I have been writing this summer about the creative writing of C.S. Lewis. One of the requirements for the class I took was to write an original short story. I share that now with you. It is titled, “Finding a Perfect World.”
“Why won’t you listen to me?” Marcy asked.
“I don’t understand why you are so upset with me,” said Henry, her husband. “We have had such a nice night together.”
“We did have a nice night but I am mad that you didn’t listen to what I was saying,” replied Marcy, turning to her husband.
“You know that I love you and I would do anything for you,” said Henry. “I will try better to listen to you.”
“Ok dear,” said Marcy, her anger gone. She looked lovingly into Henry’s plastic eyes. “I love you too.”
Sarah’s mom looked in on her daughter, playing with her dolls. Sarah had named them Henry and Marcy. She had a habit of playing with her dolls for hours on end and acting out very intricate stories. Her mom loved seeing the imagination that her five-year-old daughter had. Sarah didn’t just play; she created an entire world.
“What is the story today?” said mom, walking in and sitting down on the ground with Sarah.
“Well,” Sarah said, looking at her mom, “Marcy and Henry were having a little fight.”
“What was the fight about?” said her mother, smiling to herself.
“Henry wasn’t listening to Marcy, and Marcy was mad at him,” said Sarah. “But then Henry said that he loved her and that made Sarah happy. And then they kissed and everything was ok.”
Sarah’s mom laughed. “So it was the kiss that made everything ok, was it?”
“No!” said Sarah, “It was because Henry loves Marcy, and Marcy loves Henry. As long as they love each other everything will always be perfect.”
“Well, I love you, cutie pie,” said Sarah’s mom, giving her a hug.
“I hate you!” screamed Sarah. “It is the same story again and again and I am tired of hearing it.” Sarah was now grown and her marriage of 15 years was falling apart. She and her husband were fighting again.
“Hearing it?” said her husband, John, “That is funny! You haven’t heard anything. You don’t listen to me. You don’t listen to anyone.”
“I DO listen!” screamed Sarah. She knew that her two children could hear their fight but she was too angry to hold herself back. It was the same fight over and over for years. John worked hour after hour and always came home exhausted, and Sarah was sick of it. Who was he to complain? She spent all day working as well, making the house perfect and staying busy with all the kids’ activities that she had them involved in.
When they had first gotten married they were so in love and did everything together – including the cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Once they had their second child they agreed that Sarah would stay home, but this meant she saw John much less. More and more of the housework got dumped on Sarah, with no word of thanks. Only a year ago Sarah had taken over paying the bills when she discovered many of them had gone unpaid for months. Besides, they hadn’t been done the right way anyway. If it wasn’t for Sarah the family would have lost their home and had the electricity turned off years ago!
This fight had started because John had said he would be home by 6:00pm, but he was late, again. This had made Sarah late for a meeting at school. She decided to skip the meeting and talk with her husband. But instead of listening he began to accuse her of nagging him. She knew he was tired from work but she needed him to hear what she had to say. She was tired of keeping it in.
“I do listen,” Sarah repeated. “I am sick of the way you act. I am sick of doing all of the work in this family. I am sick of – ”
“ALL OF THE WORK?!” John exclaimed, “I just finished working all day and I walk in the door to you – and all you want to do is fight.”
“I don’t WANT to fight. I just want you to see all that is done in this house. You used to help out. We used to be a perfect family. Now all you do is work all the time and come home and watch TV.”
“You want to know WHY I spend all of those hours at work?” said John, boiling over. “You want more and more. We have kids, so I have to work more. You want to stay home, so I have to work more. You want to have nice things, so I have to work more. Sarah, I love you, but you live in your own little world where you want everyone to do what you want. That is not reality. I am doing my best.”
“Your best is not enough.”
John was going to respond but stopped short. Sarah could tell that her statement had really stung him. She felt a little bad, but he needed it. He needed to know what she was feeling, and he needed to make some changes.
John slowly spoke, clearly holding back his anger, “If my best is not enough, then I don’t know what you want me to do.”
