Haibun Monday: Water Image Prompt

It’s Haibun Monday at dVerse Poets’ Pub and this time Mary is asking us to use an image prompt. I’ve rewritten an earlier piece of flash fiction as a haibun (so I’m not sure it fits the description) – and I’m afraid it may be a little longer than ideal.

Boy sailing his boat on pond near the Louvre, photo by Mary Kling.
Boy sailing his boat on pond near the Louvre, photo by Mary Kling.

We reach the park. It doesn’t take long for Mum to get bored: ‘Enough of swings!  I’m tired.  Run off, do something!’

It’s cold and windy.  The monkey-bars are icy, there are too many children on the merry-go-round. I push the boat forlornly, just a little further out, to amuse my baby brother. Our remote has long since run out of batteries and nobody remembers to replace them. The boat shudders lop-sidedly and capsizes.

My brother’s lower lip starts quivering. I show Mum the wet bundle that was once our boat, hoping her longer arms will be able to retrieve it with the stick. But her eyes are elsewhere.

‘Go run around the pool!’ she says, ‘You’ll soon warm up!’

‘Don’t wanna!’

Mum rolls her eyes. ‘First of all, it’s “I don’t want”, not “don’t wanna”.  Secondly, tell me clearly what don’t you want?  Can’t help you if you don’t talk to me properly!  When will you learn to express your thoughts instead of just crying and whingeing all the time?  Waa, waa!  Is that all you guys ever do?’

She’s off again.  No one can say Mum is stuck for words.  Press a button, and she goes on forever.  I have my pocket remote – one that works without batteries – and zap off her sound like on telly.  Only let a few words slip through, just to make sure she isn’t suddenly saying something important, like lunch or time to go home.  But no, it’s the usual stuff…  How could she have given birth to such lazy children?…  Sports are so good for you – unhealthy, stuck indoors all the time – only interested in Xbox… Nobody will be our friend if we behave like this… A burden on her, what has she done to deserve this…

I’ll have to get it myself. I sit on the stone edge of the pond, lean forward waving the stick like a light sabre. My theory is that if the Force is with me, little rays of it will make waves and bring the boat back to me. It nearly works, but I have to dip my hands into the water quite a bit to grab the sail. My fingers are icy around my catch. I hand it over hurriedly to Jake.

Mum folds her arms and sits, muttering, on the bench.  Jake stands stiffly beside her, the boat clutched to his chest and dripping all over his shoes. Face all screwed up and snotty.  Refusing to have fun.  I shrug and start playing Star Wars.  I always play this on my own – no one else, not even Jake, may join in. I’m a clone trooper, fighting enemies with my light sabre.  I run around with sound effects. Mum hates this game.  She says only Jedi knights have light sabres and clone troopers are stupid. But I want to be stupid, I want to look like everyone else.  All Mum’s brains, all those college scarves in her sock drawer that we’re not allowed to touch… and she has to go to hospital every month. Feels sick like a slug afterwards.

Besides, Jedi knights are boring, like grown-ups: they talk too much, they’re always right, always winning.  Light sabres should belong to everybody. And boats should never be allowed to sink.

Fingers ice over:
Who sees beauty in hoar frost
when hearts need warming?


27 thoughts on “Haibun Monday: Water Image Prompt”

  1. Oh my. Poor kid. I feel for him. Indeed, who can see beauty in anything when the heart is cold and lonely. I wonder about the mother going to the hospital every month – if she is getting some kind of therapy, like chemo. But such a mean harangue to give to a child. I wish he knew that light sabres really are for everyone and that he isn’t stupid. Wish he could get on his boat and sail away to someplace sunny, warm, and full of love.

    1. I thought you might like the mention of light sabres, given your own recent write about them…
      This was inspired by a real incident I witnessed in a children’s playground (not in the Tuileries gardens though), where a little boy was desperate to get his mother’s attention and she was just staring blankly into space and not responding at all. It made me wonder what was going on with her that she could be so blind to her child’s needs.

  2. How very sad, but something tells me there is more to this than meets the eye…those trips to the hospital!? You crisp descriptions brought the narrative to life for me, allowed me to enter into the story.

  3. Touching story really; and I agree that light sabers should belong to everyone and boats not allowed to sink. You gave the main character heart.

    1. How could I not? A child’s bewilderment in the face of adult behaviour is so honest and raw. Thank you, Mary, for a great prompt and those lovely photos.

  4. Well.. the Jedi analogy for
    Buddhist philosophies
    seeing emotions
    as an enemy
    to escape
    an important area…

    Life ships more
    feeling sails..:)

  5. Such a terrific evocation of what it’s like to be a child in the world of adults. I really like this honest portrayal of the parent/child dynamic. And I really do feel for the protagonist. A lovely piece, Marina Sofial

    1. Thank you, it was inspired by a similar incident I witnessed in a park, which made me wonder what could provoke a mother to be so ‘cold’. Plus of course my usual guilty at going on and on when my children are fed up with my talking…

  6. If only Pearl Harbor had happened with toy boats & plastic sailors–because most of those killed on that day were young boys once, with toy boats & intrepid dreams. The haibun works well, & the haiku is tight. Nice to let us in on the “rest of the story”, so we don’t despise the Mum so much.

    1. There’s always another side to the story, isn’t there? Interesting that subconsciously I chose the boat picture, although I forgot (oh, how terrible to admit this) that it was December 7th until I saw your haibun.

  7. I really got interested in this child’s story and his perspective on his mother, and how this impacts his life. There is so much behind a family story than what we first see.

    1. I thought the little boy was very sensitive actually to his mother’s needs, proving much less ‘selfish’ and more compassionate than the adult. I have to admit when I saw a similarish incident in the park (which inspired this piece), I felt like taking the boy in my arms and giving him a good cuddle.

  8. Mom doesn’t sound like much fun at all. It’s tough for children to be shot down and bullied by their own parents. Her illness is no excuse for bad treatment of her children. I like that older brother seems to have a good sense of self.

  9. I pity the boy but I do admire his imaginative mind on Star Wars ~ I think it shows he is resilient despite the troubles of his mother (or family) ~ The haiku is stunning – what a contrast of ice and warming ~

  10. Oh… So much that’s left out, and the scars this might leave. To me the real story is the mother’s hospital visits.. But how can a kid understand what’s really happening.. I just wonder how they can melt each other.

  11. It is quite a bother to the kids when Mom was not on their side. Who else would assist and not bully them but parents . It’s a pity the mother had the affliction but it is not fair for ill-treating the kids anyway. Great lines Marina!


  12. Mid-story, I was prepared to comment that I didn’t like this mother much. (And I’m still not happy with how she is treating the boys). But then you threw in that one little sentence that made me have compassion on her in her illness. Darn you, I wasn’t prepared for that! Peace, Linda

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