Note: This story was created in 40 minutes in one of our writing sessions. The story is based on the following writing prompts: The words ‘jump’, shout’, ‘dig’
Tyler – Anna Marie
Every family has a black sheep – not the woolly, bah-bah-ing kind, but a member who sticks out. And in my family, I’m that black sheep, because I hate heights. In fact, I can’t handle it. My family, on the other hand, lives in heights: My grandfather was in the Air Force. My grandmother was a sky-diving instructor. My father is a long-distance pilot. My mother is a stewardess on long distance flights (that’s how my parents met).
And then there’s me – the only child who hates flying, catapulting, bungee-jumping, sky-diving, you name it. It’s okay to like your job, but it’s different when you impose your passion to spend a few minutes in mid-air every weekend on a child who cannot handle it. When I confided in my friend Mei, she told me that there is a Chinese saying that if the mother eats an excess of something, the child will reject it – and this only validates my theory that even though my parents contradict that my mother sky-dived or even bungee-jumped when pregnant, my fear of heights is only the result of their excessive passion. I’m so sure they’re lying.
There was no way of me escaping from our family weekends out in the countryside where everyone (except me, of course) would have a grand time performing sports that require a large amount of space between land and person. My grandfather would pilot our small family plane while my grandmother would make sure the parachute vests were intact on my parents’ bodies. Then she would slide open the side door and on her count, my parents would dive into the sky. I was too scared to jump, or even stand next to the open door, terrified that the baby blue air will suck me out of the plane like dust from beneath a couch. I felt increasingly as worthless and unwanted as dust on these trips, especially when my family insisted on me joining them in the sky, but always giving me a disappointed look when I whimpered and hid in the corner, refusing to get off the plane.
Everyone believed that my exposure to heights would eradicate my fear, but it did the opposite as I instead crouched in the corner and embraced my knees, imagining that I am a rock on soft grass, growing out of the sweet, sweet earth.
I remember the first time my body found itself in the middle of the sky. I was about 6 years old when my grandmother tied me to mother’s aerodynamic body that was shaking in strong anticipation of the fall ahead.
“Good luck, darling baby, I’ll see you down there!” my grandmother caressed and kissed my head, inside of which was an innocent mind that believed my parents’ words that the “flight” will be fun.
“We’ll be like birds!” my father said and I felt my mother’s chin lift as she smiled. I think I giggled in excitement, picturing us roaming the skies horizontally like the parrots in the Rio movies. My mother leaped forwards into the sky and I was suddenly facing yellow wheat fields. After a while of falling, I screamed:
“Fly left! Fly left!” My mother didn’t reply, unable to hear me through her laughter. “Fly! Fly!” I shrilled at the top of my poor lungs and still we were heading downward in the same direction. I imagined my 1.30cm-tall body hitting the ground and my legs, arms and head flying out in different directions – and that was enough to make my brain shut down.
My parents found their child sleeping on my mother’s chest.
“How cute!” my grandmother laughed.
“She’s a natural!” my father exclaimed joyously. They all thought it was a successful first trip, but it didn’t take long to realize that I was not asleep from adrenaline overdose, but unconscious from the shock. When my family became aware of this, suddenly I wasn’t cute anymore – I was the family embarrassment. Really, how can the daughter of a pilot and stewardess, the grandchild of war aviators and sky sport enthusiasts, be afraid of heights? No one could understand. My parents took me to a psychologist who listened to their complaints with a slightly amused smile and then gave them the following advice:
“Get Anna a dog.” My father almost spat out his tea and my mother stopped him from bursting words by placing her hand on his knee and squeezing it. She then calmly asked:
“A dog? How would that help?”
“Animals have therapeutic powers. If you get a dog that is into such… high-adrenaline sports (my father sneered, whispering under his breath “it’s a lifestyle”), chances are that your daughter will feel less stressed and see the dog as her companion.” My parents looked down on me, a blonde 7-year old drawing whirly green trees and colourful lines representing flowers while the skies were black and full of sad/angry faces. “Give it some thought, thank you for coming in today.”
