Take my Hand, Daddy! a short story by Sha’Tara

By way of intro to this short story, first I wish to say “thank you” for all the likes on the other stories, essays, etc. as they tumbled into this place.

I’ve been very busy lately on a volunteer job in the interior of B.C. (Canada), a place called “Rock Creek” where a wild fire roared through a year ago and burned down several homes.  So I went with my friend Vic Janzen, who is with “Mennonite Disaster Services” to help complete a house the organization had taken on in conjunction with “Habitat for Humanity.”  “We” (that is, MDS) supplied the labour and Habitat supplied the materials along with whatever the uninsured home owners could provide.  So the house was built, and this is what it looked like when we left yesterday.  A very pretty, basic, utilitarian house any family would be happy to live in.  If you look closely you can see the scorched dead pines all around the property.  (The pile of bags is insulation to be blown into the attic later.) 

IMG_0148-e-resized

Rock Creek MDS and Habitat house.

And now, the short story: 

Take my Hand, Daddy!           [a short story ~ by Sha’Tara]

Imagine a winter afternoon of this northern hemisphere, by a small town nestled almost silent among dark, brooding mountains.  The sun slips behind a mountain top and a shadow covers the waters of a wide river rippled by a bitter east wind.  A couple of golden eyes land and begin their usual systematic team hunt, diving, surfacing, diving.  These little ducks know their world well, choosing areas near enough to shore to take advantage of gentler, swirling currents, allowing them to dive faster and capture their prey, small fish also using the constantly reforming whirlpools to find food.

The edge of the river is forming ice now, not deep nor wide, but the bite of winter frost is not only in the air: it penetrates into the dark, fast moving waters.  The shore at this place, now cut through by the harsh shadow of a mountain, is made up of round rocks, large at the edge of the water, an edge normally under water – but this is winter solstice and the river is at its ebb.  Further up the shore the rocks change to large round gravel, then up the banks, into smaller, looser gravel.  Remnants of a recent snow fall tuck themselves behind and between the stones and form a dirty white blanket full of tears and holes among frost-burned grasses along the higher banks.  Such a stage leaves no room for doubt as to the time of year being dramatized.

There is a small parking area here where I sometimes stop to eat my lunch, read, or just observe the passing of a time-slice and whatever event it may contain.  I like the quiet of the place and on this day, the weather being bitterly cold with high clouds keeping the air moist, few people care to stay around.  A couple of cars drive in but there is nothing exciting or colorful enough to keep anyone’s attention for long and the damp cold drives them away again.  The pair of ducks, the male a ball of sharp black and white patterns, the female of a uniform brown, are a bit perturbed by the few onlookers and choose to be safe, moving their theater of operations farther away from the shoreline.  

The sun has almost crossed the mountain top and the shadow slides across the river, revealing a lighter shade of water as the incessant chop refracts the slanted, weak, gold-tinged middle-afternoon sunlight.  Far to the east however, no clouds have yet appeared and the sun has unlimited vistas to illuminate.  The higher mountains throw off the glory-glow of their snow-covered spires to grace a clear icy-blue sky.  

There is a wide gravelly path that leads from the parking area down to the river’s edge. While it remains in the gray shadow cast by the mountains, a very large man wearing a black woolen toque, a heavy dark-red mackinaw jacket and faded jeans tucked into unlaced brown work boots begins to descend along the center of the path.  To his right walks a tiny girl child, wearing what looks like dark blue cord pants tucked into white boots.  She has on a pink parka and a pair of pink mittens with small pompoms attached dangling from the coat’s sleeves.  As the couple begins to walk over the loose gravel, the child gingerly extends her short arms to maintain balance.  The heavy-set man, hands pushed deep into the folds of his mackinaw, seems totally unaware of his tiny companion, lost, it seems, in his own thoughts.

The little girl struggles to follow him, obviously with great effort.  Finally, barely able to stand, she extends her left arm to the large man, the reddened fingers of her hand splayed to express her need for help. 

In my mind, the image freezes there, as if someone had pressed the pause button on the TV’s remote. 

The man ignores the child, the child holds out her hand, confident that the man will be moved to help her.  In that slice of time, I sense a re-enactment of billions of such events over history.  I feel the energies involved; the times when they worked and when they did not.  The abandoned, and the re-united.  The dead losers and the restored winners.  I see mankind’s drama endlessly moving up and down, like the tides.  I feel my own helplessness, kicked out of the drama to find my place among the spectators of which we are too many.  

