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Untitled // Winter (Short Story)

I awoke suddenly, perhaps from some unruly nightmare that quickly whisked out of thought. The room was filled with cold hues of gray and blue, soon to be cascaded by a blooming morning sun. Frost lapped at the corners of the window panes — the fireplace must’ve burnt thin. “I guess I better warm up,” I thought to myself.

My feet kissed the old, wooden floor and sent a shiver up my spine. As I walked out of the bedroom and into the den, I listened to the ruckus of the nature surrounding the cabin. The wind rapped on the logs of the wall like ocean waves as the howl of winter danced around outside. “I hear ya, darlin’,” I said to the storm. I’d enjoyed my time alone.

As I approached the den, I took a look at the mantle. Dusty, half empty bottles lined up followed by a single, aging photograph of a young man and a very young girl. I quickly stacked fresh wood and tinder in the fireplace before walking towards the kitchen for the matches. Through the window, I glanced at that old oak tree, barren now from the snow. Its little tire swing moving slightly with the breeze. For a moment, I forgot the task at hand, my fingertips shaking from the chill in the air.

I grabbed the matches from the cabinet above the sink and headed back into the den, those cold colors still lurking on the walls. I knelt by the wood and lit one match; I watched the red and orange splash around my hands before I lit the logs. It took some poking before she roared up, but a determined man is a warm man as well.

Once I was confident that the fire could handle its own for a while, I sat down in that old, leather chair, allowing the flames to warm my bones. I decided to read that newspaper again.

Monday, July 21, 1969

MEN WALK ON THE MOON

“Neil Armstrong was a lovely man,” I thought, “I remember when he passed.” This was my grandmother’s newspaper. She’d actually watched the landing on live television! I’d seen the footage, but I admired Armstrong for his character, not his accomplishments. That was something of value that I tried to pass on t—

thwack!

Cold air rushed into the room. The wooden latch on the front door held strong for so many years, but this winter breathed a little harder than most. “I should fix that latch better this time,” I said to no one. I slipped into my boots and jacket, preparing for a short walk to the shed.

I stepped outside, and I had never heard such perfect snow. Even through the whirls of wind that flooded my ears, that soft, fluffy crunch sounded out, almost like the noise clips used in old cartoons.

As I approached the shed, I noticed its latch was frozen over, just a bit. It wasn’t as much of a hindrance as it was a comical wonder of the abundance of latches at the cabin. “Goodness,” I giggled, “so many latches.” I grabbed a few small boards from the shed, as well as a box of rusty nails, then made my way back to the cabin, returning once for forgetting a hammer.

The wind howled again, and I glanced once more at that old oak tree, tire swing still swaying slightly. “I’m getting old now,” I said to myself, hammer hitting the nails into the door frame, “been waiting for a while.” I checked to see if the latches were level, and it seemed good enough. I closed the door and placed the board between the latches.

Not even the smallest of squeals made its way through the seal of the door. “Good,” I gruffed. I was proud of that one. I walked back into the den to see that the fire had gone out again.

Log stack. Tinder. Matches. Poke. Poke. Poke.

The fire roared again. I sat back down in the leather chair and let the comfort get the better of me, falling into slumber. I dreamt of fishing by the pond, and I watched frogs jump between the flowers by the dock. I hear the sounds of young laughter fill the air quickly followed by a splash, s—

thwack!

Cold air rushed in again. I was angry now. I put on my boots, my jacket, and stormed towards the door. Halfway there, I heard a soft snap beneath my right foot. I bent down to find a red crayon, now in two pieces. I glanced out the kitchen window again, and, for a moment, thought I saw someone on that old tire swing.

It hung empty, swaying slightly as before.

I cursed under my breath as I reached for the nails again, the wind blowing snow inside. Icy flakes ruffled my jacket and felt like bee stings on my wrinkled hands, and although the storm moved my very soul, that tire swing moved slightly still.

I took two boards in my left hand, crayon still clutched carefully in my right, and I made a visit towards that old oak tree. Each step was softer, yet heavier, than the last. The tire still read ‘Goodyear’ in bright, crackled white. I knelt before the trunk, almost collapsing entirely.

“I’m sorry, darlin’,” I cried into the snow, “I should’ve been more careful.” I took those two boards and fashioned a little cross, writing ‘Lilly’ in red crayon.

I walked back to the cabin. The door shut, holding snug. The fire roared with radiant life. I sat back into my chair and fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.


