17 Leaving Home...Again

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Stephen Whiteside
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17 Leaving Home...Again

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Thu Oct 27, 2011 6:05 am

17 Leaving Home...Again

© Stephen Whiteside 27.10.2011

Horatio and Magnifico held their breaths as it passed, like some great, silent space-ship. They watched as it rose gradually up the bank, and disappeared behind the curve of the hill. And for some time after, too, they stayed in their little nook, scarcely daring to breathe, let alone move. Terror, that was holding them. Quick to arrive, and slow to abate.

It was Magnifico who made the first move.

We can’t stay here forever, Horatio.

I don’t want to go. It’s not just that horrible monster. It’s mum, too. I can’t just leave her here.

You left her once, you’ll leave her again. You have to. We need to find some proper shelter, and we need something to eat. How long since we’ve eaten? It must be twelve hours. And even then, it wasn’t much. Come on, let’s go.

Horatio knew in his heart that Magnifico was right. But oh, the pain of it. It felt so different this time. Last time he had left home, he knew his mother was as well as could be under the circumstances, and that she was being well cared for. And there was also the possibility of his returning, even though he probably would not have admitted it to himself at the time.

This was final, though. This was it. This was the end. Face the world alone. Properly alone. Wholly alone. Well, not quite, because now he had Magnifico. But, oh, the thought of his poor old mother’s lonely corpse lying somewhere out there buried under a pile of debris, it was so sad it left him cold. Sure, she’d been a burden for him for most of his life, and he had cursed her often, but he had never wanted it to end like this. Never imagined it would end like this. Oh, the injustice of it all. Perhaps she’d been eaten by some scavenger already. Or, worse than that, partly eaten. Only partly eaten, her poor old ribs now exposed to the pitiless sun.

Horatio couldn’t bear to think of it. Refused to think of it. So he didn’t. All right. That was that. Enough was enough. Some things just can’t be processed by the conscious mind at the time. So they need to be stored away, to be regurgitated and processed later, at some more convenient, less stressful time. Like cud. Mental cud. Cows had cud. Rats had mental cud. Perhaps other animals had mental cud too, but Horatio didn’t care about them. Rats were all he cared about. And mice. Well, only one mouse, really. One mouse, and maybe any other mice that he especially cared about, too.

It was time to move. Horatio heaved a deep sigh - the first in a long time.

You’re right, Magnifico. There is nothing for us here. Let’s go.

That’s better. That’s the right attitude. Thank God you’re coming around Horatio, I was beginning to despair of you.

You wouldn’t have left me, would you?

Don’t ask. Just don’t ask.

That was food for thought. A friend in need. Well, at the end of the day we all have to put ourselves first. It’s one thing to lay down your life for another, but it’s something else again if you’re both just going to die. No point in that. It’s the first rule of life, isn’t it, life for life’s sake. Life must out. Life must triumph. Life must survive. Horatio understood that. Two days ago he might not have, but a lot can change in two days, as he was learning.

Magnifico, being the smaller of the two, moved first, quickly scrabbling from the teetering wreckage to the firm mud of the bank. Horatio followed. A sound behind them caused them to turn their heads. The whole precarious edifice tottered slightly, then fell further to one side. The upturned bed they had been lying against slipped out of the little space it had been in, the two walls came together removing once and for all the hidey-hole that had been their protector.

Somehow, the balance of the nursing home had changed even as they had been in it. Some effect of current and wind, presumably. Only their own little weights had been maintaining the balance. Without them, it had toppled further. How close they had been to death, even while sheltering from an even greater chance of the very same thing. How thin the thread of life at times! But it did no good to ponder on such things.

The two paused briefly to watch as the home settled in its new, slightly more squashed position, then turned their heads back to the front again, and proceeded on their way without a further word.
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer

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