The Clearing: To Have Their Life (A Short Story Series 7/9)

Short Story, The Clearing / Sunday, May 14th, 2017

The Carpenter left the clearing, it wasn’t a common occurrence but was a necessity in this instance. He needed to eat and there were some materials that even he couldn’t fashion from his surroundings. His trip was to stock up on food and plaster.

The flat white boards were an innovation to him. The Carpenter remembered working with fresh plaster, being applied wet. Never being as smooth and flat as plaster boards. He wanted them for the cabin, it would make all the difference in his mind.

Whenever he went into town, people would stare at him, curious as to who he was. The Carpenter seemed to appear from nowhere, buy what he deemed necessary and then disappear once again.

As was the custom in small towns, rumours spread. He was a fugitive in some, hiding out. Others with more of an imagination thought he was some sort of phantom. Haunting the town and it inhabitants. The truth was much more unrealistic and perhaps more sinister.

The Carpenter bought some food supplies, the cashier smiled but he did not return it. As They pushed the memories, forced his deliberation it damaged his brain. He noticed it when he was younger, his inability to pick up on social cues. Witnessing such horrible acts makes a pessimist and the attacks on his brain amplified this.

In a low tone he said “thank you” to the cashier and left. He walked down the road to the hardware shop. They knew him well, it was a place he always enjoyed exploring. When he came out of the clearing he looked forward to stopping in their. It reminded him of another life.

The Carpenter put down a piece of paper, “I need this quantity of plaster boards, do you have that in stock?” The man at the counter said he would check and disappeared into the back of the shop.

The Carpenter walked down the isles picking up the new innovations to make his craft quicker and easier. He was pleased that there was a focus on making things better, wished he could experience more of it. It made the tasks quicker when he needed them to be slower.

They made an agreement that his decision would come at the completion of the Cabin. The Carpenter was upholding his side, but in a speed that he felt respectful of the decision. The innovations he saw and wanted to engage in would take that time from him.

The man called out to him, “we have it in stock, did you want it delivered?”

The delivery driver tried to chat to the Carpenter as they drove to the Clearing but the conversation was less than engaging. The driver occasionally looked over confused. He didn’t realise that the Carpenter didn’t want another story to judge, that his faculties were stretched as it was. 

They stopped at the front of the property the clearing sat on, “where is this going?” The Carpenter pointed to the side of the road, the driver happy to be done followed orders.

The Carpenter walked the boards individually to the cabin. People were so intent on knowing each others stories. Even a stranger wanted to know his life. Connection was important, it could be destructive though. When the connection was only shared by one.

The Carpenter thought about Terrance, or did they push the memory. To keep him on track, to remember the people who would be judged. He stopped for a moment in between the trees and looked up. It was symbolic, they weren’t there as we would recognise. They were content with existing in his mind, that was their home on earth.

Terrance was a man of obsession, he was not able to have a casual interest. At the age of nine he took an interest in stamp collecting, by 18 he had enough value to buy his first car. He kept them though. His intense attachment would not let him give them up. He walked everywhere and took the bus, his stamps too important.

Terrance had an intense interest in numbers and followed his interest. Excelling beyond what anyones expectation or understanding could grasp. In high school he saw numbers like a language he could sing.


This superior knowledge did not lend itself to populism. The other students did not understand Terrance, how his mind worked. The difference between him and his classmates led him to a deep loneliness. One he would have noticed if he had not had his interests. Those obsessions kept his mind running forward so quickly that he wasn’t able to assess what he might have missed.

That was with the exception of love, he knew he was missing something deep there. Every now and then he would look up from building a machine and think to himself about holding someones hand. Then he would go back to creating something he could understand. The code made sense, was orderly, the mechanics followed rules. He was comfortable with the rules.

That was until Viola walked into the room. Terrance was admitted early into university, an attempt to match his aptitude to classwork. He looked at the class schedule and could feel the boredom creep in.

Terrance was a 14-year-old prodigy, they teased him at high school by calling him Einstein. They may have been more correct than they realised. Viola was an 18-year-old math wiz. She did not share the odd genius of Terrance but she was genius in her own right.

When she spoke in class, Terrance felt something he had never before. He was drawn to her, she was beautiful in her appearance as she was in her mathematical aptitude. The feeling of obsession came over him.

Viola was kind to him, she felt sorry for him. That he was so far out of his social element. The others disliked him being around, resented that at 14 he was capable of what they never would be. She showed him attention, he mistook it.

Terrance was crushed when she told him that she wanted to be “just friends”. He stopped talking to her, he was so desperately hurt. Obsession is a strange thing, it makes you intensely focussed or reject in absolute. Terrance refused to acknowledge her, they drifted away in life and Viola forgot him. Terrance remembered her always and the pain of her rejection.

