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by GingerTom 

Posted: 06 August 2016
Word Count: 581

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He stands, one hand on the fridge door, the other hanging at his side, fingers clicking like they always do. Sucking in his lower lip, he chews on it, glances at the clock.

The boy should've been here by now. Should've known this would happen. Should've... He blinks. Come on George, move on, move on.

Letting the door swing shut, he turns to the cupboards, but the story there is the same. The words to an old rhyme pop into his head - Old Mother Hubbard...

Moving to the kitchen window, he peers out. Ned from next door is still clipping away at the hedge. George holds up a hand. The man waves back, makes a 'Lovely day' motion, gives a cheery smile. George forces a grin and shakes his head. The good neighbour shrugs and goes back to his job.

Moving back through to the front room, George stands at the window. No neighbours here to distract him. Just cars chugging past, negotiating speed bumps.

Grasping the bottom corners of his cardigan, he begins the task of doing up the buttons. It's difficult to force the little buggers through the holes and his fingers keep missing, sliding one way or the other. Course, he could use that hook thing the therapist brought, but he's not that needy. Not yet.

With five of the buttons done, he takes a breath and starts the journey to the front door. It's not the walking that's difficult, just the destination. In the passage, he stops, watching the patterns of light shifting against the mottled panels of the glass. The August sun catches the hexagonal panes just right, splashing dabs of colour across the hall carpet.

Keeping his eyes on the glass, he moves towards the door. Then, hitting his mark, comes to a halt on the mat. Stands for a moment. The keys are still in the door from last night. He frowns. Should've put them on the hook like Billy told him to, make sure the boy can get in.

But anyway, it's easier this way.

Reaching forward, he turns the key until it clicks, then with one hand on the knob and the other braced against the wall, he pulls.

The light makes him wince, arresting his progress and he stands with the door half open. But that's not enough, so he shuffles back, pulling the door wide.

The breeze wafts over his face, making him blink. He allows himself a moment to enjoy it - the warm glow, the gentle rustle of the hedge. He could stand here all day.

Except, he can't. There's still a long way to go.

Taking a breath, George steps forward, places his foot against the threshold, brings his other foot up to join it. There.

This is fine. He can handle it. Really, no trouble at all, standing here, enjoying the day.

Then his eyes begin to close, his face screws itself up and he feels himself moving back to the security of the hall.

Perhaps he went too far? All the way to the edge? After all, you can't rush these things.

Looking down at his hands, he watches as the tremor subsides. It's fine. He pats his legs, lets out the breath he's been holding, counts to ten.

A grating of metal prompts him to look up. Billy is coming up the front path, Sainsbury's bags at his side.

"There you are," says George. "I was just thinking about going shopping myself."

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Comments by other Members

Desormais at 16:03 on 06 August 2016  Report this post
It's the little details in this story that really bring it to life - the clicking fingers, sucking the lip, chewing it, fumbling with the buttons of his cardigan.  The reader pretty soon realises that it's agrophobia here, but the incremental progress towards making some inroads on his phobia is so tantalising.  By the time he reaches the front door I could almost feel the fresh air, almost hear the street sounds.  The ending is just right.  Though it would have been lovely to read about him setting off down the path, it's far more realistic that he stops, and then makes that airy "oh I was just on the point of going out myself" statement, talking down his problem both to himself and to the boy.  Loved it.  Really well done, and thank you for taking part.

GingerTom at 16:15 on 06 August 2016  Report this post
Thanks for that, Sandra, much appreciated.

TassieDevil at 16:30 on 06 August 2016  Report this post
To me this is one of the most insideous of phobias as I knew a sufferer quite well and saw what it did to her and her family. You've captured the essence very well, showing how the little steps we take for granted are giant leaps for George. As Sandra said, excellent ending and, in its own way, uplifting..

Bazz at 20:03 on 06 August 2016  Report this post
Great character piece, Colin, you really pinpoint the psychological and physical sensations of agoraphobia, especially with the blinding light of the threshold, the tremors, the "security" of the hall.

There are some strong details, such as 

It's not the walking that's difficult, just the destination.

And, as Alan pointed out, there's something faintly uplifting in the ending, with the first step, perhaps of many.


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