Be Nice

“No one wakes up in the morning thinking ‘I shall be kind to my fellow man today’, do they?” He paced back and forth, boots pressing the grass so hard it did not spring back. “People are, and this is my point, inherently kind. Or, as the case may be, inherently unkind.” A beetle scampered out of the way of his tramping feet.

I watched the world from a low vantage point, eye level with the tips of the untrimmed turf. My fingers dug into the packed mud and my feet pushed fruitlessly into the unyielding rock of the cliff edge. I had hoped this man would be my saviour. Stupid, really, to have got myself in this situation.

My ankles were sweating. My legs felt like a white void. I could see my fingers tremble.

“I should help you,” he pontificated. “I could. I could lie down, hook my arms under yours…”

“Please…” I whispered.

“…and pull. Voila! Safe. How did this happen?”

“Slipped,” I said. I didn’t want to waste effort on explaining. It wasn’t the whole truth. Had I intended to fall? I think I let myself get too close, wanting to blame an accident. I don’t know. And now my rescue was going awry.

My toes lost their hold. I scrambled to regain my footing.

“You could help yourself, of course. No prizes for giving up. Do yourself a favour here. Why rely on me?” There was a slight whine to his voice now. “I’m sick of this pressure. I didn’t ask for this.” The boots stamped petulantly, turned 180 degrees from where I dangled, and clomped away.

A line of ants made its way along the cliff edge. They were red. I hoped they weren’t the kind that bit you. Be nice, ants. Be nice.

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