Terrance graduated and was taken by the University to teach there. It gave him the time to continue with his obsessions, the more he explored the greater the notoriety. This was the perfect profession for someone so obsessed with trying to solve the abstract. What it meant to exist, a question he aimed to solved through his math genius.

As time moved on his spurned feelings scarred over. Terrance refused to love anyone but he recognised that he needed connection. Polly worked at the university, she was two years his senior. Like many she was in awe of his abilities. She loved him, he was content with her. They married and began to build a life.

Together they had three children, a son and two daughters. Terrance named his son after his father, Alfred and his two daughters Marilyn and Christine. Terrance was happy to have his children, again his obsession kicked in. If he was not at the University he was with his children, teaching them and encouraging their skills. He did not care wether they liked math, he cared that they excelled.

Fatherhood was natural to him, it was like an equation. Terrance could see all the inputs, and with that he could make the best guess at how to encourage an acceptable output. While sounding cold, his children felt only warmth. They were surrounded by loving parents, the one thing all children deserved.


Being a parent was selfless and that was where Terrance focussed. Every minute of energy he had, was dedicated to the three. They loved having him around, they loved his quirks. Who else had a father who could build them a robot that followed them around the house.

Then one day like a ghost from his past Terrance saw Viola. She had come to the University for an alumni dinner, he was stuck with that feeling once again. For so long he had push away any memory of her, the pain that rejection inflicted. It was not hatred he felt towards her, or even resentment. He still loved her.

Terrance didn’t speak to her, what would he have said. He was married and so too she, her husband held her hand and he Polly. He couldn’t focus and went off into the bathroom. He breathed deeply, trying to push down the obsession.

“Polly we need to go home”, she looked at him confused. He usually liked these events, an opportunity to show the University how valuable he was. That his presence wrote checks, his brilliance assured it. “I’m not well, let’s go,”

They left, ensuring that he and Viola would not meet. The obsession was strong, even after all those years. He went into his study, and tried to work on an equation that had been bothering him a lack of answer. Nothing could take him away from the thought.

Terrance lay awake at night, thinking of her. The missed time they could have had. His mind ran over and over, what there life would have been like. Not with another man, a man who was not as brilliant as he. How could she choose someone so inferior.

Viola’s life became an obsession, he stalked her online but she didn’t post as much as he would have liked. He broke into their email accounts, their bank accounts. Viola’s husband worked at a petrochemical company, a manager of their chemistry operation. Viola worked at another University part-time, caring for her children the remainder.

This told him about their finances but not their life. He needed to know more. To see them live their life in the comfort of their home. To understand what it was about this man who was superior to him. To see Viola be happy, to imagine what it would be like for this to be his happiness.

Terrance sat in his car, four houses down the street and across the road. He watched them, waiting for them to leave. Their house was on a large block set back from the road. It was obscured by hedging on the front. He was certain to be about to get into the house without being seen by anyone on the street.

Viola was on the top floor in her bedroom. He could see the silhouettes behind the sheer curtains. An everyday occurrence to get ready, he wished that it was his occurrence. Her husband kissed her, then a couple of minutes later he drove his Lexus down the road.

Viola disappeared from behind the curtains, then drove her Porsche Cayenne and two children out of the gates. Without a thought that they were being watched, they went about their lives.

Terrance waited ten minutes, he knew their routine and sometimes Viola would come back. Run into the house and then would be off for the day. He could relate to the forgetfulness of children.

At the door they had an electronic lock, it was bluetooth enabled. One of the fancy locks that sent a message when they were opened. He hacked into it, blocked it from being able to send a message and walked in. The house smelt like flowers, he enjoyed the perfume as he wandered through the house.

The kitchen was very modern, concrete bench tops and stainless steel appliances. He took out one of his camera’s and hid it in the air conditioning vent. Then he moved into the living spaces and put one in each of them. He sat in the arm-chair, not the one with the deep grove. That would be her husbands, he saw the little grove. That one belonged to Viola, he looked at his phone and ensured that she was in view.

He moved upstairs, did not invade the space of the children. Going straight to the master bedroom. He put a camera in the room, focused on the bed. Then one to focus on the table that she did her make up behind. Then in the en suite, he looked at his phone and could see the shower.

Terrance left the house and walked to his car. He sat there and checked on all the cameras, making sure they worked. They did, he could now be apart of Viola’s life. He could watch her sleep or cook. He could witness her most intimate moments, like the partner he knew she should have been.

People don’t see what has always been. Terrance did such a good job of hiding his camera’s that there was never even a suspicion. He was their unannounced guest, he spent hours watching and then rewatching the footage.

As like anything else in Terrence’s life he did this obsessively. When he was not watching the footage live, he watched it from a different angle. A different camera, a different time and family member. He enjoyed watching Viola before she went to bed. She would have a shower and then stand in front of the vanity. She would apply product to her face, let it absorb for a moment and then dry her face.

