Friday, July 13, 2012

Phyllis's calamity

A true story

Phyllis and Hayley were sitting outside together at the patio table, looking at a stream that meandered gently through the meadow. Phyllis was watching her mother picking her way gingerly toward the stream. Her mother was old and not very strong, and Phyllis worried lest she hurt herself. "She's going down there," Phyllis mentioned to Hayley, by word of warning. Hayley didn't answer.

Phyllis herself was old--84 years old, in fact--and she couldn't run to her mother's aid if anything happened. Hayley, though, was young. But Hayley wasn't even looking in the right direction.

"Why's she going down there?" Phyllis said, hoping to draw Hayley's attention to her mama. Phyllis looked over at Hayley and saw that her eyes were closed.

Trying to repress a feeling of annoyance at Hayley's callousness, Phyllis turned to look again at her mama, and was just in time to see her feet slip on the steep embankment. She fell heavily, striking her head on a rock, and she slid the rest of the way down the creek bank, landing with her leg twisted under her in an awkward position and part of her body in the water.

"She just fell!" Phyllis exclaimed.

"Mmmmm..." Hayley murmured.

"She just fell!" Phyllis repeated, with increasing urgency.

"Who?" Hayley asked.

"Mama," Phyllis replied.

Hayley made no answer. Her eyes were still closed. She almost looked like she was asleep. How could she sleep in a moment like this? How could she not be aware of what was going on? Didn't she care?

"She needs help," Phyllis hinted.

Hayley made no answer. Was she purposely ignoring the situation?

"It's getting dark," Phyllis said, a note of agony in her voice. "She's hurt. She's half in that stream. She'll die if she stays there all night."

"Mmmmm." Hayley murmured.

Phyllis felt a wave of hopelessness pass over her. "I guess she'll die then. Well, she won't feel anything after she's gone." A lump rose up in her throat. How she loved her mama! She couldn't just sit there looking on, doing nothing. She prodded Hayley.

"Won't you run down there and help mama?" she begged.

Hayley finally opened her eyes. Maybe now she would do something. But she looked at Phyllis with sad eyes and shook her head slowly. "I would if I could," she said.

"Well, I'm old. I can't run down there,"  Phyllis said. "But you're young. Why don't you just go down there and help her?"

Hayley looked Phyllis in the eye. "I really would if I could," she said. "But I can't."

Phyllis was extremely polite, and she always tried to think the best of people. But she had to work hard to conceal her contempt. Her heart sank for her mama, who still struggled feebly at the streambed. Who knwe how long it would be before someone else came along? By then it might be too late. How awful it was to be helpless to do anything about it. But Hayley could--if she only would. Phyllis tried again. She couldn't bear to lose her mama. How she loved her!

"You could just run down there and help her," she coaxed.

Hayley opened her eyes again. "Phyllis, your mama's fine," she said reassuringly. "She's in a safe place, and she's happy, and nothing is the matter with her."

This speech was incomprehensible to Phyllis. Her mama--"fine?" Hardly. "Safe and happy?" Not even close. But obviously Hayley wasn't going to be any help. Phyllis turned away, struggling to hold back tears. Hayley tried to comfort her, but to no avail.

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