JK

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Grandma Drives to Scotland (response to reddit /r/writingprompts)

Grandma Drives to Scotland (response to reddit /r/writingprompts)

My grandmother was great at a many of things — smelling hunger from a mile away, washing that perfect, ocean breeze scent into my laundry, and baking the softest of chocolate chip cookies — but she was not good at arriving on time.

Last Christmas, I invited grandma over to my new apartment to spend the holiday time with my girlfriend and me. She only lived ten minutes away, and insisted that she could get herself there. “Okay, okay, Grandma,” I said over the phone, “just be careful.”

I guess it was around noon when she hopped in her 1992 Honda Accord that my dad bought for her a while back, getting her out of an older clunker and into a somewhat reliable vehicle. It was reliable, yes, but versatile…I hadn’t expected.

Kayla was still wrapping presents, and I was trying my hardest to hang lights around the living room when Grandma called me about a quarter after six to ask if she was going the right way.

“Aren’t I supposed to turn right at the corner of 5th and Anchor,” she asked, confused.

“Grandma, no. You should’ve turned left. You know that road is a dead end, right? You’ll have to turn around before you get to the pier.”

“Jay, I think I’m going the wrong way. Can you GPS me?” My little innocent grandmother still hadn’t learned much about technology, and thought I could track her little flip phone with mine. “Grandma, just turn around at the pier and get back onto I-95. Then follow 95 back around to town.”

“What?”

“Take I-95, Grandma!” I had to be a bit stern with her because she couldn’t seem to understand how ridiculous it is to mess up what originally was a ten-minute drive with a total of three turns.

“I don’t see I-95 anywhere. Can’t you GPS me, Jay?”

My grandmother must’ve been very lost at this point, and I was beginning to think she’d drive straight out of Maine and into Our Home, Our Native Land. “What do you see, grandma? Help me find where you are.” Any sort of landmark would help me find her, and then I’d drive out to have her follow me home.

“I’m on the Atlantic, Jay,” she said. I quickly looked for street names and backroads in my phone’s mapping app. “Grandma, there is no Atlantic highway or street name around here. What are you going on about?”

“Jay! I see a sign! Am I near your house?”

At this point, I began to feel a slight bit of relief, and hoped that maybe she somehow found her way to my apartment. “What does it say, grandma?”

“Scotland!”

before he was god

before he was god

Long ago, before time had shown its light, God was just a boy. He jumped in puddles with his ten toes and collected rocks that he thought seemed the prettiest—same as any other boy.

His mother was the Earth, his father was the Wind, and he was the little mound of dust that decided to be. His name was the sounds of rustling leaves or a gentle stream running through a resting meadow. Peace, he was, but his mother called him Yah.

Yah would walk forever to reach the peak of mountains by sunset, because his favorite thing to do was count the stars and watch them fall as the lush green of the life around him faded to gray. His father was always close by, playing with his hair, pushing clouds along the way, and sharing secrets to the shrubbery around him.

Yah felt alive all the while. He was young, and curious, and bold.

One night, during his gazing of the stars, he stumbled on a rough clump of stones. After assessing his bare feet for bruises, he examined the stones, seeing that they were tainted silver—six tiny pieces. They felt warm in his hands, and sour to the taste (He was a bold boy, indeed). The way the stones had sat in the dirt seemed likely that they were impacted. The six silver stones had come from beyond all he had known.

Being so that Yah was curious, he decided to take the stones to his mother. He thought she may know more, and that she might teach him. He carried three stones in each hand and made way to the heart of the mountain. The heart was as close as he could ever be to his mother.

When he’d walked forever down the mountain, and tread through into its heart, he lay the stones at its deepest point and waited patiently for mother’s voice.

The sun made its way ’round again before she spake, but clearly did she sound. The ground shook around the heart of the mountain, echoing out and back across the crust of the earth.

His father soon whisked about the mountain and twirled beneath Yah’s feet, wrapping himself around the stones to taste their grace. He found nothing more than the rust of stars gone by, but his mother still did not trust the stones. With a rush and tremble, Yah was told to take the silver stones back to the mountain top, to the place where he had found them.

Without a speck of doubt, nor a passing thought of disobedience, he did as he had been asked. Three stones in his left hand, three stones in his right, he carried them. He counted his steps along his walk, and when he had almost ran out of numbers to exhale, he reached his place.

Although they were the prettiest stones he had found, and certainly the most intriguing yet, he lay them down to be, one by one from each hand, exactly as they were.

