Lawrence Russell

The Curve

§ My mother left me at the wall with strict instructions to wait until she got back, to go nowhere and speak to no one. She was all dressed up, was happy, and I was too because we were supposed to be meeting someone with a car who was going to take us on a trip. Could it be my father? I hadn't seen him for a long, long time. I was going to school now and I didn't like it much. We had to wear gray uniforms with blue caps and blue ties, and I was wearing this uniform as I waited for her to come back.

There was a market taking place and I watched her looking at the goods before she disappeared among the stalls. It was noisy, and the people looked strange and I didn't see any other kids. The wall was stone, and higher than a big person, so I didn't know what was on the other side. A funfair I hoped or perhaps a railway station. The wall curved away in both directions, or it seemed to. Anyway, I waited.

A long time passed and she still hadn't come back, and now I was sitting on the gravel, my back against the wall. Cattle were mawing nearby, so I assumed there was an auction on the other side. I was hungry, and didn't know what to think: should I stay put or go looking for my mother? I tried going a short distance to see if there was gateway somewhere but gave up, came back to where I thought I was before. All the stalls looked the same, and the people too. They ignored me completely, strangers without curiosity or compassion, and I was afraid to ask for help.

Well, did I need help? I sat down, back against the wall, chewed some grass. I didn't realize I was doing this, just as I didn't realize I'd fallen asleep. When I woke, it was dark, the people gone, the stalls empty. It was raining lightly, so I took shelter below the nearest stall, and slept some more. Then I was dreaming and it wasn't very good and I kept waking up. Once I thought I heard a car coming, could even see a moving light reflected on the wall, but then realized it couldn't be on the wall as it was the wrong direction... or could there be another wall? I panicked, thought someone was building the wall in the darkness in order to keep me here, just like the schoolyard at The Blue School, where the walls are very high.

The birds woke me, then the dawn. No one was around, although a cow bayed mournfully somewhere. It was cold, and I was shivering, so I started walking along the wall with the rising sun on my left. I walked so I might get warm, and then I walked because I thought I could go all the way around, just see what was what and understand where I was. But the countryside just emptied out as this wall just kept going in a gentle curve, so that the sun seemed to stand still no matter how far I walked. And I walked and walked along this featureless wall, and there was no sign of my mother or anyone in a car.

I felt silly in my uniform, all gray and blue like a bird in the wrong place. The silly blue cap and the silly blue tie... silly, silly, as if I was someone unique. I thought about throwing them away, the cap and the tie and even the jacket, until I realized my mother might not recognize me if she was looking. I felt she must be looking, her and someone in a black car, driving slowly, following the wall, following the curve.

The curve was the problem. Because of the curve, everything in front of me was hidden, and everything behind too. When I stopped, both directions looked the same, a big green field with no trees that was crossed by a big stone wall with no gate. There was a path wide enough for a car or people, although... was it a path? Did anyone or any animal follow it? The wall seemed to have its own shadow, even though it was facing the sun, and the shadow was gravel, shed by the wall in its silent nightly erosion.

Where was I? What was this place, which was both something and nothing? Should I go back? Which way was back? My shoes were scuffed, my uniform so shabby it really wasn't a uniform anymore, and I was afraid to even think about my situation. There was a gnaw in my stomach and in my head. Although I was on the edge of confusion, I recognized this: I had to keep moving, because if I stopped, the sun would pass and night would fall, and I dreaded the darkness in this place where one direction was the same as the other.

Face it: I was alone, and doomed to be alone, and I had no choice but to keep moving, hold the sun, follow the curve.

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The Curve © LR 2008