Does the man stop to take the child’s hand?  Does he pick her up in his arms to carry her to an easier place where she can walk without help?  Does he realize it is too cold to be walking there, at that time of day, with a child, and does he return to wherever they came from?  

All I heard in my mind was the child’s extended arm saying: “Take my hand, daddy!” 

 

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21 thoughts on “Take my Hand, Daddy! a short story by Sha’Tara

  1. We come from dreams ~

    First, you are welcome for the likes. This not being Facebook and we not being Facebook slaves, can like or dislike whatever we please; said differently, we have little patience for mediocrity, a basic inability to write or to tell a story. My favorite example is Dosteovsky; the man had no clue when it came to grammar or continuity. But he could tell one heckuva story (even if it took 1200 pages). In our opinion, you got Fyodor one better because you know how to skillfully and properly use language and to paint with a vivid brush. This story is no exception. The momentary vision of human history, the fragility of our lives, the stupidity and narcissism which we all can practice, the desire for goodness as illustrated by the little girl – wow.

    Now, before we checked in here, I was talking with these two scamps about an idea that I had, and my idea is to propose to you (and I’m not sorry how that came out!) the following: that we each write an imaginal tale, wherein we meet some fifty years ago. You would find yourself by what ever improbable reason, in my part of the world; for my part, I would be in the North. While this might be a romantic tale, it would be more (to me) a meeting between two very strong, way-too-young, perhaps even charismatic, personalities. I’m open to your suggestions, or downright refusal, to countenance such an idea. And as I just thought of this a hour ago, I haven’t written a word.

    Also – the house is a stunner, and of the few religious groups for which I have any admiration, the Mennonites are for real.

    Reply
    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thank you. To your fictitious story about meeting 50 years ago – well that’s a new one on me. I like new ideas. I’m going to give it some thinking time, maybe make some notes. If you don’t hear about it in, say, one week, query me on it, or send me a synopsis of what you’re going to write. Is this a “short short” or “short” or whatever? What part of the world am I supposed to be wandering into 50 years ago? Southern States? I forget…

      Reply
      1. We come from dreams ~

        Thank you! As I don’t know what constitutes a “short” as opposed to a “short short,” I’m guessing that what I (already) wrote is the latter. I use the Open Office word processor and it shows 3300 words covering eight pages in large type; it’s a five minute read. Roughly three-quarters of it details my “escape” from my life, and that in a plausible manner; and the last page or so describes our meeting beside that huge reservoir up there, the one which now has a small airport. Nothing erotic about it; I had to “synthesize” you as I imagined you MIGHT have been at twenty (I was eighteen). But this IS an imaginal tale. I’ll post it should you give me the go-ahead, and if you don’t care for it, I’ll take it down.

        As for your improbable descent into my area, then as now I live in the state of New Jersey, and much of my tale takes place in one of three small cities in the northern third. Unlikely as it may sound, I was a fringe member of ghetto society – still am, in fact, but no longer active within it. We’re talking dreary, trash-laden streets where the urban poor have been discarded for over a century. 95% of the people there are decent, the other 5% are the ‘gangstas.’

        And your Teachers are correct. America is an armed camp, and we citizens are political prisoners, though most of us don’t realize it yet. Jon Rappaport has all of the details. Our one fiend of a candidate for the presidency has a name which rhymes with “dump.”

      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        Yes, sorry, I should have explained what I meant by short. For me a short story is somewhere around 5 or more pages, not to exceed 40 pages. A short short story is under five pages. OK, how about sending your story to me as an email attachment (I can open any kind of file that is not encrypted) and I’ll post it, since I don’t know the procedure to open my blog to direct post entry by anyone else but me? My email is shatara@telus.net

  2. Lisa R. Palmer

    Beautiful house you helped to build!

    And this story catches vividly one of those poignant freeze-frame moments I both love and loathe; love them because they reveal so much, loathe them because they stir up such deep feelings… And you write it with such clarity and reality that I am there, totally in that moment…

    Glad you are back, Sha’Tara! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thanks, Lisa. I was actually reading most of my emails but responding was almost impossible – very slow wi-fi in the old “Kettle Valley Chapel” where we quartered. The house is really nice – I’d trade my “monster” for that one in a heartbeat. Well built, simple, solid, Hardie board siding, great decking. 4 bedrooms (2 in basement); laminate flooring throughout and super heavy duty lino in laundry and bathrooms. My only “complaint” was the laminate in kitchen and especially under the dishwasher: that’a a no-no in my world: seen too many ruined kitchen floors from dishwasher and sink leaks. Otherwise it’s going to be an easy to heat, easy to maintain house.

