Before our births, void of choice, we became part of the story,
During our lives, with a choice, we can't escape the story,
After death, abandoned choice, the story continues to seep.
- Andrew Mansell

Where the Wind Stopped

Photo by Pete Savin

Not that long ago, on an earth similar to ours, stood Windburne; a city where the wind never stopped. The city was founded near an ocean in which the waves permanently curved. Houses and buildings were built on slants with the house of bosses being the most crooked building of all. Trees naturally warped sideways and all the people of the town stood permanently bent over; occasionally scraping a big nose along the ground as they walked. The only things that appeared flat in Windburne were the ground and what lay directly upon it. Windburnians knew of the illusion though, as their history told them – the earth had always been round. For Winburnians life was normal and they knew no other way but to sit in their curved chairs and sleep in their crescent beds.

Timothy Bent was a typical Windburnian; that was until he reached the age of nine. At Timothy’s ninth birthday party, heavy raindrops shaped like mini flying saucers prevented any outdoor game or activity. Timothy was happy enough to read a borrowed copy of Bender while his elder brothers, Apollo and Eric, became restless. They started jumping on Timothy’s bed as if it were a trampoline.

Timy, Timy is a girly bee,
Doesn’t play football,
Can’t climb trees,
All he does is read fantasy,’ they teased.

‘Stop, stop, you pit-bulls,’ Timothy pleaded, holding back tears but his brothers bounced higher and higher with their heads almost touching the ceiling. Apollo put in one huge bounce in an effort to reach the ceiling but he and Eric came down with a thump. Timothy’s bed was broken. It was Timothy’s worst birthday ever. With no spare bed, Timothy was forced to sleep on the floor.

‘When can I get a new bed?’ Timothy asked his dad.

‘I’ll think about it if your behaviour improves,’ his dad barked back knowing next week’s wages were already earmarked for last month’s rent.

‘But what have I done?’ Timothy whimpered. ‘It wasn’t me.’

‘No buts!’

At first, Timothy was uncomfortable laying almost straight but as the days turned into weeks and then months, his back gradually straightened out until he was the first person in Windburnian history to walk with a straight back.

Freak became Timothy’s new name at school. The work of the Devil churchmen called Timothy. His parents were even ridiculed by others parents at a parent teacher interview night. One evening, after working late, Timothy’s parents sat for hours on end at their round table discussing what to do. Timothy, who was supposed to be sleeping, put his ear quietly against the living room door and listened to his predicament. Eventually his parents were convinced by a crooked auntie to take Timothy to a spinal specialist. Without any previous case history or literature, the specialist, in a roundabout way, hinted at a lost cause. Straightature of the spine Timothy’s condition was labelled.

Despite his newly formed straight back, Timothy had lost none of his imagination or ability to learn. The days began to pass very slowly for Timothy. Every day he did no wrong and every day he was teased and taunted. Even his brothers left him to fight his own battles. On the last day of Primary school, a pack of children chased Timothy all the way home. He had a sticker on his back that read Hit Me. Timothy escaped them all except Brutus, who lived around the corner.  Brutus landed two mongrel corkys on Timothy’s triceps. The bruises stayed with Timothy for weeks.

In his first year of high school the toll of Timothy’s torment became overbearing. He could no longer take the routine of being bashed in the stomach until he hunched over winded.

‘That’s better. ’ His bullies would laugh. ‘Just stay like that you weirdo and we might let you live.’

‘Why do you want to hurt me?’  Timothy’s moans rebounded off closed ears. ‘You bull-terriers, what have I done?’ Timothy looked for his teachers but they turned a blind eye. He had no option was to leave Windburne.

A week before first semester holidays as Timothy lay on his bedroom floor he remembered a story which his grandfather had told him once Where the Wind Began. In the middle of the ocean where the water was calm; herds of Blue Whales gathered and together used their blowholes to create powerful wind so that no fishermen would bother them. The story is banned now though. Ever since his grandfather had told him the story, Timothy believed that before the wind begun, there was no wind. Timothy concluded it would be too hard for a young boy to sail out into the windy ocean to confirm the story so instead he figured it would be easier to travel to where the wind stopped. In the dark hours of early morning he stuffed in his rucksack – clothes, a cup cake and half a chocolate wagon wheel. He also filled a water bottle and grabbed the last banana from the fruit bowl before quietly sneaking away from home.

He caught the first, very fast train, from Innerest Windburne to Outerest Windburne. From there, full of nervous energy, he walked up and down the hills that lead away from what he knew as civilisation. Most of his food and drink he finished by the second night. Less than half a bottle of water was left for the remainder of the journey.  Six gruelling days and sleep deprived nights went by with Timothy not noticing the subtle decrease in wind that blew from behind him. As each hour passed Timothy became hungrier, thirstier and eventually so dizzy he could barely stand up. He began to see things that weren’t really there, or were they? The wind became barely noticeable and beside Timothy’s path the trees pointed more towards the sky than the ground. On the seventh day he came to a sign that he read in ruler like lines Straightburg. Timothy instantly passed out.

