Lost by Tony Hillary
Every month, NWS members are invited to respond to a writing prompt in 500 words or less. We love to celebrate the immense talent and creativity in our community by featuring the work of one writer on our blog. This month, our prompt was write about something that got lost.
Tony Hillary submitted a piece of work called Lost. This is a really moving story about human connection and what we have to learn from each other, and we loved that Tony was inspired by the prompt to write about someone who has lost something metaphorical – her way. It was so touching to see Marie come to this realisation over the course of the piece, and the ending was very well placed – to end on an epiphany like this gives the reader a lot of power to decide how they think Marie chooses to move forward. It’s a story that follows on from My Happy Land, Tony’s piece that was published in NWs’s My Happy Place earlier this year.
Tony said of his piece, “Walk through any city and you’ll see the Big Issue vendors, the homeless, those with mental health and addiction problems. It is so easy to ignore them and pretend they don’t exist. But these are real people. The only difference between “them” and “us” is luck. Consider the start they had in life, the environment they were brought up in, the parenting, and who influenced their development to adulthood. Did they stand a chance? Writing this story was a personal emotional ambush. It just doesn’t seem fair. Yet… is there something to learn from it?”
Well done Tony, and thank you so much for sharing!
Marie was uneasy, worried – a storm was brewing.
A social worker whose job was to improve the lives of the many rough sleepers, she was now worrying about her own situation. Driving her car to the ruins of the abandoned flats she felt a mixture of insecurity and shame.
She was making her monthly visit to Giles, a long term rough sleeper, to try to persuade him to move to the safety of a hostel. He always refused.
An uncontrollable wave of sadness took over. As tears blurred her vision she had to pull over, park somewhere quiet and let her emotions flow. She wept, mascara running down her cheeks, her body uncontrollably shaking. Sadness, fear… what would happen to them?
A week after their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, her husband Jack had been made redundant. There was no compensation as he had only been in the job for three months, mercilessly cast adrift by the company who had headhunted him. There weren’t many jobs around for fifty-five-year-old production managers.
Why had he bought the new car? How would they make the repayments without his earnings? And the mortgage… the credit cards… the balance to pay for the holiday they had booked?
Winter was approaching. How would they afford the heating? Turn it down, adjust the timer, wear warmer clothes indoors. What about the food bill – can’t afford Sainsbury’s, now shop at Aldi. If housekeeping runs out, there’s the unthinkable option… the food bank. She could never tell Jack… it would destroy him.
How could this have happened to them? It only happened to other people… didn’t it? Reality wrapped around her like a malevolent blanket of insecurity.
Taking slow deep breaths, she pulled herself together. The sole breadwinner, she had to keep going.
Giles was in his usual place in the derelict building. The small weatherproof room was his world… an old mattress, a sleeping bag, a couple of mismatched chairs and a table. In the corner was a single Calor gas ring, a pan and a kettle.
“Hello Giles, how are you today?”
“I’m fine madam, thank you.” He knew what was coming…
“Have you thought any more about moving into the hostel?”
Giles replied firmly, “Please leave me alone, madam, this is my home, my happy land.”
Then he paused, looked into Marie’s eyes. “Madam, why have you been crying?”
She looked down, avoiding eye contact.
“Let me make you a cup of tea… I think you need it.”
Marie looked up, such kindness, “That would be nice.”
In his small room, his happy land, they drank tea together and talked…
Now she understood why Giles wouldn’t move. He begged on the street, had enough money for food, somewhere to live. Nobody judged him. He was truly a free and contented man.
Now she realised, in this materialistic world of winners and losers, she and Jack had been chasing shadows. And lost their way.