By Chris Wilson
“Go on Dad, you did say anything. I want you to be a seagull; and I want you to be a seagull right up there!”
Brain apprehensively looked up at the rocks rising up before him. Him and his promises to Abi that he could be anything she wanted. Now he had to clamber up the rocks before him and be a seagull. It was fine at the top, the rocks were dry and inviting, but lower down, they were wet and slimy, and, with one false move the salt encrusted limpets could rip open his knees.
His battered arthritic knees, they wouldn’t like the rocks, let alone squatting down and being a seagull, but he had told Abi he could do anything, and as, in part, had given Abi her genetic illness, he was loathe to let her down.
I’ll get there if it kills me, he thought to himself, as slipping on a piece of seaweed, his knees scraped across a limpet, but the next time I make her a promise, it will be to read her a story. A story while sitting on a promenade bench with a mug of chocolate, and a thick blanket across their knees; and not while squatting like a seagull, or clambering over rocky outcrops or stones. He had an idea though that might help her. If only he could get his swollen knees to the top of the outcrop and become that seagull, or at least muster a bit of a scream.
Abi looked at Dad as he clambered up the rocks before her. He had bad knees, so her Mum had told her, and she shouldn’t ask him to do that much climbing, but he had made a promise, and he had always told her that promises should never be broken. So if he said he could do anything, why couldn’t he be a seagull, and look seawards as he perched in the sun? A cold wind suddenly snapped around her ankles, and as it entered her lungs, she began coughing repeatedly.
Cystic Fibrosis, that’s what she’d got, according to the doctor she’d seen at the hospital. A condition she had inherited from her parents, although they’d not been affected. Now she was cold, and she wanted her dad beside her, but as she looked towards him, the outcrop seemed bigger and her dad seemed so far away.
If only she could get to him. He was her rock, her lighthouse, and he was always there for her, but how could she reach him when she had set him the task of being a seagull; a seagull squatting on an outcrop and screaming into the wind.
Why can’t I be like other children, she thought to herself briefly? Why can’t I breathe freely, why can’t I run around a playground laughing, and why can’t I dance in the sun? Then she smiled.
Her dad had a big bum and an even bigger belly through eating too many Giant Jam doughnuts. He would look funny as he squatted high up on the outcrop, and it would be even funnier if he flapped his arms as if he was flying, and attempted to mimic a seagull’s scream.
It was sad though. With her poor lungs and vitamin deficient body, she couldn’t imagine how it felt living as a seagull.
Seagulls wheeled high in the air, and screamed into the teeth of a gale. They had wings, wonderful strong wings, and, unlike her, healthy lungs and air sacs. Her lungs hurt her; and, at times, they filled up with mucus. Her horrible gloopy lungs and messed up body. They were her constant companions, and they took away her freedom by denying her the joys of raw energy, and fresh clean air.
“Come up and join me Abi, and we can both be seagulls. Then we can both scream and fly. I’ll help you if you need it, but just watch out for the limpets, and be careful that you don’t slip on the slime’”
Abi, startled out of her self-pity, looked up at her Dad, by now at the top of the outcrop, and grinned. Yes, as she thought, squatting on the rock as if about to go to the toilet, he did look like a silly fat seagull, but a seagull who wanted someone to fly with, and a seagull that wanted to join forces in a scream.
Could she do it, she thought to herself, could she reach the top and sit by her Dad; and, with her lungs, would she be able to scream? She looked at the rocks before her. Great at the top, but wet and slimy on the lower levels. Yet her Dad had got there, despite his knees and belly, so why not give it a try. One step at a time she thought to herself, as the first of many limpets confronted her, but then she began wheezing, as the fluid in her lungs began to grow
Brian watched Abi as she struggled toward him. It had been pointless offering her help. She was a stubborn little minx, and, once set on a course of action, she was always determined to go it alone. She often struggled to get where she wanted, and she knew she’d never reach old age and retirement, but, like a tough little seabird battling the weather, she was determined to have her time in the sun.
“Well, Dad, I’ve done it, we’ve done it; now how about we try that scream!
They looked at each other and began laughing; an old dad and a 14 yr old girl sitting on a rocky outcrop; and two windblown seagulls enjoying life and screaming into the wind.
Life is sweet, both thought to themselves, as they their voices rose skyward. Life, it seemed, was all about beating the odds and pretending to be a seagull; and having a damn good scream!