Retreat From Life

A grim faced man, wearing a long trench coat, got out of a black car and slammed the door. He stood looking at the Welsh mountains surrounding the caravan site. It was very quiet. John Johnson thought this was the perfect place to be alone and sort out his life. He was only thirty-five years old, but his life was full of problems. His wife had left him, the final divorce papers had come yesterday. His business was on the brink of failure. His employees were always complaining about something. People cause problems, he thought, and other people’s problems have been closing in on him. He wanted to get away from people. He hoped this remote part of Wales would give him the relief he needed. So he rented a caravan in the woods, a retreat from life.

John entered the site manager’s office to get the keys to the caravan.

“Mr. Johnson, can I ask you a favour? I wonder if you would look in on an old man and his crippled daughter, to see if they’re alright from time to time? They live a short way down the road from your caravan,” asked the manger, giving John the keys.

John’s dark eyes smoldered with anger. He ran his fingers through his black wavy hair.

“I’m sorry, but I won’t have time.”

“But, Mr. Johnson, it wouldn’t take much time. Since you came early to the site, you’re the only one, right now, to look in on them,” said the manager, looking out the window toward the road.

“Look, there’s the daughter now, won’t you reconsider?”

John stared at the forlorn figure shuffling along the road, dragging one leg behind. He turned away.

“Look, I came here to be alone, not to be bothered with other people. You will have the get someone else.”

With that, John turned his back to the manager and walked out of the office, slamming the door. He got up early the next morning after a restless night. His thoughts trailed back to the day before. The nerve of the manager to ask him to do social work around the site. Would he ever be able to get away from other people’s problems?

The birds were singing and the mountains were beckoning. John decided to take a walk in this nature wonderland. A little way down the road, he saw a struggling figure coming toward him. It was the crippled girl carrying some firewood. John’s eyes looked straight ahead, trying to avoid the sad sight.

“Sir, would you be so kind as to help me with this wood? It’s heavy and my cabin is just down the road.” The girl’s dark eyes pleaded with John.

John seemed to be magnetized to the girl, Probably in her mid-twenties. She  was actually pretty if she did something with her straight brown hair. She wore jeans and a plaid shirt which didn’t do a thing for her femininity. The girl smiled at him and he almost smiled back. But he didn’t want to get involved.

“I’m sorry lady, but I’m in a hurry and can’t stop.” His eyes turned away and he hurried on.

John didn’t feel good about avoiding the girl, but he didn’t need her problems. He cut his walk short and took a different route back, which by-passed the girl’s cabin.

For the rest of the week it rained incessantly. The weather didn’t help John’s depression. He had been avoiding the girl and her father’s cabin. He had his own problems to stew about. His life was in a mess, and he hadn’t sorted anything out yet. He felt sick to the depths of his soul.

The night before  John’s last day at the site, it was stormy. The rain was pelting the roof of the caravan like someone beating on a drum. He was engrossed in a book about how to pick up the pieces of your life after divorce.

A banging on the door jolted him out of his self-centered thoughts. Who could it be out on a night like this? He opened the door a crack and peeked out. It was the crippled girl soaked to her skin.

“Please help me, my father is trapped by a fallen tree down by the river. The river is rising fast.”

He could hear himself mumbling something about she should go to the site telephone and call the emergency services.

“But there isn’t time,” she cried, and stumbled away into the storm.

John closed the door quick to block out the scene. He stared at himself in the mirror on the back of the door, and felt guilty. Was he part of the human race or not?

He put on his coat and ran out into the storm after the girl. The rain and wind slashed John’s face, but he made his way to the rampaging river. The water was rising fast. Would he have time to save the old man?

The girl was struggling with a large tree trunk, but she couldn’t budge it. John hurried over to the girl’s side. The old man was almost covered with water, only his head was visible. A broken fishing rod was entangled in the tree branches. The girl was screaming uncontrollably. John waded into the river and grabbed the tree trunk. He tried to move it. But all he accomplished was to cut his hand on a sharp branch. He grabbed the trunk and strained with all his strength. He managed to lift it a few inches. Just enough to release the old man’s leg before the water covered his head. The girl helped her father to safety.

“Thank you, you came just in time,” she cried.

The girl limped over to John and hugged him.

“Thank you son,” said the old man, exhausted by his ordeal.

John felt good. Three happy people smiling in the rain!

When they got back to the cabin, they all dried off in front of the fire. The girl bandaged John’s cut hand. Father and daughter were very grateful to John, and his inner sick feeling disappeared.

Was this the answer to his problems, to get involved with people and get out of himself? He finally realized that people are needed in a person’s life. No more would he retreat from life.

John knew he would sort his life out now and he was determined to return to Wales next year to see the girl and her father. With his new attitude the future looked bright!

6 thoughts on “Retreat From Life

  1. Another winning short, short story by author Writer Dave.
    Anyone who has ever suffered from depression should consider reading his latest work. Dave has the pulse-beat of troubled people and there is nothing corny about Happy Endings.
    Larry Primak

  2. But when he went back to see the old man and his daughter, he never found them. He looked every where but they were no where to be found. His eyes opened and he saw his wife lying next to him. It was a dream. The whole thing was a dream. John got out of bed and killed himself. End of story.

  3. My Friend Gary said:
    He liked the irony that he has to go into the (almost) deserted wilderness in order to reconnect with people.

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