What lies ahead.

Submitted into Contest #143 in response to: Write about a character who loves cloud gazing. ... view prompt


Romance Happy Drama

He never grows tired of looking at things. Sure, there are things he wishes he’d sen less of, some a lot less - like bills or certain relatives. But nothing he regrets looking at. Sometimes he wonders if there’s someone who exists, today or ever, who’s actually seen it all. Not like when you go ”Now I’ve seen everything!” meaning something so outrageous and shocking nothing can top it. But literally everything.

Samuel is lying in bed. By his bedside there’s a table with a water glass, a picture frame and that wrist watch he never wears anymore. As an experiment he looks through the water in the glass at the refracted images behind it. It distorts and makes things different. Samuel likes different. It’s something new.

Today he studies the rays of the sun laid flat on the table. Streaks of light and shadow bleeding from the glass, slowly moving like the sides of a tiger.

He looks up. Through the window he can see large clouds moving like a caravan across the sky. It makes him happy when they move. More to look at. Something new.

He has always been fascinated by clouds. They could be anything. All one needed was imagination and time - and eventually everything he could think of would appear. As a young boy, no more than five or six, he wanted to know everything about them; how they felt, how they tasted. He was thrilled when his mother drew him a bubble bath. But as he bit into the bubbles and they popped in his mouth, he concluded that clouds where not soap.

At ten he tried cotton candy for the first time. This had to be the taste of clouds, because this was heaven.

But clouds weren’t sticky, he thought. How else could planes pass through them?

At school, they taught him the real story; how small drops rose in the air, gathering with others and cooling down. How they hung there, like fat sheep on a blue meadow, until eventually they fell. They weren’t really white, his teacher told him. It looks that way because of the sun. Samuel had always thought of the sun as yellow. But as he got older he understood better. And knowledge lessens magic.

Growing older meant he could no longer spend time daydreaming. By that time he wore a watch. It reminded him how much time he lost by staring out the window, something that would occasionally cause a ruler to smack his fingers and sharply bring him back to class. Back to earth.

Eventually other things came to be more important. Like school or girls, or getting a car - or girls.

Particularly that one girl he would take cloud gazing in order to seem more romantic. Under a cloud they both agreed looked like a heart, he got his first kiss. Although, to him it was more dog shaped than anything vaguely similar to the aortic pump. But he got that kiss. And later his first heartbreak.

Looking at them now, with eyes not as sharp as they used to be, Samuel recalls many times the clouds have been there for him. On his way back to college, stuck in traffic. He had amused himself by humming the songs of the BeachBoys under a giant surfboard that cut through the sky in a spray of condensation. When the surfboard turned into an ice cream truck, the traffic moved again.

Or when he met the love of his life and cloud gazing would prove more reliable than a Rorschach test to see if they could last. She would surprise him with her imagination and ways of looking at things. How he would see a cabbage head and Clara let it blossom into a tree where they could carve their initials. He would point to a huge crocodile crawling against the horizon and she would correct him and say it was The creation of Adam by Michelangelo.

By then he had stopped looking up and saw only her.

He moves a little and his back protests. As he turns to look at the picture next to the bed, he feels heavy. Clara smiles at him. He smiles back. He gets what everything means.

She is his everything.

Outside, a leaf flies by the window. The wind is picking up.

Samuel remembers storm clouds on a Sunday afternoon, when he paced nervously back and forth, smoking his final cigarette. How he looked up and saw armies of grey warriors charging at each other, reminding him to be brave.

How he crushed the cigarette and walked back inside - to hold his son for the first time.

Family, he thinks. What a wonderful thing.

Being a father awoke in him the long lost magic and wonder that had been put aside by the responsibilities of age. Now he could walk with his young son and they would look at the world together and he would speak about all the things that were.

His boy would point at the clouds and teach him about all the things that could be.

And when his son had a family of his own, the grandkids took Samuel to Oz once more. And the man behind the curtain was once again hidden.

Hung inside frames of various sizes and colors, are the faces he’s collected around him throughout his life. When he looks past Clara and over at the wall, he is grateful.

So many memories. So much life.

Sam and the kids. Sam and his wife. Clara and tiny Sam. Him and Clara. Just Clara.

As he looks at his wife again, something breaks in him. Not one of the brittle, two hundred and six bones in his body; but something else. He remembers saying goodbye. How the clouds turned grey and wept with him. It was painful. But beautiful.

Even Michelangelo would fail at a beauty like theirs.

He looks out the window. The clouds outside are still dense. Beams of sunlight sifter through them like spun gold. They are still now. No longer travelling. Motionless - waiting.

He reaches out for them.

A deep breath and he feels his back press against the mattress.

As he exhales something leaves him.

Suddenly he is lighter.

Samuel is moving closer now, feeling the air as he goes. He spreads his arms and let his legs drop a little, lets them dangle like a kid too short to reach the floor. He spreads his fingers and feel the clouds passing through them, through him.

Time has made him slow and sorrow made him heavy. This is different. Like warming your hands under a faucet after a long day in the snow. Warmth spreads like a river through his body. He is no longer heavy. He has shed his weight, no longer tethered by grief, not stuck in his ailing body.

It hits him like a dam breaking, flooding into him like a current. Happiness.

The rush of air, the wind against his face, the thickness of the clouds; no longer registers on his skin, doesn’t tousle his hair, doesn’t dry his eyes. There’s no pull of gravity in his joints.

Now he’s only oxygen; and light; and love.

Although he now knows he has left his eyes behind, in the body of the man on the bed; he sees an image form in the clouds ahead. Undulating, slowly moving; with purpose this time.

Not only what he wants to see; what he hopes to see - but what he gets to see.


April 24, 2022 20:11

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Felice Noelle
13:29 May 16, 2022

Jesper: Great story, again! I'm surprised this didn't attract more attention, IMO, because I think it deserves it. I even thought you could have left the last "Clara" off altogether, and let the reader fill with their deity or love or whatever they think is at the end of life. I think this was a powerful story told in a tender, soft, sensitive way. It was steeped in nostalgia and a quiet type of romance. I really liked the almost poetic quality in some of the lines. Keep it up. Maureen


Jesper Jee
13:51 May 16, 2022

Thank you so much! I have been trying hard to be productive and unfortunately that has impacted the quality of my writing. Have been trying to churn out a story every week as practise. I am writing stories in my own language too so it's hard to have the time. I am so happy you liked it and leaving the "Clara" is a very good idea!


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