Short Story: The Trickle

booksBy Richard Wallace

Preface – The Trickle

I wrote this story in 1982.

At the time I was working on an apple orchard on KLO Rd. In Kelowna pruning trees and living in a picker’s cabin.

I’m not sure of what was going on in the world in 1982 that prompted me to write this story but write it I did. When I finished it I put it away and mostly forgot about it.

When I saw the horrific events of 9/11, the air planes crashing into the twin towers, people calling loved ones to say goodbye and others jumping to their deaths rather than being burned alive, like the rest of the world, I watched in disbelief.

As events unfolded throughout the following days and those responsible were identified, I thought to myself, “Oh yeah, the Trickle.”

The Trickle is a story about complacency and a loss of innocence.

The Trickle

The warm June sun looked down in kindly fashion on the countryside below. It was a countryside of small towns, small farms and common folk. Good and decent folk, most of them anyway, most of them. All of them glad to be rid of the cold of winter and everybody thankful for the warm June sun.

Pastures turned green and leaves took their proper places on trees. Farmers worked the land and businessmen prospered. As one day tumbled into another, lawns were mowed, children played in the streets and students looked forward to summer vacation; perfect.

On a small farm not far from town a small patch of dampness made itself known to the afternoon sun. Ordinarily this small patch of dampness would have dried out rather quickly but this was not an ordinary expression of moisture. A few sparse blades of grass welcomed it to the hillside and in return the moisture was happy to provide some relief to the stunted grass.

The dampness stayed on the hillside for a few days, providing nourishment where needed, but soon it was time to move. Slowly it spread itself out over the ground forming itself into droplets of water that soon became a long thin line, a trickle. It was a small trickle but none the less, that’s what it was, a trickle.

I saw this with my own eyes and it was very interesting. I saw this trickle having its way with the surrounding soil and even more interesting, the trickle knew I knew and the trickle grew.

Slowly the trickle made its way from the farm toward the town. It moved along the slopes, the curves in the road and across the ditches. When it reached the town it moved along a sidewalk, a curb and spilled out onto the street; all the while unbothered by the warm June sun.

I watched this from a nearby lawn and it was very interesting. I could see that the trickle had a mind of its own. It behaved like an entity released from an earthen grave. I watched it increase in volume unfazed by pedestrians or traffic. The trickle moved in and out and about the tyres of the cars and teased the pedestrians as they walked down the street.

The trickle formed small puddles that grew and grew. Puddles of delight that were to be wondered about and enjoyed by the passers by. Pedestrians stopped in the crosswalks, drivers stopped their cars in the street and bicycle riders stopped as well. Everybody stopped.

An old man in a wheelchair came upon this scene with a look of bewilderment but soon broke out in a broad grin. What an amazing sight! What a wonderful afternoon!

I watched all of this as the trickle made its way along the street. Everybody laughed and laughed. There were small children laughing, a very gay time. It wasn’t long before the street was covered. Motorists left their vehicles in the middle of the street. Mums and dads and little children laughed and splashed in the middle of the street. Everybody was splashing. What fun!

The old man in the wheelchair laughed out loud as his cane floated away. A ball cap went floating by. Such excitement! Everybody laughed and splashed and threw water in all directions, all of this in the warm June sun.

I watched this from the roof of a car and it was very interesting. I watched and watched and the trickle knew I knew and the trickle grew.

A fire truck arrived on the scene and the firemen laughed and splashed. Police cars arrived on the scene and the policemen laughed and splashed. All of them. All of them were having a very gay time.

I watched all of this from the limb of a tree and it was very interesting. The policemen and firemen were having a wonderful afternoon.

The trickle continued on its journey. I could see it. It was isolated as though it was flowing through a green garden hose but it wasn’t and by now it had taken on a life of its own.

It covered the curb and flowed across a lawn. It went through a flowerbed and paid no attention to a sign that said, ‘do not over water’. It covered the feet of the people at play and rose to the knees of some of the children. It covered the wheels of the wheelchair and rose to the chest of a midget. Still, everybody continued to laugh and splash. It was a very gay time.

