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The Resolution Tunnel

Image by Alexei from Pixabay 

It had looked so much better in her head. But no matter, it was workable. Liberty Bray took a step back, hands on her hips, and gave the tunnel contraption a final nod.

“Done?” Trent said at her side, still clutching an armful of tinsel.

“Mmmhmm.” Liberty said, her fingers itching to fix the sign that Trent had glue-gunned to the entrance. She tilted her head. No matter which way you looked at it, the sign was not level.

But you could read it. That was the main thing. Said the new and improved Liberty Bray, who didn’t sweat the small stuff anymore. Who let a few sloping degrees slide right off her consciousness.

“Good job, Trent.” She punched him lightly, and his armful of tinsel rustled.

At least you could read the sign easily, thanks to her neat capitals. That much was true.

RESOLUTION TUNNEL.

It looked like….well….Liberty shook her head. What she wanted it to look like was a sleek, yet magical, tunnel of transformation. What it actually looked like, if truth be told, was if a Christmas tree had barfed its tinsel all over a red polyester dog agility tunnel.

“It will work for the little ones,” she said.

“Good job, Liberty!” Trent rustled his tinsel at her, like he was the proud owner of one very tangled pompom. Tragic. But he was sweet. Too sweet to date. She for sure needed to make sure that they had gone their separate ways by midnight. She was not kissing him. Glue-gunning and tinsel taping did not buy you that.

She checked her phone. “Ten minutes until go-time. Stash your stuff, and then station yourself at the end of the tunnel. I’ll brief the kiddos at its entrance.”

Trent walked over to the end of the tunnel, and then looked to Liberty.

“Yes,” she said. “Correct.” Correct, but also needy. Another reason not to date him.

Ten minutes later, twenty minutes later, thirty minutes later, and Liberty was still stood outside the main door to the village hall, like a welcoming guard, perfectly ready for the night’s Resolution Tunnel events. She looked up and down the street, for the countless time. Trent’s voice came at her through the glass pane of the door. “Uhh…Liberty…Do you…I’m just wondering if…Do you…think anyone’s coming?”

How could they not? Liberty had advertised it on the village’s hub.

GIVE YOUR KID A GREAT START TO THE NEW YEAR.

SEND THEM THROUGH THE RESOLUTION TUNNEL.

VILLAGE HALL (6-7pm).

SUITABLE FOR 8–12-YEAR-OLDS.

FREE

“Maybe we should have charged?” she said. She felt the nudge of the door at her back as Trent squeezed out and joined her outside in the cold. “Maybe people think it’s too good to be true, being free?” she added.

“Do you want me to call some of my friends to come down?” Trent offered, shivering in his short-sleeved t-shirt.

Trent had friends? She’d only ever seen him loping past her house, alone and wide-eyed.

“Are they your age?”

“Uh…yeah. I just thought…if it would help. Test it out.”

“They wouldn’t fit. Through the tunnel.”

“I think they could?”

“And that is absolutely not the point!”

“Got it!”

“This tunnel is for the kids. The kids who need a fresh start to the year!”

“You’re right.”

He was sweet. Too amenable. Too willing to stick around and watch her stupid idea fail. Five minutes of silence grated past them, and still not a single kid showed.

“I could call my aunt? She might be able to bring Gabriel and Lorna down. They’re like..9 and 6?”

Liberty’s cheeks burned. In the wash of light from the hallway she could see the expression on Trent’s face. She did not need him feeling sorry for her.

“Maybe you should go. I can manage the entrance and the exit…if anyone comes.”

Trent was already on his phone, teeth chattering now… “Hey Aunt Jackie.” He squeezed back through the door, and she could just make out his blurry shape pacing in the hallway. “I said HEY AUNT JACKIE…I was just wondering…YES IT’S ME…TRENT…”

Liberty sucked in a lungful of cold night air and hugged herself. Her cheeks were flaming, but her body was ice. Now she’d seen Trent shivering and chattering, her body seemed to wake up to just how cold it was. To be fair, Trent had been at her, like a fly bumping at a window, to please come in and get warm. And she’d waved him away, relentlessly.

She shoved her way in, smacking the door into some part of Trent, who was mid apologising his way out. “Sorry, sorry. The kids are already in the pyjamas, and my aunt and uncle are…preeeeety merry!”

“At 6pm?” Liberty snapped. She checked her phone again. It was actually 6:42 pm right now. What was wrong with these adults? And great, there was only 18 minutes left to go until this whole non-event was officially over.

This was worse than her sixth birthday, when nobody came but the vicar.

Trent bounded over to the exit of the tunnel, rubbing his forehead.

“Do you want to have a go?” he had the audacity to ask her, albeit gently. He ran his long finger through his annoyingly floppy hair.

Just as Liberty opened her mouth, to assure him that she did not, she heard the creak of the main door, and then a shuffle on lino. A short little kid stuck his head in through the door to the village hall, his face part hidden by the hood of his navy-blue duffle coat.

“Hiiiiiiiiiii!” Trent said, with all the relief of someone who’s been saved from a hanging. “Here for the tunnel!”

The kid shrugged and took a couple more steps towards it.

“Welcome!” Liberty said. She strode over, then slowed her pace, reminding herself of the new, relaxed Liberty. Friendly. Not intense. Likeable. Not a laser cutter on a mission.

“What’s your name? How old are you?”

“Mikey? Ten?”

“Welcome Mikey. Do you want to take your coat off?”

He started wriggling quickly out of his coat.

“Or leave it on? Your choice.”

He shucked it back on, then glanced back the way he’d come.

“Have you got more friends coming?” Liberty asked.

He shook his head, and his duffle coat hood fell back. His pale face was intense. Good, he was taking this seriously.

