Fiction: The Best short story of 1999

The story reprinted here won the award for best short story submitted during the Caribbean Examination Certificate CXC exam 1999. It was written by Sh

Photograph by the Caribbean Examinations CouncilTop awardees in the CXC Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), 1999. Sheramie Ceballo is fourth from left, front row

The story reprinted here won the award for best short story submitted during the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate, CXC exam, 1999. It was written by Sheramie Ceballo of St Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain. The story is based on the illustration.

In the distance, he could see the clouds coursing lazily through the azure sky. The buildings reached up over the tallest trees, seeming to support the vast stretch of blue. The leaves of the trees and the grasses of the parks had never seemed greener. He wished that she could see it.

Stella was their first child. They had doted on her as first-time parents are wont to do, and had thought her the most intelligent, beautiful, perfect baby there ever was — until his wife had noticed that she held her head strangely. It had been determined that Stella had been born blind, and would never see.

He had become frustrated in the subsequent months by the tears in his wife’s voice as she held their baby girl, staring into unseeing eyes. They were extremely rich — their baby’s room alone was testimony to that fact, but all their money couldn’t buy what they needed most — that look of recognition, that special smile that their Stella would have had only for them.

There would be special schools of course, and life would have to be structured carefully around her. He stared down at his patent leather shoes which had been carefully buffed to a shine. They were what had attracted his wife to him. But Stella would never be able to appreciate their glow.

He took his feet off the window ledge, got his things together. He wanted to go home — to be with his little girl. He would often sit with her, feeding her at night, in the dark, trying to imagine what the world must be like for her, all alone inside a colourless void. Tears would course unchecked down his cheeks for all the dreams he had nurtured for and invested in the tiny cooing bundle in his arms.

He raced up the stairs to her room, and stopped in the doorway, listening for the quiet gurgle of her voice. He walked slowly, silently, to stand at the edge of her crib. She was playing with her toes. The sight of her, so pink and soft, filled his heart with that special warmth he had only for her, and his voice was husky and cracked as her called her name gently and touched her tiny fingers. She fought to lift her head, and a smile broke out across her face. Her hands reached out for where she thought he must be. She laughed out his name, “Da-da!”, recognising him not with her eyes but with her heart.

He crushed her to him, smelling that sweet baby smell. It wasn’t as it should be, he knew, but by God, for now, it was enough. And when he cried, he cried not for all the dreams that lay deflated in the corners of his mind, but in joy for the ones she had germinated with the rain of her smile and the sunshine of her love.