The Good, the Bad and the In-between
Father and daughter sat back in their deckchairs, overlooking the vast sea that lay before them. The sun, glowing a rich pink-orange, was slowly creeping back under the haze of the horizon, as night replaced day. A slight breeze rippled across the balcony, rustling the palm trees that thrust up from the ground in a scrambled, unorganised rabble behind the house. The incessent soft lapping of the water on the smooth shoreline served to both father and daughter as a audible comfort that only mindless repetition can bring.
“Daddy?” little Amy suddenly asked. “Why is the world this way?”
John looked across at his daugher, reluctantly tearing away his gaze from one beauty of nature to another.
“What do you mean honey?”
He saw the spark of questioning in her eyes, a hunger for knowledge that he’d helped kindle in her from the moment she could first utter a smattering of sounds from her mouth. And for a stark moment, the soft breeze playfully tugging with his hair, he was so proud.
Little Amy wriggled in her deckchair — unable to maintain concentration for more than a few seconds. In the past few weeks, John had tried to imagine whether he’d been that hyperactive when he was the same age. But try as he might, only a few selective memories came back to him from that time period; the most prevalent of him playing on the rusty old traintracks that had run through the family farm.
Twisting in her chair like a slippery seal, Amy tried her best to put on her know-it-all voice as she gazed adoringly up towards him.
“You know…” she ventured, rolling her eyes and smiling, “Why do good things happen sometimes and bad things happen sometimes?”
The sun was slowly losing its grip on the horizon as John mulled over the question.
“That’s just the way life is,” he replied.
Amy blew a raspberry at him. It was obviously not a satisfying answer.
“But why,” she whined, determined to wrest a more detailed answer from her father.
John smiled sadly, despite himself. It was often when things were at their most peaceful that his mind wandered down worrying, unwieldy paths.
He was thirty-four and she was five. He was halfway through his career and she was just about to start her second term at school.
In the fading light on that spec of land in the south Pacific, no matter how hard he tried, John couldn’t seem to shift the thoughts he had of the world, and the worry that went hand in hand with the title of ‘father.’ The only thing he could do now, with the shadows steadily growing darker and the wind gathering in its intensity, was lie to the child he’d raised to always tell the truth.
“Because there are good and bad people in the world. But luckily there aren’t enough bad people in the world to do bad things more than good things,” he replied, softly.
And although he hoped and wished for it to be true — and although common sense told him it could be, there was no way he could ignore the fact that bad things still happened. Despite all he could do to protect Amy, to nuture her through her childhood and beyond, he couldn’t prevent all the bad things from happening.
So he didn’t tell her about the fanatics, the crazies, the murderers, thieves, rapists, those that might look to take advantage of her, to manipulate her, to trick her.
He didn’t tell her about people that hated her, even though they would never meet her, because she was born somewhere else and raised in a place that was different. He didn’t tell her about the bad things that lay beneath the surface of the vast ocean infront of them, slowly shedding shades of light until all that would be left is inky blackness. He didn’t tell her about her own flaws, her own idiosyncrasies, or about his own — despite the fact that in her eyes, he was her perfect hero.
As the sun finally slipped away and the breeze began to bring the palm tree branches to a resounding crescendo, John took Amy’s hand and helped her hop off the deckchair; guiding her inside towards kitchen so they could get dinner started.
Little Amy, her hand so tiny and so fragile, gently squeezed the fingers she was holding onto. Suddenly, John thought that she seemed to understand much more than John gave her credit for. Maybe it was childhood ignorance, but as John felt the pressure recede, he also felt his angst and worry melt away with it. It did not leave completely, but it hid now like the sun did — to rise another day.
But John was not worried about that day.
No, now it was just the two of them together, on that spec of land in the south Pacific.
Thanks for reading, please feel free to recommend the story if you liked it.
I was inspired to write this story from my second reading of ‘The World According to Garp’ by John Irving.
Like the bloke.
Follow the bloke.
Be the bloke.