It was such a relaxing routine, Terrance loved it and her. He only wished that it was him that she would lay next too. Clean and smelling of flowers. He closed his eyes and imagined her to be there with him.

Terrence’s family became concerned with his isolation. He forgot them, absorbed into the world he wished he had. His son, worried about his father, began to follow him to and from work.

Terrence serenity was broken one day, after watching the video at night. That morning he was required at work early and could not watch the morning feed. He brought up the file and watched it. Then the most horrible thing happened. Viola and her husband got into a fight, he struck her across the face.

Anger hit Terrence, how dare he touch his Viola. They acted so normal at night, like it had never happened. If Terrance didn’t have the footage he would never have believed it. He could not deny what he saw. When they went to bed Viola was cold to her husband, Terrance burned with rage.

The next morning he drove to Viola’s house and watched. Viola took the children to school and then her husband left the house. Terrance pulled a balaclava over his face and rushed the husband. He bailed him against the car, his breath fogging the driver side window. “I saw what you did, never lay a hand on her again.” The husband looked out at him, glanced up and down. “Who the fuck are you?”

Terrance pulled out a gun, her husbands demeanour changed. Pleading with him to put the gun away. At this point Terrance had lost the clear motivation for coming, no longer did his brain focus on the strike. He now saw in this moment all the tender ones. The soft touches that he missed. He lifted the gun to her husbands head and he closed his eyes. A human reaction to inhumane circumstances.

From across the road there was a noise. It took a moment for Terrance to focus his attention. He heard it once again, “Dad don’t”.  Alfred stood across the road crying, having followed his father to see what stole his attention. He could never have thought this would be the cause, a gun to a mans head.

There was a moment of clarity for Terrance, he put his gun back. He called out to Alfred as he ran off. “Fuck” he scream into the air, so many failures hitting him at once. The door of the car opened as Terrance ran after Alfred. Her husband now wanting to exact revenge for the stealing of control.

Terrance ran as fast as he could in chase of Alfred, he turned out of the driveway and went right. He could see Alfred running 100 meters in front of him. Without looking he crossed the road, there was a thud. From the hood of the car Terrance looked up, the impact crushed his internal organs.

Viola screamed from inside the car, the children in the back yelled. Alfred stopped and ran back towards his dying father. Terrance came off the car as it stopped. He lay on the ground, his breath was constrained. Alfred held his hand, he could barely feel it. “Be a better man, Alfred I love you.” Alfred cried the intense tears that came with the loss of a parent, exacerbated by the horror of the circumstances.

Car Crash

Viola was on the phone to the emergency services, she knelt beside him. “Who is he?” She asked Alfred, “My father” through painful tears. She lifted the balaclava and a look of horror came of her face at the realisation of it. That was Terrance’s last image, the source of his love, horror at his sight.

The two families didn’t talk or see each other after that day. The pain and embarrassment of what had gone on was too much to overcome. Polly and Alfred agreed never to tell the girls of the circumstances of the accident that killed their father. They never spoke to each other of what really happened.

Alfred held onto that secret the rest of his life, the pain of his father’s death ever-present. He was the smartest man he ever knew and he found it hard to then make sense of the man dying in the street. The family spoke of Terrance as the father he had always wanted to be but slipped away from. The husband they pretended he was, this retelling of reality caused Alfred a great deal of pain.

The Carpenter was confused as to what this story said about humanity. It was true that it was a story of envy, of a love of sorts. The circumstances though spoke of entitlement and deceptiveness. Love was something that was view as the epitome of human emotion yet it resulted in this type of action.

This story was not unique either, it was repeated daily. The man wanting what is not his, what has spurned him doing incredibly horrendous things. The way it took form was often a composite of the person’s personality. Terrance of intelligence used that to insert himself into her life. If he was violent he would have used that. A sense of entitlement drew out the worst behaviour.

Viola held the image of a dying Terrance for the rest of her days. For the vast majority of humans the taking of another life, through purpose or accident, scarred them. On top of this she lived with the knowledge that someone watched her most intimate moments.

After they took Terrance, the police looked in his car and found the equipment. She never again could feel alone, never having privacy. He took from her something so valuable for his own desire.

The Carpenter looked around the finished room, the walls a warm off white. If love was the epitome of the human condition, then could it be a great disadvantage. It is usually viewed positively if reciprocated. If not it could be dangerous, many aggressions caused by it.

What Terrance did was horrible, were these deeds softened by his love. The betrayal of Polly overlooked by his obsession.

The human ugliness shown by Terrance was not easy to define. His evil was wrapped in so many emotions we find soft. He hurt a great many people that was clear, it seemed that humanity could make ugly even what should be so beautiful.

Two more stories to go in this analysis of the human condition, what will you say when it’s finished? To catch up on past parts go to The Clearing

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What should the decision be? Where does it all end?




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