than usual.
“Come on, honey. Let’s go in. There’s hot tea.” She knelt in the mud and encircled him ever so gently in her arms, helping him to his feet. The two of them rose as one, sharing her body heat and her strength as she had so often since that morning. Together, they shuffled back toward the beckoning light and the waiting warmth of the house. He was groggy, chilled to the bone, and soaked like a wet rag mop. She lovingly led him through the kitchen, ignoring the mud and the exuberant dog. She helped peel off the soaked layers, and soon he was dry and warm, huddled under a thick blanket, holding his mug in one hand. The hopeless longing in his eyes drew her attention to the tattered cloth in his other hand.
When she saw what he held, a fresh pain twisted her heart, and the loss was as raw and searing as it had been on that quiet lifeless morning, so very long ago. It had begun like any other day, filled with anticipation and hope, and the sun’s promise. The morning when they found their beautiful, strong, unstoppable child, nestled in her purple princess bed, empty bottles and random pills sprinkled over the covers like so many wild daisies claiming her cold pale body. Her pain was finished.
Thirty years had passed, and yet the agony of having their hearts ripped out, the hollow emptiness of their souls, remained as raw and as fresh as that first quiet morning.
The riddle remained.
There WAS no “tell.” Suicide has a poker face, and it plays for keeps.