My parents didn’t need much time to think – they are very determined, highly productive people and immediately they began their research on adventurous dogs. On my 8th birthday, I received a sibling and my family a new member – a French bulldog named Tyler.
At first I was thrilled about Tyler – until he became the new family favourite when he literally jumped off the plane the first weekend we took him sky-diving. Grandma had just finished dad’s parachute vest check-up when Tyler leaped off the plane.
“Tyler!” my father yelled, the rest of us just looking down at the shrinking dog silhouette. My parents nodded at each other and dad immediately took off, using his post-Easter body weight to navigate through sky in direction of Tyler. We cheered when we saw my father expand his arms and catch the bulldog.
I expected everyone to teach the dog a lesson – he did jump off the plane intentionally, it wasn’t like the air sucked him out of it! I thought the dog was suicidal even. But the rest of my family? They thought Tyler is a hero!
“Such a cutie!” grandmother said.
“He’s a natural!” my parents laughed as they strongly patted and caressed Tyler’s head, his already loud breathing intensifying from pure joy of being the centre of attention. Everyone loved him, but with that leap, he became my nemesis, my enemy. And right there and then, I no longer found him cute and I began constructing a revenge plan.
[The following section is added after the writing session]
On a Sunday afternoon, my family was showing Tyler various photos and videos of sky-diving. I found them ridiculous, talking to a stupid dog as if he was a person! I escaped into the garden and hid behind the tree. I crouched down, my hands searched for rocks to throw while my eyes were blurred from frustration and heavy thought. My left hand finally grasped a stone that I then threw into the earth right in front of me. The collision left a small hole – and in that instant, I realized: dogs are diggers! How about I convince Tyler to have a passion for digging that would make him no longer interested in the skies? My 8.5-year old mind was ecstatic and I congratulated myself on such a brilliant idea. I decided that I must have the dog only for myself to carry out my plan that I obscurely named “Make Tyler a Digger so I Am the Family Favorite Again”.
The next day I returned home early when my grandparents were still out playing bridge and my parents were abroad. Tyler was chewing a bone in the living room. In the midst of this activity, I snatched the bone away from him and ran into the garden, hearing the dog nails tapping against the wooden floor right behind me. I reached the flowers and crouched down, looking into Tyler’s shiny eyes. I lifted the bone into the air and asked:
“Would you like your bone back?” The remainder of Tyler’s tail wriggled. “Then dig it up!” I threw the bone into a prepared hole in the ground with one hand, the other sweeping the prepared pile of dirt over the treat. I immediately threw myself back, expecting the dog to push me aside to access the covered pit, but… nothing happened. Confused, I looked at Tyler – who wasn’t there! I was alone in the garden. Bewildered and constructing another plan in my childish mastermind, I heard approaching pawsteps. I turned my head in direction of the sound and faced Tyler and a half-eaten chocolate bar in his jaw.
“Hey! That’s mine!” I complained and automatically reached for it – but Tyler growled and galloped around me with unexpected speed. Before I knew it, he began digging a small pit behind me and he dropped the treat into it. I was about to tell him off, but he looked at me with narrowed eyes and that’s when I realized that he’s proving his dominance. We stared each other dead into the eye for a while, but then I felt something land on my nose, something with small feet that were moving upwards – a smudged, small entity that I could only identify when I crossed my eyes… A spider! I was about to scream when Tyler jumped on me, pushing my body back, and licked the 8-legged insect off of my tickling nose.
I laid there in a trance until I realized that Tyler saved me. I looked at the bulldog who now just watched me with kind, shiny eyes. I smiled at him and he wiggled his body, jumping towards the buried treats. Together, we dug up our bone and chocolate bar and with our hands and paws greasy from dirt, we consumed the treats, sitting next to each other.
And that’s when we became real friends.