Nine minutes to One, part three – The Wishing Well
“I suppose she sent you?” said the man with green eyes, looking down, sadly on the boy.
“Who sent me?” replies the boy, in a voice deeper and more powerful than he expected. At this the man with the green eyes stands back, as though some link has been made with something forceful in his life.
The boy realises that the journey through the darkness has changed many things; that the setting off into the unknown made the clock face do something strange: something you couldn’t draw just with a straight line…
“Did she?” asked the man with the green eyes.
“What?” the boy asks, extracting himself from the tight yellow rain mac that is threatening to rip itself open across his shoulders. He discards it, but the man with the green eyes follows it as it tumbles along the roots of the tree and lands on the moss, below.
“Can I have that – if I help you?” he said.
Comprehension comes tumbling into the boy’s world just in time. “It’s…” He swallows the words, ‘Too small for you’, and, says, instead, “Of course you can, as long as you can help me fix her.”
“I haven’t seen her in a long time,” said the man with the green eyes. “How is she?”
“She is angry…too angry…” says the boy. “I love her and want to fix her.”
At the word ‘love’ the man with green eyes turned his head away. The boy realises that the man with the green eyes is unable to face the idea that the angry woman could be loved by anyone else. The boy sees that the freely given love he assumed to be part of everything is not so; that there are those who cut themselves off from it.
“Why do you want to be with her, if you don’t love her as I do?” asks the boy.
“Be with her!” exclaimed the man with the green eyes. “I was never good enough to be with her!”
The boy stares into the intelligence of the green eyes made cloudy by anxiety, and realises that the man with the green eyes can do nothing to help him fix the angry woman; that he faces the same pain, though its source is different. With the angry woman it comes from her belief that she must keep trying to make things better. With the man with the green eyes, the certainty is that he could never be good enough, no matter what he did, that he is fundamentally lesser.
The boy looks through the man with the green eyes and realises that he makes himself a child, never letting the other sun, the one that led the boy here, help him to open to the air of the mountains, which the boy knows to be all around, even here. The boy bends to pick up the little yellow mac and holds it open, inviting the man with the green eyes to step into its bright folds. “You may have it, whether you help me or not,” he says, smiling, genuinely, at the man with the wet green eyes.
The boy is not surprised when the coat fits; nor that the gift makes the man with the green eyes cry again.
“There is a price, though,” says the boy. “You must show me something that you’re good at!”
The man with the green eyes looked at the ernest boy and pulled the folds of the yellow mac around him, taking comfort in how it felt. “I’m good at one thing,” he says. “But I keep it secret… Would you like to see?”
The boy nods, smiling that he has found an important truth. The man with the green eyes takes him over a hill and down into a valley where there is a secret cave. In the cave there is an old stone well, dug deep into the rock.
“Watch,” says the man with the green eyes, and he gazes down into the water, where suddenly there appears a parade of brightly dressed characters, all of whom are played by the man with green eyes, as though he is directing a play starring only himself.
The boy is delighted. He claps his hands at the cleverness. But then, in the deeper part of the water, below the glittering parade, he sees the second sun shining; at first pale, but then getting brighter and brighter. He realises that time has passed, is passing, here on the clock face.
The man with the green eyes stared, folornly, at the boy’s second sun, then pulled away from both the visions in the well. The parade disappeared, but the second sun remains…
The boy is learning caution, but knows the truth of the second sun. He climbs up on the rim of the well and prepares to dive into the water below, full of trust. Just before he launches himself he turns to wave goodbye to the man with the green eyes who is staring at him, horrified, and stripping off the yellow mac.
©Copyright Stephen Tanham 2016.
Nine Minutes to One is a short story, in about 20 episodes, published on Thursdays.
Index to previous parts below: