Maximus and the Dear

By Chris Chiam

It is truly disheartening when something born out of giddy enthusiasm turns out to be excrement. All of my recent literary endeavours conform to this process, and as a result, I find myself out walking most evenings. It’s the perfect way to clear my head and find inspiration.

Unfortunately, that last bit is nonsense – I can never clear my head. All I seem to do is push thoughts up into the attic, only for them to be replaced by more disguised junk. Equally, there is no inspiration to be found in this little village. It’s merely a derivative of purgatory, one that has been painted green and populated by people so dull that they deserve neither brimstone nor residence in the clouds. But it was my choice to stay here, and all complaints can be traced back to that decision. Still, I shall acknowledge, ignore, and then continue to complain.

Anyway, I leave my house without telling my folks, as I usually do. They know what I’m up to, so an official announcement on my behalf is pointless. Besides, if I do approach them, my mum sometimes expresses an interest in joining me, which I don’t always want. I must stress that this isn’t a malicious move or anything. It’s just that a lot of the time there’s a cartoon rain cloud following me, and I don’t want her to get drenched too.

I plod across the driveway, insert both of my earphones, and the gravel begins to crunch in time with the music. Reaching the pavement, I head down the street toward the footpath that will take me into the fields. Bin-bags and recycling boxes line the street. A lone man stands beside one stack, about twenty metres from me, adding another bunch of cans to his green box. Doing his bit to save the world.

He sees me approach, and drops the lid back down. Before returning to his huge house, he sends a sceptical glare my way. It’s a look that I’m pretty familiar with. Whenever I’m wandering about this place, I scarcely see anyone else, but when I do, they engage the same grey scowl. It’s likely that these smartly dressed middle-aged folk are just trying to work out whose kid I am, or at the very least expressing their disapproval of my clothing. I know that it’s not exactly beanie season, but the temperature has dropped a bit. Only by like a few degrees, but I’ll still take any excuse to don one of my five beloved hats.

So, while my nondescript neighbour heads back inside, I veer off to the left, down the narrow, hedge-lined footpath. I keep my mouth tightly shut, as there are a bunch of tiny bugs flying about my face. After a few moments of this harassment, the path opens up into the fields of wheat that stretch for miles around. It’s not a typically clear and pleasant summer evening, as a veil of darkening clouds continually subdue the sun if it asserts itself too much. The tail-end of a fleeting ray catches me in the eyes. I flinch, and then proceed along the track.

Every time I walk down here, the wheat field close beside me, I cannot help but think of Gladiator. You know, when Maximus lightly brushes his fingertips against the tops of the feathery wheat shoots. That image always comes to mind. That, and also how his empty death is sort of passed off as a happy ending.

Ten minutes or so pass, and as I walk I try so very hard to fill my head with valuable ideas. Ideas that won’t rapidly corrode into shameful, bin-destined narratives. No such luck though. I guess the problem is that nothing has happened to me recently. Life was vaguely interesting when I wrote my last bunch of stories. I mean, there was travelling, beautiful places, beautiful people, laughable criminal activity, and people truly worthy of contempt. Of course, all of those things still feature, but never with the appropriate amount of inspirational intensity. Maybe my imagination has been dulled by this place. I did say that I wouldn’t stop complaining.

Emitting a noise that is a hybrid of a yawn, a sigh, and a weird yell, I stop. Sitting down on a cushion of grass, I direct my attention up at the sky. There is a single opening in the blanket of grey. At the centre of this window, smaller wisps of clouds form a ladder downward to the horizon. These stripes are painted gold by the sun. It’s all very nice – almost smile-worthy.

Then I glance to my right, in the direction of two isolated trees beside the yellowish field. Select gaps between the leaves are filled by a brown blur as something moves behind.  A head. Some stumpy antler things. I was not expecting to see a deer here.

Easing to my feet, I approach the twin trees. As I get closer, the deer hops into the field, but turns to stare at me. I keeping walking, slowly. It hops a bit further, in an odd, but undeniably graceful motion. I step from the concrete track onto the uneven plumes of long grass, and continue to ease my way toward the deer. It hops again, more across to my right. Every time I close in, it repeats this move, always turning to watch me.

I know that I’m listening to Ghostpoet, but I’m not immediately familiar with the exact song. It suits the scene quite nicely though. One long orchestral build-up of soft but sombre sounds, the bloke’s slurred but captivating voice occasionally adding even more intrigue to this moment.

As the song reaches its highest point, the deer hops and looks back once more. Huge dark eyes are fixated on me, and I can’t help but feel that there is more than a stupid animal looking at me. I don’t know, I can’t really explain, but I feel at ease.

I suddenly realise that this is beautiful – smile-worthy – and that sentiment is translated into a physical display. Seemingly contented with this effect, the deer hops further than I can follow. I watch as it escapes the range of my sub-par eyesight, becoming a brown blur once more. A grin persists.

On the way home I am weirdly flustered. I remove my beanie, rub my head, and appreciate that I have plenty to write about.