“No problem. It’s easier to concentrate on your own. Friends shmends.”

“Uhhhh….” Mikey shuffled in place.

Trent was leaning so far forward, towards him, that he was about to tip.

Liberty guided Mikey by the elbow, to the entrance of the tunnel and pointed to the sign.

“Mikey you are in the 0.001% of kids that are going to make a resolution this year. And what’s more you are going to stick to it!” She gave him an encouraging poke to the chest. “Not like all the adults that are going to fail to quit chocolate, or start going to the gym. So, what’s it to be? How do you want to change your life? Start today and stick to it and just imagine where you’ll be when you’re my age?”

Mikey’s eyes were wide as planets, and he was staring at her like she was…from another planet too?

“Should I help him?” Trent whispered.

Mikey rolled his shoulders back and glared at Trent.

“So, I make…a…a wish.”

“Not a wish, a resolution,” Liberty said, one hand on her hip, the other hand gesturing to her clearly written sign.

RESOLUTION TUNNEL.

“You resolve to be different somehow. Think about where you want to be this time next year. Do you want to focus on the big things and stop worrying about the little things? Do you want to start running? Or quit watching TV? Think, Mikey…Who will you be?”

Mikey had the stunned look of a possum, that’s been hit by a car.

“You get to crawl through the tunnel,” Trent said. “And then come out this end. I’ll be here buddy.”

Mikey rubbed his face with both hands. “Like I’m being shitted out?”

Liberty’s fingers itched to slap him around the back of the head, but the new patient Liberty gripped the round wire that held the tunnel entrance open and smiled reassuringly.

“Ready Mikey?”

“I guess?”

She let go of the tunnel, and gave Mikey a firm, helping hand into its mouth.

“This stinks of dogs.”

“Take your time,” Liberty said brightly. She checked her phone. 6:51. Nine minutes until this disaster of a night was over, and she could go home, and let herself in, and climb into her pyjamas. She’d tried to do her part, to help the next young start-ups.

The tube shifted and wiggled, like a very large, and lethargic worm.

“I wish I wasn’t here,” came a muffled voice from halfway down it.

“That’s ok, you don’t have to say it out loud,” Liberty said, patting the tunnel.

“I wish I wasn’t me.”

Liberty chewed her lip. “I meant more like…how do you want to improve? You know…a New Year’s Resolution.”

The wiggling stopped.

“Give him a minute,” Liberty said quietly.

After a few long minutes, Liberty checked her phone.

“Ok, good work, Mikey. Time to come out.” She shook her end of the tube. No response. Trent did the same. Nothing. They both patted and nudged their way towards each other.

“Mikey?” Trent said, patting all around the middle of the tunnel.

Nothing.

Liberty ran back to the entrance and Trent to its exit. In sync they straightened up the tube and peered from end to end. There was no kid in it. Just red glowing plastic.

Liberty screamed, and clutched her face, feeling all kinds of scary chemicals shooting through her bloodstream. Trent dropped to his knees and disappeared into his end. Impressively fast, he arrived red faced and crawling out at her feet.

“No kid,” he huffed.

“Mikey?” Liberty called…to the ceiling. The door. All around the village hall. She shook herself, like she was emerging from an icy lake. She needed to bring some logic, some science to this brain shattering event.

“Get back to the exit!” she yelled at Trent. “I need to go in after him. We need to recreate events.”

Sweet, amenable Trent opened and closed his mouth, then did as she ordered.

Liberty crawled in, faster than a navy seal.

“I wish I wasn’t here!” she yelled. “I wish I wasn’t me!” she choked.

And in an instant, she felt herself flipped over and sucked up, then spat out onto the wooden floorboards of some dimly lit room.

“Liberty?” Mikey said.

She staggered to her feet, and located him, stood in front of a row of mannequin boys. Some shorter, some taller than him. One holding a tennis racquet, one reading a book. Wind in the Willows.

“Mikey!” She hugged him roughly, then slapped him around the back of the head. He shrugged her off, and pointed to the row of mannequin girls on the other side of the room. Thinner Liberties. Better dressed Liberties. One with a lipsticked smile. One dangling a bikini from her hands.

“Well, Mikey. Good job,” she said voice thin, head spinning.

“Are you being sarcastic?”

“No, I’m being serious,” she said indignantly. “You could be freaking the fuck out! Sorry. Apologies. Freaking out here.”

“Are you freaking out?”

“Yes.”

Mikey took one of her hands carefully and squeezed. “After three….one…”

“After three, what?” Liberty squealed.

“We need to wish our way back. To what we was. Where we was. Don’t you think?”

“One…”

“Wait!”

“Two…” Mikey took her other hand.

“Three…”

Their voices overlapped in the swirling fall, Mikey yelling, “I wish I was at the exit!” And Liberty yelling, “I wish I was back with Trent!”

Thump.

Thud.

Liberty groaned and then sucked in a delicious breath of wet dog and mould.

“Liberteeeeeeee! Mikeeeeeeeeeee!” Trent cheered like…the best cheerleader ever, popping in through the exit until his face was too close to Liberty’s and also, kind of welcome.

“Right behind you! Get wiggling,” Mikey whooped, pinching at Liberty’s calves, like an ecstatic lobster. She laughed hysterically as she was pinched by Mikey and pulled gently by Trent, out into the most dazzling New Year start over of her life.

“GOOOD JOOOOB EVERYONE. AND A HAAAAAAPY NEEEEW YEEEEAR!” she yelled, from the tops of her oh-so happy lungs. She could kiss the world she was so happy to be back.

Week 25

Tis the time of New Year’s Resolutions! Or not?

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