Soft

Wally didn’t want for much, but what he did want he got easily. He wanted to feel warm, he wanted to feel protected, and he wanted to be here. Wally was a wallaby; the name admittedly was a bit on the nose. But Wally, being a wallaby, had no understanding of the human words for things. He had no better idea of what the word Wally meant, than what being a wallaby meant. He was just here, and the bigger things, with the four long limbs, absent of fur, and quite pale, were also here. They all looked alike in most ways, some stood out because of their colour or size. But to Wally, what really set them apart, was how happy they were see him.

Of course, Wally didn’t know much about the word ‘happy’ either. But he understood the depth of someone’s voice, how they moved around, how they creased their face. And he learned how these things made him feel good, he also learned what about these things made him feel bad. Because of this, Sam was his favourite of the other things. He had met Sam when he was sad, and he was hungry, and when he hurt. Wally had been found on the edge of the estate. He didn’t know it, he was too young to, but he’d been abandoned by his mother. All he knew then was that he was cold, and he hurt.

That was until Sam came along. Sam had spoken to him softly, and cradled him in a soft blanket. Wally liked soft, it was his favourite thing. Apart from the yellow that Sam fed him. Wally didn’t know much about it, except it was yellow, and he liked the taste, and Sam would always feed him some when they were together at night. The yellow stuff was piccalilli. Not really ideal food for young wallabies, but Wally liked it and Sam guessed as long as he could stomach it, that was okay.

Wally liked being with Sam, he liked sitting in his blanket, in Sam’s arms, late into the night. Wally didn’t know much about what Sam did, but understood he was nocturnal. Sam was a security warden on a large residential estate, he mostly worked nights, although sometimes he was there in the day. Sometimes Wally would be left in Sam’s little cottage, but mostly he would sit in the security warden hut on the edge of the estate, with Sam, watching television long into the early morning.

Sam liked watching documentaries about space. Wally didn’t really understand television, not really understanding the difference between screens and real life. But he did enjoy it; there were colours, and movements, occasionally there were other animals. Very late in the night they would walk around the perimeter of the estate. Sam would talk, and Wally wouldn’t understand, but he would know enough to know that Sam was happy. He could tell this by how soft he sounded, and by how quietly his body moved.

Sam would point up the sky and show Wally the stars, and tell him all the names that Wally didn’t understand. Sometimes they would just stand and look out at the barren land at the back of the estate. It was very empty, and very flat, and sometimes cracked. Wally had seen similar land on the television with Sam. So, Wally made the deduction that the moonscape he had watched was the same he was looking out on; the same dry, empty space. Sam looked out on it with such a longing, Wally decided that this must be where Sam wanted to go. Why he didn’t? Wally could not understand, but he felt Sam should go there one day. Maybe Wally could go with him?

They spent much of their time like this. Occasionally the other things, that looked a bit like Sam, would make themselves known to him. Some were kind, like Sam, some weren’t. Their noises were deep, and their brows furrowed. By the way they looked at him Wally was scared they might hurt him, but Sam always let him know everything was okay. Sam couldn’t do much, but in his blanket, in Sam’s arms, Wally knew what okay meant. Sometimes there was another person, kind and soft like Sam, but much different. She was smaller than Sam, their colours were the same, but the fur on her head was longer. Her name was Angela. Not that Wally knew or understood this.

Angela delivered food to the residential estate from the local farm. Sam liked her, Wally could tell. He made more noises when she was around, he smelled different too, and Wally knew enough to know that meant something. It wasn’t that Wally disliked Angela in any way, but when she was around everything was very different. It made him feel like Sam had forgotten about him, and he didn’t like that. He liked it when Angela started coming around in the night. Then Angela would hold him, and feed him piccalilli, and eventually Wally decided he liked her as much as he liked Sam.

Although, when Angela was there, it was great, sometimes when Angela wasn’t there, Sam wasn’t either. Wally didn’t like that. It made him scared and confused. Things were changing and Wally wasn’t sure he liked it. It wasn’t just him and Sam anymore, and that made everything less nice. Especially since he felt better, Wally wanted to move around more. But he had nowhere to go. When Sam wasn’t there Wally got bored, and he got sad. Everything was always better when Sam was around.

Then, one day, it was just him and Sam again. Sam kept Wally with him, all the time, which Wally loved. But Sam was quiet, and seemed sad. Or at least what Wally understood to be sad. This made Wally sad too. Wally didn’t know where Angela had gone or if she was coming back. And not long after that boxes began to fill the cottage. Sam put things in the boxes and Wally understood less of what was going on, though Sam seemed happier again. He would talk to Wally, about things Wally didn’t understand, but Wally would follow him around the cottage, trying to.

Sam showed Wally photos, like the television, but where things didn’t move. Wally saw the same dry, cracked land that Sam had shown him on the television. Then Sam showed him a smaller television, that he kept in his pocket, with moving pictures of other things. Things that looked like Wally, or at least what he thought looked like him. Wally didn’t know much, but he knew that other things, that looked like Sam, and looked like him, in a place with the dry, cracked land, made Sam happy. And it even made Wally happy, all on his own, without having to rely on Sam being happy first.

One night, when the cottage seemed to be more boxes than things, Sam opened the front door and looked to Wally. Wally had been hopping around by himself, which was okay, but Wally did like to be picked up by Sam. Wally decided to be stubborn, whatever stubborn was, and Sam came over and scooped him up in his arms. The night wasn’t cold, and Wally didn’t need a blanket anymore, but still Sam picked it up and wrapped it around them both. Then he walked out around the perimeter of the estate.

Wally didn’t know it was the last time they’d make that walk. He didn’t know how many times Sam had made that walk with the intention of setting him free. He didn’t know the sleepless days and nights Sam had had when he first rescued Wally, or when he had to fend off the less than kind residents. He didn’t know Angela had moved, and that they would be following her. He didn’t know that they would be going to a place with more things like him, and more things like Sam. And that they’d be happier there. Wally didn’t know much at all really. But as he sat there in his blanket, in Sam’s arms, looking out at the flat land, he knew he felt soft. And soft was Wally’s favourite thing.

 

A three word story inspired by wallaby, piccalilli & moonscape. Contributed by my sister, Rhi.

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