      The house is a “Habitat for Humanity” model, cost-effective and tough. So the way this project went, the volunteer labour was provided by “Mennonite Disaster Services” and the materials and nine-year interest-free mortgage supplied by Habitat. It made for a quick (3 months) project and the family will be in their house long before winter. All in all, a success story. This was my second participation with MDS on Canadian projects. They have many projects in the USA as well but on advice from “the Teachers” I won’t cross into the States anymore since Homeland Security took over and made it into basically a police state. Our next project will probably be in Fort McMurray where fires swept through a section of the town a couple or so months ago. Just thought you might want to know what those projects are about; how they work.

      When time permits, I’ll post some pictures of that Odyssey, plus new ones taken from the kayak on the Fraser River. Meanwhile, take care o’ you!!!

      Reply
      1. Lisa R. Palmer

        I am interested in how these projects work, so thanks for sharing. I feel “better” just knowing that such work is happening. I was following the Fort McMurray fires, so I hope real help

      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        The bureaucracy will/must have its day, then the work will happen. Meanwhile the people burned out will be living in government-supplied box trailers, as they did in High River (south of Calgary, Alberta) when I went there to work on the flood damage in the winter of 2014. It’s interesting what moves certain people to engage these projects – a mixture of adventure, challenge, faith in some god, chance to show off at church, feel good, and surprisingly enough, rarely do I encounter real compassion and little enough empathy. Even in “good doing” man remains the selfish animal. For me it’s an opportunity to engage the concept of compassion: how much can I give, and a constant check on the “need for reciprocity” meter which ideally should remain at zero. What’s going on inside my mind: am I detached from the results? Do I sense pride of accomplishment? (A negative factor.) Am I entertaining myself? (A greater negative factor.) Can I sense the people’s needs and am I giving myself entirely to that aspect of the job without internal complaints or reservations? Can I accept that something else may happen and all the work brought to nothing? We’re always selfish but there is negative selfishness and positive selfishness. I am using these opportunities to build myself up into ever higher levels of compassion, my life’s purpose, of course, but this doesn’t elevate me in the eyes of others and that’s what’s important to me. To function in service without the need (key word) for recognition, praise, etc. determines the level of compassionate interaction one has reached.

    2. Sha'Tara Post author

      I meant to also comment on your comment re: the story. I know what you mean about the “love-hate” of these short “picture” fictions that aren’t really fictions. I did observe this little drama, and I recorded what I saw and also remained “upset” by the “video” of the two humans’ interactions. I guess I was angry that the little child had to beg for attention and for help from the adult. A thoughtful comment on your part.

      Reply
  3. paulabroome427

    The house looks wonderful.

    I liked the story quite a lot. I thought the juxtaposition of the observer/narrator and the walking Daddy and daughter was an interesting way to present a glimpse into the human condition.

    The daughter who raises her hand, and I’m an optimist, does so because she has done so before–and before she always found the support she so wanted. The daughter’s simple request for a hand is spontaneous, natural. It arrives from the moment. It’s not contrived or manipulative. It is an instant act of trust.

    The man will grasp the small hand, perhaps unconsciously, because he’s a father, a good father, a caring adult. He obviously agreed to have the daughter walk with him–he could have said, “hell naw. I don’t want her with me.” But he didn’t. She’s bundled up against the cold, which reflects a caring hand and loving mind. So, in spite of his distant thoughts, and initial refusal, he will take her hand, and by so doing he will also grasp that dwindling spot of hope within himself and realize that there is an answer to the issue or problem that plagues him.

    Now I know there is another possibility, but I’m in a mellow mood this morning and I’m going to dwell on my upbeat interpretation.

    Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Got the file, thank you. I’ll make some time to review it. The image is gorgeous – what a place! Reminds me a bit of my homeland, Brittany, where I was born. When the winter storms thundered through the Channel, the top of the bigger waves and foam would wash down the rocky yard and dash against the house.

      Reply
      1. We come from dreams ~

        Okay, cool. But I just reviewed this whole chain of comments and somehow I must have given you the impression that I wanted YOU to post MY story on YOUR WordPress – and I would post a reciprocal story by YOU on OUR WordPress. Well, I made myself clear as mud, and I apologize. What I wrote and subsequently sent to you in that .odt file is something which I wanna post on OURS. 😛
        The picture is of Hudson Bay, remixed by me from Wikimedia Commons under the CC license.

      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        Yes I thought about it later after I posted my comment and figured out it was for your blog. My bad. To much rushing here, and if I slow down, I drown. Be in touch!

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