The Lush Green, Trimmed Backyard That Saw Everything
Fiction can be comforting but we don't mean to comfort you with this story. If you truly want to get the best out of what we've written, make sure
We might proficiently write about a category called ‘All About Mankind’ in our newsletter, but we’re far from knowing all about mankind. In the past, we’ve scoured the internet and written about true stories— ordinary people that have managed to cement their place on the internet, to be rewritten about at least once every 3 years, if not more, because of the extraordinary things they’ve done.
However, today, we look toward fiction to delve into a different facet of the human psyche, i.e. how people can surprise you in the most unexpected way. Fasten your seat belts and make sure you read till the end.
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A Fictional Story For You
“Change takes time, honey. It took a while for me too, you know?” Norman’s husky voice engulfed the room as they continued setting up the table. His coughs had aggravated but he controlled them around Hannah to avoid the questions.
“It’s been six months Norman… and it’s not about that. He’s becoming someone I can’t recognise. This is not the boy I raised. After his father’s death, he has…” Hannah’s voice cracked as she continued, “He has never been the same.”
Norman placed the last glass on the table before turning to Hannah and giving her a reassuring hug. She needed it. She had finally found love again after her husband was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. All she wanted was for her only son, Alvin, to accept him so she could move on from that stage of her life. It was difficult, for both, to bounce back after he passed.
Alvin had been quiet and rebellious for the most part. He was stuck between seeing his mom happy and looking at the man who would eventually replace his father after all this time. The process of acceptance wasn’t easy, even after Norman’s repeated trials of befriending him. The sight of Norman made Alvin cringe and Hannah noticed that.
“ALVIN… ALVIN,” Hannah called out as the dinner got served.
“Coming,” Alvin mumbled.
Alvin dragged himself downstairs and sat next to his mom. He had really hoped for one thing at that moment—for everyone to eat in silence so that he does not have to make conversation with Norman. He was bottled up. He could implode at any moment.
“So, Alvin, how was school today? How is Max lately, have you guys been playing after school?” asked Norman.
“We don’t have to do this. Just because you’re with my mom doesn’t mean we get to be whatever it is you want.” Alvin snapped.
“Listen, Alvin! You are only fifteen. You don’t get to talk to Norman like that. We have been trying very hard with you. It’s time you lived up to your side of the bargain.” Hannah defended.
“My side of the bargain? What happened to your side of the bargain when you pulled the plug on dad? Yeah, I know!! My side of the bargain would be complete when I see this man dead.”
“ALVIN!” Hannah screamed before slapping him and sending him to his room.
Alvin could not feel a thing. He finally let out what he felt, and the thought of his mom being upset did not disturb him anymore. He called his neighbor and best friend, Max and told him about what transpired at dinner.
Alvin met Max for the first time when they were 6. They grew up together. He confided in Max like no other. He had someone to share his pain with. Often, Max would jump the fence and hangout in Alvin’s backyard. The backyard that had seen everything. It was their hideout from the rest of the world. They would sit in the corner of the lush green, trimmed backyard, and talk to each other about everything. They were accompanied by noisy squirrels who made their presence known as the two young boys accepted their rowdy friends from time to time.
The next morning was quite tense in Hannah’s household. Alvin was getting ready for school and Norman for work. The television in the background was reading out the news for the members of the family, “Another theft at Smith Pharmacy…” Hannah set up the table for breakfast and called out to both of them. Hannah was prepared for another heated encounter when there was a knock at the door. Max was on the other side of the door ready to diffuse the situation.
“Hey Mrs. Agnor! How are you? Is Alvin around? We’re getting late for school.”
Hannah disproved of Max’s friendship with Alvin. She could never know the real reason behind it, but she did not want another dent in her relationship with Alvin. She let him in as he looked around the house with his gauging eyes. He was an inquisitive child, which is also the reason he was brilliant at school. He looked up anything and everything on the internet.
He wanted to know everything. Everything about everyone. He roamed around the house, playing with furniture, new crockery, asking questions about the medicines that were on the countertop. Hannah was growing tired of his questions. Alvin rushed downstairs and Max’s eyes brightened just looking at him.
“Bye mum!” Alvin hesitated eagerly waiting for a reply from Hannah to make sure she was talking to him before he left for school. His chat with Max the other night calmed him down and he started realising his mistakes. There was no reply from Hannah. Dejected, he left for school anyway.