The people of Straightburg were curious as to why the boy who lay near the Straightburg sign had hair that wasn’t straight. Most Straightburgers assumed Timothy’s wavy hair was a bizarre wig and that another boy had simply got to deep into fantasy.  Fortunately for Timothy, a pragmatic youth worker named Mark, spotted him. Mark located Timothy’s pulse and decided to take him to his house, just across the road. When Timothy woke several hours later, Mark comforted Timothy and offered him toasted cheese sandwiches. Timothy was amazed cheese could be shaped in squares and fit perfectly onto slices of straight edged bread. With a full stomach Timothy felt comfortable and tried explaining his journey.

After hearing Timothy’s story, Mark believed Timothy was crazy but felt obliged to take him in as a border; under one condition.

‘Why don’t you take your wig off?’ Mark asked Timothy.

‘What do you mean?’ Timothy was puzzled. ‘This is my hair.’

‘No one has wavy hair,’ Mark said sternly. ‘It’s impossible.’

‘Why don’t you touch it then?’ Timothy lowered his head.

Mark gently pulled at Timothy’s hair and couldn’t believe when it didn’t budge. Confused, Mark then wondered if the rest of Timothy’s story was also true. ‘Well, I can’ believe it. I think for your own protection, we best not tell anyone and keep your hair short. What do you think?’

‘I agree,’ Timothy said after quickly summing up that a haircut was easy medicine compared to having his straight back bent crooked again.

Once a week, Mark gave Timothy a number three haircut with a pair of clippers he had used on his previous homeless border, a nit infested teenage girl. Nobody in Straightburg suspected a thing. Timothy’s self esteem spiralled in his new home where the trees were straight, buildings were of level plains and all the people walked with straight backs like his. There was even a lake with flat water and a smoothly polished building on its banks. The square leaders of Straightburg marched and met there. Mark adopted Timothy as if he were his own. He taught Timothy how to write without curves and enrolled him into the local high school. At first, Timothy timidly went to school. The memories of Windburne taunted him. He thought he would slip up and write in curves but it didn’t take long for straight writing to become his second nature. He relished not standing out in a crowd and was accepted as any other straight back boy. He excelled with his studies and eventually went on to university, obtaining a degree in Journalism.

‘It’s time you faced the world for yourself,’ Mark said proudly but sadly as he hugged Timothy. ‘I have another homeless young boy to look after now. I don’t have to tell you that you’re always welcome here.’

‘You have been like a father to me.’ Timothy blushed. ‘I don’t know how to thank you.’

‘Just keep your walk and talk straight.’

A week later, Timothy landed his first job at the prestigious Flat Out newspaper. His brief was to write, straight to the point, about unsung heroes of the community. Naturally his first piece was a success Mark the Youth Worker. Most critique of his work was favourable – a few hinted at roundish undertones but were quickly straightened out. Timothy’s work desk was next to another recent graduate named Penny. Timothy was spellbound by Penny’s wit and long endless legs. Her chest was pointy, unlike what he could vaguely remember of his mother’s roundness.   It didn’t take long for the two to become uncoilable.

When Timothy first told Penny of his past she thought he was making up tall stories but she loved him so much she didn’t care. Penny had a good eye for detail though and did notice Timothy had curly hair under his armpits, which in a twisted way, began to sway her towards Timothy’s story actually being true. The couple married and nine months later Penny gave birth to a girl they named Elizabeth. She was as straight backed as her parents and was a smiling and cheerful baby.

Two years later their second child was born, a boy they called Angus. He was passive while he tried to curl around his mother’s bosom or resting in his father’s arms but when put down to bed he screamed and repeatedly kicked his little feet to his pointed booties fell off. Many sleepless nights ensued. Elizabeth was at her wits ends what to do but Timothy came up with an idea, as he knew who Angus took after before being straightened out. Timothy placed a few blankets wrapped into the shape of a pillow and let Angus curl.

Penny was concerned with Angus’s development but said nothing about this. She began to understand the origins of what she saw as Timothy’s unconventional thinking. ‘I know for sure,’ she said reflectively. ‘Your story is true. I’m sorry.’

‘Don’t be sorry,’ Timothy said. ‘I’m not; let’s get some sleep while we can.’

Angus slowly developed into a clone of his father. He especially enjoyed being creative at primary school. Half way through year one though, Angus began to sleep in and not wanting to go to school. He burst into tears when his parents told him he had no choice. He hadn’t developed the vocabulary yet to ask them why he was always the one at the bottom of the pile when playing stacks on the mill at school. Even the children from older classes joined in the humiliating game.

