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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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