“It wasn’t her fault too. She had to do what she had to do to make dad suffer less.” Alvin introspected.
“I get that, Alvin. But they still didn’t give him a chance to fight the cancer. You must understand that. I’ve read cases where they’ve got up from their coma. And Norman is just the worst.” Max interjected.
Alvin thought about his behaviour at school in depth. He missed lunch and the snack break sitting alone at the cafeteria thinking about how Norman, even after dealing with his rash behaviour came up to kiss him goodnight. Norman thought he was asleep, but he wasn’t. It were the little things that were making the difference for Alvin. Max noticed Alvin’s distance from the crowd at school. He couldn’t stand the sight of Alvin like that. He didn’t leave any chance to make Alvin smile. Alvin chuckled to himself internally, but the happiness was draped by his scrutiny of what happened last night. He wanted to make amends. He wanted to just go home and apologise and admit that he was at fault, that he was sorry for everything.
Alvin walked home, all alone. Max did not like it one bit. He had never seen Alvin so quiet with him before. Alvin’s distance from him is what he despised. Little did he know, Alvin had set his mind to make amends with Norman.
“It is all Norman’s fault,” Max thought to himself.
Alvin reached home to notice that all the lights were switched off except one. He stepped on the porch, making a creaking sound which he flinched to. Hannah opened the door, her white dress drenched in shades of black from her makeup. Alvin could only think of one thing, and he wished it to be something else.
“Norman got into a car accident,” Hannah sniffed as she tried to hold her tears, “he is no more Alvin.”
A fifteen-year-old Alvin hugged his mom tightly. Hannah’s world was crumbling right in front of her as Alvin picked up the pieces that could still make her whole. Amends were due by Alvin, but it was too late. Norman had gone and there couldn’t have been anything that could bring him back.
Hannah had found Norman’s reports. Norman’s coughs were at their worst. He was on medication to handle the pain but tussive syncope – a syndrome that causes you to lose consciousness after coughing violently could happen at any time and the doctors presumed that an episode of violent coughing hit Norman when he was driving.
Alvin, in some way or the other, felt responsible for what he had said. He didn’t know any better. He intermittently slept, comforting his mom. His eyes lazily opened as he remembered what he said to Norman. In his state of sleepiness, he could hear noises from the backyard – the squirrels must be looking for their friends that night.
Alvin had disassociated himself from the world. He became more focused. His purpose was centred around his mom’s happiness and nothing else. He helped his mom around the house, with the dishes, laundry, trimming the backyard and everything that she wanted help with. The only constant were Max’s calls to Alvin and his mom to make them feel alright. He was doing his part.
A few days had passed by, and Alvin wanted to liven up the backyard to surprise his mom. She had gone out with Max’s mom to take her mind off the tragedy of losing her husband again. Alvin bought his mom’s favourite, tulips to plant around the backyard. He started across the backyard slowly making his way to the corners. As he reached the corner of the backyard, he left a little space for Max’s and his spot. His eyes wandered around a small bump in the soil where they sat and found it peculiar for a bump to be there, given there was nothing that was planted before this.
As he approached the uneven bump to uncover what was beneath, he could hear the front door squeaking open. It was Hannah and Max’s mom. Alvin rushed inside to make sure the surprise was not spoilt.
“Hello Mrs. Smith, how are you?” Alvin panted and asked politely.
“Alvin, my dear. I am good, you? I was just telling your mom what a fine man you have grown into. Summer is around the corner; do you want me to put in a word with Max’s dad for a job at the pharmacy? Max started about 2 weeks back and took a break right after what happened. It was unfortunate. How are you holding up?” Mrs. Smith was warm in her approach.
“Max had joined his dad at the pharmacy?” Alvin surprisingly asked.
“Oh yes. He joined the day before the theft at the pharmacy. We still joke about the fact how it could have been him. The poor boy took all the blame to himself. He never meant to leave the pharmacy door unlocked.” Mrs. Smith chuckled.
Alvin thought about the night that he complained to Max about Norman. He had told Max that he wished Norman was dead. Alvin’s eyes widened and his face turned white. He rushed to his backyard and started digging the uneven soil aggressively. He found a small bottle. A small bottle that contained a high dose of sleeping pills. Pills that looked exactly like the ones Norman took. There was a note inside. Alvin slowly took the note out, his hands shaking and his mind not being able to digest what he was thinking.
The note read, “Now, he won’t trouble you ever again.”
Until next time,