‘My back hurts dad.’ Angus eventually managed to mutter.

‘Why, what happened?’ Timothy asked as if surprised but in reality he began to dread the past repeating.

‘They call me Angus the curly pus,’ sobbed Angus.

Timothy gave Angus a big hug. ‘Don’t worry I’ll speak to Ms Flatter tomorrow and she’ll make those pit-bulls stop. Today you can stay at home.’

The next day, with Angus right by his side, one minute before class started, Timothy marched up to Ms Flatter. She listened to Timothy’s concerns and reprimanded the children of her class. Angus was not teased for a week but shortly thereafter, whenever a teacher was not in sight, it was the bottom of the pile for Angus.

Timothy called on all his imaginary power to resolve Angus’s dilemma. Penny’s parents were of the opinion that everything could be straightened out and so should Angus but Timothy eventually used his own history as the deciding factor; he would leave Straightburg with his family. Penny agreed and their family home was sold. They filled an esky with UHT milk and leftover pizza and drove off in their people mover in a direction that not even Timothy knew of.

They drove for two days and a night until just on dusk on the second day they came to a motel in a tiny unnamed city. Penny, Elizabeth and Angus couldn’t believe how their hair moved out of square and the leaves in the trees rustled.

‘What is it that we feel?’ Elizabeth asked as she tried to keep the bottom of her dress from creeping up.

‘It’s the wind that blows off the ocean,’ Timothy said. ‘Don’t worry; the wind is far stronger near the ocean.  As the wind travels it’s slowed down by hills and trees until it eventually stops. It never reaches Straightburg.’

‘Wow… What’s an ocean?’ Angus needed to know.

‘It’s where waves of water curl and crash down onto the shore.’ Timothy remembered.

‘Can we go there, dad?’

‘Sure, when you’re older son.’

‘How do you know all this stuff dad?’ Elizabeth spoke.

‘I was born there.’ Timothy smiled.

‘Is it true mum? Is it true?’ the children pleaded for confirmation.

‘Yes, sure is.’ Penny said, still in awe of how her hair moved.

The family passed through windy and still days until on the eve of the sixth night they came to a tee intersection. One road was smooth and well lit while the other seemed bumpy and narrow.

‘Which way shall we go?’ Timothy asked.

‘The flat way,’ Penny responded with surety.

‘I don’t know,’ Elizabeth said.

‘I don’t know either,’ Angus said.

‘Well, I think we should take the bumpy road,’ Timothy said. ‘It might be more exciting and aren’t you taught to be risk takers at school?’

‘Alright then, let’s go dad’s way.’ Penny gave the go ahead and began to question something else she had been taught; the world was flat.

With headlights as there only guide the family made slow but steady progress through the dense bush that at times blocked their chosen path. Timothy was fearless as he rammed his way through gaps in the bush that seemed non-existent. Elizabeth and Angus did their best to stay awake but fell asleep once their excitement had worn away. Penny also nodded off when the path seemed to even out. Timothy kept focus as best he could; unaware he had leant forward on occasion due to driver fatigue.

On the seventh day they arrived at a city located on the edge of a sea. The sea changed colours during the day. It was blue as the sun shone and became grey as clouds passed over and finally black after the sunset. While watching the sea that day Timothy and his family also noticed the people of the city as they passed by. There were straight backed people and bent over people. There were even people of shapes and sizes that never could have been imagined. Some trees curled sideways while others stood erect. The wind blew gently then strongly and sometimes not at all. Timothy asked a passing man what the town was called. Allville was his answer. Timothy knew his family would be happy here.

Once they had settled into a straight boxed townhouse located on a sweeping bend, Timothy decided to send a letter, a memoir of his life so far, to his parents.  On Penny’s advice, he made two copies. One he typed in a curved font which he sent to his parents and the other he typed in a straight font and sent this to his father and mother-in law. Only recently were Timothy’s letters received.

Andrew Mansell, September 2011.

One evening while driving home I noticed everything that was man-made looked nothing like what nature had created. I imagined two extremities; a place of curves and a place of straightness. At the same time someone very close to me was still tormented by workplace bullying that had occurred more than six months earlier. I thought bullying was buried at school but not so. As we age, bullying progresses to the work place. Have you ever done something at work you were politely forced to against your will?  I wonder if bullying continues after retirement and I beg that bullying is not prevalent in nursing homes. It appears though, bullying is all around if you look closely enough. Look no further than the politicians jammed into our faces by the media.

Back to the story; combining the two trains of thought, escaping from bullying became the avenue for the characters in Where the Wind Stopped to travel between the curved and straight worlds and eventually to a place where bullying and prejudice no longer exist.


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