The Child in Time – riffing

I guess this is what fan-fiction is like.

(continues from McEwan, I. (1990 [1987]) The Child in Time, London, Rosenfeld, J.E, pp. 15–19 in which three year old Kate has just gone missing from the supermarket where she and her dad were shopping)

They followed him into a low, cramped room in which two aisles stretched away into semi-darkness. Tins and boxes were piled untidily into racks along the sides, and down the centre, suspended from meat-hooks, were giant carcasses. The group divided into two and set off down the aisles. Stephen went with the policemen. The cold air penetrated drily to the back of the nose and tasted of chilled tin. They walked slowly, looking into the spaces behind the boxes in the racks.

Stephen was the first one to see the shoe. Half hidden between boxes. Easily missed. He quickened his pace, pulling away from the policeman. The marks on the sole – Kate’s insistence in dragging her feet along the floor to slow down, instead of using the brakes. As he ran forward, he prayed for her to be hidden behind the boxes – still attached to the shoe.

The policeman caught up with him as he was still reaching for the empty shoe and knocked his hand away roughly. Stephen’s face was stone as he understood the reason – evidence. The situation solidified in his mind – a crime had been committed here. Someone had been kidnapped. His daughter suddenly became a victim. Barely ten minutes ago she had been a happy shopper. Now she was the subject of a manhunt.

He stood slowly – feeling knees creak, feeling age settle early into his bones. As he looked up, eyes unfocused, a movement caught his eyes. What may have been a figure in a coat hurrying away from him at the checkout suddenly became reality. There – towards the end of the aisle, in the shadows – a long coat swirling, then lost in the sudden light of a door opening. Becoming silhouette. Becoming an empty doorway as shouts rang out from the police in the room.

The sound of heavy feet running towards the doorway, hurrying under the weight of their importance. But Stephen, the school sprint-champion inside him lending a burst of speed, reached there first. He erupted from the back entrance of the cold room into daylight and skidded to a halt. Blinking as he scanned the empty parking lot – willing his eyes to adjust more quickly. The only place anyone could have reached without still being in sight was a skip to the left.

He began to run towards it and was stopped as a hand fell roughly on his shoulder. The police had caught up with him. Cautioning him to let them do their job. He shook himself free – this was for him to do – he was Kate’s father goddammit!

Racing towards the skip, barely giving it a glance, he rounded its bulk and caught sight of the dark coat disappearing around the corner. He dug in, arms pumping now, and then a faint sound unmanned him.

“Daddy!”

His head whipped around towards the skip. A head with golden blonde hair, peering over the edge. He tried to turn his body and his feet tangled. Police passed Stephen as the skin ripped from his hands and knees, but he barely noticed these things as he pushed himself up and limped back to the skip – all urgency suddenly lost – all momentum stilled. Time slowed. The world stopped existing. One face, one set of blue eyes, one smile filled his vision as he lifted his daughter from the skip.

“Funny daddy. Falling down,” she burbled – all fright lost in the hilarity of seeing her daddy tumble like something from a cartoon show.

Daddy just pulled her into his chest and held her safe.

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28 thoughts on “The Child in Time – riffing

  1. This is amazing Rob! It’s really nice to read your fiction, they have the same kind of character that all of your other pieces do. They seem to point towards something and seem to sound normal, and yet in the end, somehow are unique!
    I didn’t expect him to find Kate, I didn’t expect Kate to react with humor, I didn’t expect it to end such that my heart is filled with warmth! And all these things make this story so beautiful 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know – that’s really nice to know that I did that, Dee, because I didn’t intend to show rather than tell. It just shows (haha) that it’s become more automatic. Thanks for the boost, my dear. 🙂
      Minutes past eight for you – did you have a restful night?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yep, too much of anything is not good,I guess 😉 I hope you’ll write some about your retreat experience, it sounds interesting. I just got back from biking and walking at the gym. It’s really cold outside today but working out was exhilarating!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I like that exhilaration too. There’s nothing quite like a fight to let you know you’re alive. 🙂
        I shaved my beard off. I didn’t write about it. I brushed my teeth too, but I didn’t write about that. I guess neither of those things meant anything to me on a deep level. I hope this retreat means something to me. If it does, you’ll get to know about it, Dee.
        Almost bedtime. Bit of a slump. Don’t feel like writing now. Must I?

        Liked by 1 person

      • What? You had to shave your head? I thought that it just all automatically dropped out. Shows how much I know.
        I think that my wife saved it in a box somewhere but I didn’t know where she has it. Prolly using it to make a voodoo doll so that she can stick pins in it, which reminds me – I’m getting some pain in my ankle …

        Liked by 1 person

      • No, Robert, if you EVER visited my blog, you’d know that it’s starting to grow back and after chemo you sometimes get white/gray hair cause the cells that contain pigment are damaged. So right now it’s about 1/4 inch long and white. So I could use some of your white beard to fill in as it grows back. But it sounds like your wife has even better plans for it! 😉

        Like

  2. Not read the original, just googled it though and the story has a very different end. Love your slant, as a parent I know what it’s like to not know where your child is, Beth did it once when she was about 8, she had her just acquired freedom to walk to school and back revoked for six months after she decided to go to a friend’s house after school. You manage to portray that panic very well.

    Liked by 1 person

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