Sarah began to speak, ready to lay out her plan for the changes he needed to make, but John cut her off.
“It’s over,” said John, and walked out of the room.
Sarah almost laughed. She thought John was just angry. She would let him calm down and then give him her plan for what he needed to do.
But she would find that John was serious. The divorce became final less than a year later, and they split custody of the kids. In some ways Sarah missed being married, but overall she enjoyed having the house and her life more the way she wanted it to be.
“That is not the right way to clean that up dear, let me show you how.” Sarah was now a grandmother. Her son Jonas and his wife Darlene were visiting. Their daughter April, who was 3 years old, had made another mess in Sarah’s house.
Sarah’s house was lovely. It was a small house, but Sarah had spent a lot of time and money to make it just right. She did the yard work herself and made sure she kept her house clean. She needed to work ever since the divorce, but she had never stopped the habit of having a tidy home. She had also saved up to have quite a few projects done in her house. It had a lot of little flourishes and it was decorated very well. Even Sarah’s friends would comment on how nice her house was and how much they enjoyed visiting.
“There we go my dear,” said Sarah. “We have it all cleaned up now. Try not to make any more messes in grandma’s house.”
April went off to play with her toys again, full of life and energy. Five minutes later there was the sound of glass breaking. All three adults came running in to see April crying, and a china plate broken on the floor.
“April, are you alright?” Jonas scooped up his daughter and inspected her for cuts.
Sarah looked on the ground and saw her broken plate. She saw a broken memory. The plate had been a souvenir from a trip she had taken with her two best friends in college. They had gone to Venice together after finding some cheap airline tickets. Sarah remembered how her friends had talked her into going on the trip at the last minute. The trip wasn’t planned out the way she liked – they even stayed in some pretty “interesting” hostels – but it was one of the best trips of her life. Sarah had loved that trip, and this plate was her only souvenir from that time. Now, it was broken.
She turned and looked at April, who was still in Jonas’s arms. “April, why did you break grandma’s plate? I told you to be careful in my house!”
“Mom, what are you doing?” said Jonas, handing April to his wife, who took her into the other room.
“I am glad she is OK, but she needs to learn to be more careful. This plate is not replaceable,” said Sarah. She was getting angrier as she spoke.
“I am really sorry about your plate. I really am,” said Jonas. “But your granddaughter is more important than your plate.”
“Of course she is,” said Sarah, shortly. “It’s just that you don’t teach her to slow down and be careful. You don’t teach her to clean up. You don’t teach her how to behave. She needs to learn these things.”
“She is three years old!” exclaimed Jonas. “And no – we are not trying to raise her the way you want.”
“You will see how that works out. If you don’t raise her the right way you will regret it.”
Jonas just ignored his mom, and walked away.
They finished their visit, but Jonas and his family did not visit as often after that. Sarah loved Jonas but they did not see eye to eye. As the years went by it seemed her kids and grandkids got busier and busier, and she did not see them as often. Sarah longed to see them more, and overall felt lonely. She didn’t spend a lot of time with her friends, either, who all seemed to be busy with their grandkids and their activities. Sarah was lonely, and she was frustrated that those that she loved didn’t make more of an effort to visit her.
Years later she got the news: her mother had died. She and her mom had always been close. In fact, she was closest with her mom. Her father had died a few years before, and Sarah had made a habit of visiting her mother every day. They had great talks. But now her mom was gone.
Sarah drove home and started going through the boxes of stuff left over from her mom. There were pictures, of course, many that made Sarah cry. There was a lot of junk that was just left over, and Sarah made a pile that was headed for the trash.
Sarah opened a box and tears filled her eyes. It was her dolls. Her mother had kept Sarah’s dolls. Sarah took them out and was instantly back to her world.
“It doesn’t matter if I was mad with you in the past,” said Henry, “I love you and that is all we need.”
“Henry, do you forgive me?” said Marcy.
“Of course I do. I will never leave you.”
“I love you, Henry. You are perfect.”