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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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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

 

Long Lost 

We’re sitting in the car. Music is blaring and no one is on this old road. You’re driving faster than you should, but I love how brave you are. Fearless, reckless, and kind, and you love me despite my lack of those qualities.

This is your favorite song. “Turn it up,” you cheer at me. I do, and we sing along. It dies down and I finally find the breath to ask where we’re going. “It’s a surprise,” you say, “better than the last one.” 

That’s exciting, since the last surprise was a trip to the lake to see a flower growing in the rust at the end of the dock. 

I love the ways life finds itself a place to be. 

“We’re almost there–just a few more minutes, I think.”

You, uh, think? Have you been here before?

“Not exactly, I just know it’s here. There’s a story out here somewhere.”

What is it?

“Something dire.” 

That’s not a word you want to hear when you’re in the backwoods of North Dakota. We’re heading north, so we have to be close to the border by now; it’s been a long drive.

What should I be expecting?

“C’mon. Don’t ask me that! This will be great.” 

Okay.

“It’s an adventure!”

Okay!

I wish I could see the sun setting through these trees, but the woods are so thick, and the green of the leaves is slowly turning grey.

“We’re here.”

Where is here?

“Let’s see.”

We walk through the woods for about twenty minutes and you’re just singing that song again as I count my steps, just in case. I always loved your voice, but you never liked to sing around anyone else.

Then I look up and you’re gone.

Panic is starting to sink in when I hear you call out, “HEY! OVER HERE!”

I half jog, half flail to your voice. Then I see it. 

Holy shit.

“Right?”

This isn’t what I think it is. Why here? How?

“I told you there was a story out here, silly. A journey through time.”

This is my brother’s car.

And it was. A 1970 Chevy Nova, custom. It has a little lightning bolt near the rear fender. The paint is faded and the metal is all rusty now, but everything is here. He built it himself and now it’s a ghost, just like him.

“Maybe we’ll finally find him. He’s out here, somewhere, alive. I know you know it.” 

Maybe you’re right.