Tell A Tale in 500 Words
A ball rolls By Kathleen Bell
A child rolled a ball down the road. It slid under a stalled car.
The child’s face crumpled. Its thin hand stretched forward, then the child was on all fours, scrabbling its way across the street, ready to push itself under the car – when the neighbours intervened.
Strong hands pulled the child back, held the child (who was screaming) just as the driver of the car turned a key with quick success – and the car’s rumble rose to a scream.
The car accelerated, left. In the road lay a blackened, half-deflated ball which bounced once, then spluttered into the gutter.
Tears dribbled down the child’s face. Screams erupted.
The child’s mother came from her house and the neighbours pulled the child towards her in a way which was not gentle and most unneighbourly.
The mother caught the child and held it firmly, chin rammed into her stomach and face forced against her breasts. The child’s screams choked into sobs. The mother stood.
Voices came in fragments. All condemned.
“LAZY … POOR … YOU … IRRESPONSIBLE … SHAMED … SHOULD BE ASHAMED … POOR … LAZY COW …BE SHAMED … GET … CHILD … OUT … GET CHILD … OUT … BAD BAD BAD DEAD OUT OUT OUT.”
The mother shrunk. Faces loomed, twisted with sneers.
A motor-bike roared through the street. The child quivered.
A woman stepped forward. She held the damaged ball towards the child. In her other hand was a new, blue ball.
The child turned, pulled its face from its mother’s breasts and gazed at the two balls in the woman’s hands.
The child snatched the balls and ran past the mother into the house. The front door slammed.
The mother stammered. An apology, perhaps, but no defence. Mitigation? Maybe.
Most was inaudible. Here are a few words:
“child … ill … so hard … lonely … TV … food bank … hungry …so so so so … so so so so so so so so … ill … very tired”
The woman who had brought the balls stepped forward. She embraced the mother, who sagged into her arms. Faces changed. They softened.
“Sorry,” a man said. “Should have helped. It’s not your fault.”
A neighbour came with a tray. On it was a mug of tea and a plate of biscuits. The mother ate, then drank.
A voice said, “Can I help?” Another, “What can I do?”
The child came out of the house. It looked down but did not seem afraid. A young man knelt beside the child, spoke in a low voice. The child stretched out a hand.
The mother put down the mug and stretched out a hand.
The hands of mother and child met neighbours’ hands. The neighbours smiled. Mother and child smiled. Kindness grew
and may, one day, outweigh and overset vast structures that confine and separate. And may one day destroy the leaden institutions with their daily cruelty and grief-producing wrongs.
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