Suddenly there were elements of danger. Flickers of fear crossed the faces of the firemen. The eyes of the policemen darted here and there and their hearts began to beat a little faster. A dog frantically looked for its master.

Children were picked up and put on the shoulders of their parents. But still, there were many others who were unaware of this turn of events and continued to laugh and splash.

The water had now covered the police cars, the fire truck and the old man in the wheelchair. Soon everybody was covered with water and everybody was the same.

I watched all of this from where I sat on the roof of the local hospital. I watched the trickle work its magic and all the while the trickle knew I knew. The trickle was omnipotent and didn’t care while it grew and grew.

The local hospital seemed like an appropriate place to be. I could easily see everything below. I was sitting beside an old loud speaker and wondered if it even worked.

My attention was drawn to the midget. The midget appeared to be a man in his thirties, in relatively good physical condition and earlier on one of the more eager participants in the frolics. This might have been because for the first time in his life he was an equal in the more robust world of policemen and firemen. For a brief moment size didn’t matter.

My attention wasn’t drawn to the midget because of any specific action on his part but possibly because of the lack of any action at all. He was still, motionless with no expression on his face whatsoever. He had a full head of hair that drifted back and forth in the water. There was an almost imperceptible undulation of his arms and legs but nothing more.

He moved as though he was lost in a vertical dream and I supposed in some way he was. His body moved in a slow dance amidst a cruel choreograph of men and women; men and women holding their children at arms length above their heads. There were strangers holding children and trying to save them in the crystal clear water. All of them were naked and all of them were the same.  I could see all of this and the trickle knew I knew and the trickle grew.

The trickle was relentless and the water continued to rise. Soon everybody started jumping up and down with their heads thrown back and their mouths wide open. Their eyes were searching, searching for relief, an escape but there wasn’t any escape to be found and by now all hope was gone.

The water was clear, translucent and hypnotic as the trickle continued on its destructive path. Eventually everybody and everything was covered with water; the fire trucks, police cars, the old man in the wheelchair, everything. I could see parents holding their children above their heads, jumping up and down and trying to save them. Eyes darting in fear, people looking at each other in fear and all of them consumed with fear, all of them. All of them were naked and all of them the same.

Suddenly everybody was very calm. The roof of the hospital gave me a clear view of what was transpiring below. I moved over and sat beside a loud speaker. I’m not sure why I did this but I felt compelled to do so. It gave me a feeling of comfort and I’m not sure why. I wondered why.

The loud speaker was old and rusted; at best a relic from a distant past. It was a mess. It was a mess of frayed wires and rusted connections. Old electrical tape hung from this spider’s web of wires, wires and tape in tatters. Still, it provided me with a link to something other than the madness below.

The trickle continued on its way and flowed in an elusive and whimsical fashion. Nothing stood in its way and it appeared to be oblivious to everything that was taking place around it. It was oblivious to everybody jumping up and down in the crystal clear water, everybody and everything and all of this taking place in the warm June sun.

The trickle continued as a voice from the loud speaker announced that a baby had died.



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2 replies »

  1. I first read ‘The Trickle’ as a poem in Richard’s book ‘Think About It’, published by Shuswap Press. And this was my response, as sent to Richard………….

    “The Trickle – My Lord, yes, the trickle, which is now, as we live, growing to a torrent, a flood.
    The Trickle.
    This needs to be brought to the attention of as many people as possible. The Trickle, which is becoming a flood, which could over-whelm us all – and the world about us.
    The trickle of attitudes, and rubbish, and…………………
    This is an exceptional piece of writing and observation.
    Oh yes.”

    Then, I read the short story – at first, I thought I preferred the poem, thinking it was more immediate – had a more immediate impact – or, maybe it was just because I had read it first? Then, re-reading the story – that has its own ‘thing’ – The Trickle, knowing, and knowing, that the observer knew. I think that, in the story, it’s even more menacing. In the poem, it is revealed to be menacing. So – as is often the case with prose and poetry, each has their own strength and impact, and folk can go with whichever, personally, speaks most to them.
    It is very good, and speaks so much of our times.
    Beware of The Trickle.

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