Here’s a scene:
Demetrius comes out of his mid-sized hut to find something wrong. He had paid Henry to fix this problem. And now here it is rearing its dumb ugly head in his front yard.
Everyone thought that Henry was a man with common sense. That’s why he had hired him. He was wrong, obviously. Standing there, he starts to hear front doors open. Folks coming out to check on the day’s weather. Henry normally walks the street at just about this time. Naturally. He likes to be seen. He’s a businessman and a father.
Just as Henry’s head and shoulders peek over the north hill, Demetrius bellows his name. Every man and woman and running child’s head turns. Henry’s ears redden. Thank goodness they are all too far off to see it. Yes, he is still far off, but he is too close to pretend he has not heard his own name carry his neighbor’s rage over the hill and to his ears. He must proceed forward. He bares his shoulders broad, his head upright, his stroll exactly as it always is. A person has to make an effort to maintain dignity.
It’s the moment he sees his disaster, the ugly child he wishes to hide delivered to him, that his shoulders sink without command from the brain. The brain need not be here. This is visceral. This will sting. He remembers the exact moment he decided that thing wasn’t that important. He’ll just not bother with that part. His wife had been making fresh lemonade when he had left for Demetrius’ house. In truth, he had been lazy and careless with his neighbor’s home. His head, he hasn’t even noticed, has been dragging along the road now for a quarter-mile. He has more road to go.
Demetrius sees the pain and shame in Henry’s eyes. He won’t sue his neighbor. Henry is a father. His children shouldn’t suffer overmuch. So he berates him. He calls him a lazy sloth of a man. He calls him childlike. “Go play, child,” he calls toward him. He calls him an idiot. Just idiot. Again and again. Idiot. He hits Henry in the head with his words and small rocks as he passes.
Demetrius feels he has done what is just. He heads back into his home to discuss with his wife how they can fix this problem. Damned Henry.
Henry feels lower than all the sadnesses in his life combined. He feels cleansed. He couldn’t walk about the streets unpunished like a spoiled child. He had seen one of those before. Terrible thing to see. All this for lemonade, he thought. Never again. He opens his door slowly to see his wife’s expression change.
She has always dreaded this day. Always known it was possible. They’ve been married many years and she has witnessed his tendency to embrace shortcuts. But up until now it was her secret shame. Now everyone knows. She has worked to the top of this community, and now? Now she’ll be at the bottom, like a school girl again, a child. There will be looks of pity and condescension. But with hard work… she get’s to work.
She berates him. Makes him understand the depth of the injury, the broken promise. He didn’t cherish their life together or else this wouldn’t have happened, she tells him.
It wasn’t so much the lemonade as the sight of her making it that had drawn me home, Henry now understands. He doesn’t tell her this lest it sound like he’s making excuses for himself. Lest he sound like he’s manipulating for sympathy.
When a tear comes to his eye, she walks slowly toward him and puts her hand on his shoulder. He wants more, of course. He wants a full embrace. She stands near and let’s him hug her; it’s too soon for anything else, she thinks. This will humble him. He is grateful that she’s allowed him the honor of embracing her. She pulls away after some moments and begins telling him her plan to fix it. To build up again. First thing, they will not have dinner. They’ll go to bed hungry. The food she was preparing will go to the neighbors. Once it’s laid neatly in the basket, Henry takes it, along with his work bag, back to his neighbor’s home.
Footnote: Something happened the other day that got me thinking about common sense. This story came to my mind with my name on it as if delivered from the Land of Writing. I wonder why we struggle with common sense and common decency today. I feel like this story, this way of being has fallen out of popularity and we’ve lost something with it. I don’t want to start analyzing the work and how it relates to such and such aspects of society (although I normally love to) but I would love to have your input and maybe start a discussion instead.
This is the first fictional story that I’ve posted. Even still, though it’s my baby, I am open to being berated and torn apart with any critiques you might wish to offer!
Have at it.