Here’s a short little story I wrote for homework this week. It’s 748 words because there is a 750 word limit. I hope you all enjoy it:
Clifford’s hands trembled as he saw what lay in the sedate green box his mother had presented him with. A vacation; and not just any vacation, his dream vacation. For just a moment Clifford allowed himself to dream about the sandy beaches dotted with brightly colored lawn chairs, and a seemingly endless expanse of water stretching out before him.
He imagined diving into the tepid ocean and hanging there, weightless, as hundreds of tropical fish swarmed around him. To reach out and touch one… but no. Clifford shook himself from the dream, setting the box on his coffee table as though they would further seduce him while they were in his hand.
“I’m afraid I can’t accept. I’m sorry,” Clifford said, genuine regret coloring his voice.
“It’s a gift, Clifford. I’d like for you to use it. I know how much you’ve dreamed about scuba diving along the Great Barrier Reef. Didn’t you see that is part of the package?”
Clifford looked at Anabelle, his mother, feeling as though she had just knifed him in the heart. She knew what he wanted more than anything in the world, and she knew what stood in his way. That hadn’t changed in more than thirty years, ever since his father had died in a plane crash.
“If I go, who will watch my fish?” Clifford asked, motioning at his prized aquarium. It was ten feet long and six feet high, lovingly and carefully stocked with exotic fish of the tropics. “You know how delicate they are. They’ll die without me here to care for them.”
“Connie from Aquarium World has already agreed to care for them while you are away, starting tomorrow.” Anabelle explained, her voice calm and firm.
“Tomorrow?!” Clifford squealed.
“Didn’t you notice the flight leaves tomorrow?” Anabelle asked innocently.
Clifford made a destressed noise and looked wildly about the room, searching for a reason his mother would accept. “Mr. Turner!” he exclaimed. “Mr. Turner doesn’t know I’ll be leaving. He won’t be able to get through a month without me at work. Who would pay salaries and handle the accounts?”
Anabelle smiled fondly at her son, “I spoke with him last week, he’s agreed to let you go, even on short notice. He seemed to think you work hard enough to deserve a vacation.”
Clifford thrust his hands into his hair, gripping tightly as though it anchored him to sanity. Fear clawed at his throat and clenched a fist in his stomach. He could feel the steely jaws of a trap quivering around his being, ready to spring at any moment. It was him against his mother. She had the best of intentions, certainly, but she was trying to push him to his death! A horrible and terrifying plummet in a sardine can where if the impact didn’t kill you the drowning would. It was far too far to fly over water. It was far too far to fly period. Any distance was too far to fly.
“A passport!” Clifford nearly shouted, jumping up with excitement. He had found his way out of the ambush his mother had laid for him.
He watched her as she grimmaced sadly at him. Standing, she reached into her purse and produced a tiny blue booklet.
He stood there with his mouth hanging open as she laid the passport on top of the tickets. He didn’t move as she hugged him and stepped to the door. “I love you, darling. This is your choice, but before you make it, I do hope you’ll speak to a friend of mine.”
Clifford turned to the door as his mother pulled it open, curiosity seeping through his shock. A tall man in a suit waited there. “Hello,” the man said, extending his hand to Clifford. “I’m Doctor Williams, and I specialize in helping people overcome flight anxiety.”
Clifford’s gaze slipped to his mother even as the man continued talking. With one last smile she stepped outside, closing the door behind her. Turning his attention back to the Doctor, Clifford found him waiting, tickets and passport in hand.
“I suppose you have a choice to make here,” the man said, lightly slapping the tiny bundle against his palm.
Yes, he did have a choice. He could face his fears and live his dream, or he could stay hidden in Maine for the rest of his life.
Looking the doctor in the eye for the first time, Clifford extended his hand, asking, “Where do we start?”