From the peak, he watched the stars once more. In the distance, along the horizon, he saw another height to reach—a new mountain to acclaim. After taking heed to his present place below the night sky, he walked, following a bright, white cloud towards adventure.

His father, as always, was close by, and his mother just the same as he began his journey towards the new heavens. Along the way, he watched the grass sway in his father’s footsteps, the trees stand tall in his mother’s hands.

He began his ascent.

The stars grew brighter with each passing moment, and more and more stars came to dance as they watched him climb.

When he reached the top of this new mountain, the newfound height in his little, growing world, he stretched his gaze across the distance. Vastness seemed too small to capture what he’d seen.

So, as he always did, he counted the stars and watched them fall. And after taking in all he could, praising the beauty of it all, Yah moved along to claim his next highest mountain.


JK

 

self // reflect (2017)

This place seems cleaner than before.

The walls have pictures with smiling faces,

And the boards have been removed from all the windows.

 

This house is my home.

The breeze has lifted the dust from the wooden floor and carried it to the clouds.

I can breathe easy now.

 

The cold of winter has taken the chill from my bones

And left a warmness that spreads to those around me.

 

I check the mirror for my flaws,

But all I see is a reflection

Of what is flawlessly,

Perfectly me.

The Man Between, chapter 1: “The Journal”

I found myself wandering through an old bookstore in a small town outside of Newmarket, New Hampshire, looking at books that possibly haven’t been touched in years. Dust fell from the shelves with each of my steps.

“How old is this place?” I called out to the old lady at the front of the store. She must have been in her 70s and these books were at least the same.

“This bookstore was opened by my grandmother almost a little over a hundred years ago, boy. Most of these books belonged to her husband — he even wrote a few himself,” she replied.

I looked through some of the rugged leather journals. Half interested, but still intrigued, I had to ask, “Did these journals belong to him? It seems he was—“

“A sailor, yes, boy. He kept a log of his ventures.”

That seemed pretty neat. I always loved personal stories of adventure, mostly because I didn’t have the balls to make any of my own.

“These journals are dated,” I said, “many months apart between each journal.”

Oh, this is odd, I thought.

“This one is empty,” I declared, “but it’s still dated on the pages as the most recent one of the many.”

She looked down for a long while and finally said, “He died on his last journey. His boat returned without him, and his journal sat open on his bunk desk. My grandmother simply placed it with the others. She opened the store soon after.”

“That’s tragic. But these pages are dated, as if the entries just melted away from the journal. . .” I said. “. . . I’d like to buy these, or at least the empty one to maybe write about my own travels.”

“Just take them, boy,” she said heartfelt and kindly to me, “No one has bought anything here for quite a while. I don’t need the money anyway, and I wouldn’t want my grandfather’s story to die with him.”

“Are you sure? I could give you something in return.”

“They’re yours now. Do as you wish,” she said.

“Thank you, ma’am. I really appreciate it.”

I looked around a while longer to make sure I grabbed all the journals, ten of them that I found. The last of which was the mysteriously empty one. I gathered all of them, thanked the sweet old lady once more, and headed out on my way.

There was about an hours drive through Newmarket to Stafford, NH, so I thought I’d plan what to do with the journals. I proposed to read them when I got the chance, and start my own little journal entry when I got home. Maybe I’d finally create my own little adventures starting with today’s random visit to that old store.

As the silence in the car became overwhelming, I decided to listen to the radio. Grouplove came on with one of my favorites, Ways to Go, then some of the overplayed songs came through and I began searching stations, one after the other in a strike of boredom.

Then a severe weather warning came through on all stations:

“—storm headed west from the coast tonight. It’s the fastest weather shift we’ve seen in a hundred years. Stay indoors and get your phones charged. You could see power outages over most of the east coast.”

Shit. I didn’t want to hear that.

The rain began a few minutes later, lightly at first, but soon growing into a raging black across the sky.

I made it home and unpacked my bag on my desk, then decided to make my first journal entry about my day. “April 4th, 2017,” I wrote beneath the old, worn out date on the first page, “Welcome to my life, little book.”

As I began to write about my day and the little bookstore, the power went out. I grabbed my phone and turned on the flash just in time to see my words seep into the page. I sat in awe for a moment, adjusting my eyes, before confused and absentmindedly writing, “what the fuck” in the middle of the page where my words used to be. I didn’t believe it, but soon enough, just as before, I watched those words slowly sink away as well.

Then, slightly, one by one, a few letters began to appear on the page. I adjusted my eyes once more, and almost fell out of my chair when I saw it.

H e l l o ?