Autumn stained the ground, her fingers leaving streaks in the ground that twirled playfully in and out of solemn trees. Beams of sunlight strove to reach through the thick canopy of branches and leaves. Oak, elm, rowan, and birch fought each other for those few precious rays and gnarled roots gouged the earth. Through these trees, a cobbled country road gently wound its way through the fiery scene. Along this, a young man walked.
Head down, he labored desolately with the air of one twice his years. His dark, obviously expensive, but rumpled clothes befitted his manner. His head sank so far onto his chest that his dull eyes caught not even the most spectacular rays that penetrated the canopy.
The trees thinned and melted into the countless miles he had left behind.
He came out of the woods, and now the path wended its way in parallel with ocean cliffs so sheer and so colossal, that it took tremendous nerve to walk within 6 feet of them. But even in the presence of such an awesome sight, he looked neither left nor right, sparing not a glance for the Atlantic as it rose and fell beneath. He walked for some time, and eventually came to a great rock, which protruded from the side of the cliffs, hanging far over the churning water below. It towered above even the cliffs.
He turned towards this object of great magnitude, and seemingly without thought began to pick his way up the sheer rock. Upon closer examination, one would note the crude but effective steps cut into the rock. It was obvious that this man had many times made his way up this rock; indeed, the steps had been cut by he alone.
Suddenly, he seemed overcome by weariness, of mind or body, and he stumbled, hanging over the dizzying drop, but at the last second righted himself and with renewed vigour continued upwards. Upon reaching the top, he slumped down, and let his muscles relax. Memory lane is a hard path, and he had come many miles upon it, his rest was deserved..
He breathed deeply of the rich sea air, taking great gulps, like one who has just escaped a fire. He lay back and listened to the cries of the gulls and the laugh of the waves. And finally, he raised his head and chanced a glance around. A strangled sob escaped his lips.
Blue skies, blue seas, brought back memories of sparkling blue eyes. Red trees, red leaves dappling the ground, caused images of fiery hair, vibrant and full of life. Everywhere he looked, he saw Frankie. His Frankie.
His Frankie who had been born of his love for his young bride. But in giving birth to Frankie, it was as if all her life force had gone into him, all her energy given to, and displayed in his vivacious personality, and she breathed her last as she looked upon the face of the child which she had given her life for. Her husbandâs anguish was tempered only by the young life which he had now to keep.
He recalled the last time he had been here. Frankie had been with him then. The little boy had to be held tight, he had wanted to rush from one side of the rock to the other. Even held still, Frankieâs eyes had shone like the sun and the moon, and the air had been thick with his wonderful voice.
âDaddy, isnât it high up here!â
âDaddy, look at that big wave!â
âOooh daddy that birdie flew so close!â
âBrrrrr isnât it cold daddy!â
He swallowed as he remembered how wide-eyed Frankie had been towards everything he came across.
He sniffed as he recalled Frankieâs bouncing, exuberant manner.
He blinked as he thought of how Frankie had brought a shaft of sunlight into the life of everyone he came across.
But then Frankie had gotten sick. Child Leukaemia. He had been a paranoid father and those two words had always been pushing for top spot in his worries list. Of course despite his worrisome nature he had never imagined such a thing could happen to his little boy. But then Frankie became sick.
As soon as he saw a single âpin-prickâ bleed on Frankieâs skin he had rushed him to the doctorâs to have him scanned. When it came out that Frankie was indeed Leukaemia, he had believed that his prudence had saved the child.
At first nothing seemed to change, other than Frankieâs incessant pleadings against the constant doctoral visits. But then Frankie began to lose his previously abundant energy, he became too frail to go outside and have their usual romps. His eyeâs still sparkled and he still sent a shaft of sunlight into the lives of anyone who visited. But gradually, the hopeful father began to lose faith, and before long he was informed by the doctors that Frankieâs chances of survival were fading fast, and that he needed to be hospitalised.
One blustery, ice cold day, the day before Frankie would be admitted full time into hospital, he took Frankie for one final walk in the park. Frankie stumbled along beside him for a while, his legs growing weaker and weaker. He decided to carry him, and lifted the little boy into his arms. Frankie rested his head against his fathers shoulder and dozed off.
With Frankie asleep, he was left alone to his thoughts, and they were not pleasant. Fear and doubt whirled inside his mind.
All of a sudden, Frankieâs head shot up, and banged against his chin.
âDaddy, Daddy! Look! Is that a little birdie?â
The excited voice of previous years momentarily sent his spirits soaring and he set Frankie on the ground; together they hurried off, hand in hand towards a small brown shape huddled on the ground.
Frankie crouched over a baby sparrow too young too fly, but with its juvenile coat cloaking its young body; he shielded it from the cold with his fingers. The young bird made no attempt to avoid Frankieâs little fingers, it was obviously deep in shock and bound to die soon.
âDaddy, he likes me! Can we keep him, and help him to grow up?â
âHeâs a wild bird Frankie, he doesnât need us. Or like us.â
âBut then why doesnât he fly away daddy?â
âHe canât Frankie. Heâs going to die.â Like you, he thought, and his heart broke for the umpteenth time that day.
Frankie simply looked at him again.
âAll he needs to do is fly up to his mummy, and she will look after him.â
sighed again. âCome on Frankie, letâs go home.â He lifted Frankie up into his arms and began the journey through the park, home. Just as he began to doze off, Frankie murmured some words into his ear. âFly away birdie, Fly up to your mummy.â
What more is there to tell? The memories are too painful to look at in depth. Frankie went off to hospital and spent a peaceful three months slowly dying. He spent his last hours holding his fathers hand and whispering a phrase that his father now so often repeated in his head.
Fly away birdie, fly up to your mummy.
Back on the rock, in the present time, the man was now drenched by a torrential rainstorm which had appeared suddenly out of the blue skies. His expensive clothes clung to his supple body, he gave them no thought. Heaving himself off the rock, he wearily began to descend the rough steps.
The steps were slippery, and he had but ornamental footwear. He was a sad man, but he intended to keep living, if only for the memory of Frankie. But the steps were slippery, he was weary, and his footing unsure. It took but a slip and he began to plunge.
Air whirled past him, and he was momentarily bewildered.
Then he smiled.
Fly away Frankie; fly up to your mummy.