Fiction

Story: Survivors

By: Michal Reibenbach


Climbing up the wall of my house are two Bougainvillea bushes, they partially creep over my bedroom’s window. The bushes are a joy to me. Their branches which turn in random ways are decorated with glossy, dark green leaves and weighed down by vibrant, scarlet blooms. Sometimes they weave into my dreams. On wintry days, the wind makes their leaves rustling against my window panes. On summer days their leaves cast shadows which dance about in sunny patches on my floor.

One morning I am rudely awoken by the noise of someone banging and making a racket outside my bedroom window. Startled I quickly transfer myself to my wheelchair. Rap a dressing gown over my pajamas and roll myself outside to investigate. To my horror, I see that a workman is using a sledgehammer to dismantling the flower bed in which my beloved Bougainvillea bushes are growing. Also with a devastated heart, I note that he has already ripped out one of the bushes by its roots! “Stop that-what are you doing?” I yell at him. The workman glances over at me then he stops his hacking and straightens himself up, “The woman from the house committee told me to demolish this flower bed and to level the ground out with concrete,” he explains.

“That flower bed and those bushes have been there for the last forty years, you can’t just destroy them!” I say indignantly.

“She said that the people in the building want more space to drive past in their cars. I’ll stop work for now and in the meantime, you’d better go and talk to her,” says the workman.

I am pleasantly surprised that he doesn’t argue with me, but rather he slings his sledgehammer over his shoulder and slowly strolls off. I think to myself, “Putting down concrete in place of beautiful plants. What is the world coming to?”

I manage to arrange a meeting with Jane, the woman from the house committee later on in the day, next to the now ‘very pitiful’ looking flower bed. While I’m waiting for Jane I take some snap-shots of the remaining Bougainvillea bush which is in glorious full bloom. While thus occupied Jane turns up. “Oh, it looks awful! She exclaims and then she continues “Some men from the building want to widen the street.”

I pull a branch of the bush towards her and tenderly hold one of its blooms in between my fingers so that it is cradled in the palm of my hand, “Look at this amazing, delicate little flower, see how in its middle it has a tiny white flower which is surrounded by three scarlet paper-like bracts. These bushes have been growing here for so many years without ever once being watered or fertilized, they’re like a miracle!” I say, my voice wavering, “It’s such a shame to destroy them.”

Jane looks at me, an expression of surprise runs over her features, and she says reminiscing, “My late husband also used to love these bushes, in fact, he painted them a few times.”

I am relieved and happy that she is on my side. Jane is a strong woman.

The next morning once again I am woken up by all sorts of loud noises coming from outside my bedroom window. Upon investigation, my dampened spirit is cheered up when I discover that the workman has completely restored the flower bed to its former self, except for the Bougainvillea bush which he’d previously hacked out of the ground. I feel wonderful and so I burst out smiling, “Thank you so much,” I say to him. I am also tremendously grateful to Jane for rescuing the flower bed and the remaining bush. In appreciation of Jane’s kindness, I take upon myself the task of attending to the flower bed. Weeding, fertilizing, planting, and watering it. These tasks are sometimes challenging because of my wheelchair. When I see the fruits of my labor, each flower that grows becoming a delicate bloom which I can never see too many times and the remaining blooming Bougainvillea bush, my heart soars with pleasure. A few stray roots must have remained in the ground for over time even the bush which was so bereft starts to grow back.

We are both survivors.

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Categories: Fiction

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