Part 1 of my “12 Short Stories” – Challenge
Based on a prompt by Mia from deadlinesforwriters.com
Of mud, growing old and friendship
Mentions sickness and death
She reached far into the attic shelf where they had been sleeping for ages. There was still mud from the Holy Ground clinging to her boots. The crust was almost three years old now. Stupid virus, putting everything on hold while nobody was getting any younger. She went downstairs to get a cloth and soak it with warm water. Removing the mud seemed futile somehow, but still felt good. Like there was something she could influence after all, when so much of what happened was out of her control. She wiped the boots clean in slow circles. When eventually they were spotless again, she placed them on a piece of old newspaper to dry.
She had chosen them with care. They were old, well-worn and extremely comfortable. Made for standing in the rain, for walking across fields, for jumping and dancing. So many great memories, year after year they had travelled together to spend a short week of camping and Heavy Metal. Until the festivals had been cancelled. Which made sense of course. Global health took priority over entertainment. She was not about to complain at all, just looking forward to putting the boots on again and dancing in them. To getting them encrusted again with fresh mud.
She went to her computer to switch it off, then paused to look at the pictures still open. There they were, her boots on the ground outside the tent. A coffee cup made from paper next to them. A picture of her mum, sitting on a camping chair, drinking beer from a can for breakfast. She smiled, grateful for this perfect example of someone not letting age decide for her what she could or could not do. Another photo showing Sophie and herself with matching unicorn hats. Theirs was a friendship based on music and laughter and being free from any ordinary day-to-day routines. She wondered why it was that they did not see each other more often, mainly to attend a festival or a concert. They had always made such a well-balanced team. Today it was time to meet again at last.
She went into the kitchen to pick up the beer cans. The ones with the Viking design on them. It was the same brand of beer her mother had been holding in the photos. With the can in her hand, she could almost smell the barbecues all over the camping ground. She could almost hear the music, sense the vibration in her feet. Almost could feel the warm August sunshine on her jeans, which had become wet from the Northern German rain. Very much looking forward to return to this carefree existence.
She realised it was time to get dressed. Putting some shirts on her bed, wondering what Sophie would be wearing. She narrowed it down between the 2020 shirt, the first festival that had not happened, and the one from the Indian folk metal band they had tickets for next. In the end, she decided to go with the band shirt. It was still a really dark black, with a red elephant head on the front. Underneath it were the words: „Live, Brave One“. She loved this band for making songs about mental illness, for being so empowering and so happily alive. Sophie and her did not always like the same bands, but this one they definitely agreed on.
She suddenly remembered and went back to her computer to really switch it off this time, then clicked on the folder containing the band’s first album. The drum and the flute in her ears, she put on black tights and a short black skirt, bopping and twirling in front of the mirror. Hopefully she would never get too old to twirl, she thought. Same with braids, her trusty festival hairstyle of choice. There was still enough time before she had to leave, so she got out the brush and two small elastic bands. She parted her hair, caught one half of it in a band and braided the other half, enjoying the effect of the single white hairs mixed in. Looking forward to one day traipsing through the mud showing off a mane of pure white. Like her mum enjoying the morning sun on a camping chair, only with longer and brilliantly white hair. Looking forward to growing old on Metal.
She fixed the end of the first braid and was about to start on the other one when her favourite song ended. She leaned over to restart it before she went back to her braiding. Properly done, these would hold for two days, which was great when you did not have too many mirrors around. She would probably not really spend the week with her white hair flowing freely after all, however nice it may look in her imagination. It was good to have a bit of control. So even though she admired the surprisingly soft open manes some of the men in the crowds sported, she actually preferred to not have the wind shove hers into her face most of the time.
Sophie’s hair was much shorter than hers, much more practical. What Sophie also very much liked to have a say on was her level of cleanliness. Which could often be quite amusing, considering that at any given moment some clumps of dirt could come flying or a massive splash from someone diving into a puddle. Sophie always had her bag with her, carrying tissues and disinfectant, which she somehow always managed to sneak past the security who frisked them at the entrances. Everyone trying to stay in control in their own way. Even though, after all, the main point of the festival was to escape for a while from the constraints of their everyday lives. To let it all go and not worry about much at all. To in a way let your hair down and be willing to get splattered by mud or even beer from someone enthusiastically waving their plastic cups or horns around to the beat of the drums. Trust Sophie to then have her tissues ready to delicately dab the foam out of her hair.
The last couple of months had made her think about how little influence humans really had on things. How we mostly lived under the illusion that it was up to us to decide most of what happened around us. Of course, on an intellectual level she had always known this. But now the realisation had reached her gut. Sometimes you were lucky. Sometimes you were not. Sometimes things did not turn out well for people you were fond of. Sometimes in the middle of a pandemic people worried about getting infected but then were hit by something else entirely. Sometimes things could not be helped.
She checked her boots, which were dry now and ready to jump back into action. Slipping her feet into them after all this time felt like meeting an old friend after spending a long time apart. She wondered why she never used to wear them for occasions other than festivals.
She put on a black raincoat, packed the beer cans into the car and drove off. When she reached her destination, she looked into the mirror and nodded. She got out of the car and started walking, listening to the crunching sounds her boots made on the gravel. She reached the plot, placed the Viking beer can on the black stone and traced the elegant letters on it spelling Sophie’s name.