Headed home

Image

Desperate clouds of exhalation from the creature were the only suggestions that life remained within at all. White puffs of chalk dumped and expanded on cold asphalt. The deer, beautiful, young and strong and like no animal I had seen before, was crouched in the center of bright orange bulbs of light. Stale and weak in the cold, the joyous king laid in between two times – the forest at his back and the fields and the hills at his head. White puffs of chalk again.

I looked at my wife and saw in her fear for this animal. She bit her lip, fingers tightening around the door. Her fair skin stood out in the darkness as she went.

Its head turned neither toward my headlights in surprise nor away from them in despair. Deep and black, endless it seemed, his eyes were somewhere distant, somewhere I could not see. Searching for a fleece in the backseat and finding the door handle, my hands worked on their own. My eyes never shifted – white puffs of chalk again.

– Honey. I said, fleece around my shoulders. The voice echoing from my chest was one that I did not know, one which I would not have said belonged to me at all.

I watched as she touched her white hand to the creature’s back. Like a sole spot of moonlight pooling through a window, changing with the waning night, her hand moved, weightless with care, down the animal’s tense spine.

The air was cold with silence. My wife, the deer, and I, surrounded by fog. It pushed over the hills to our left, it swam through the trees to our right.

Amid the quiet, white puffs of chalk poured from the deer’s nostrils, swirling in the stillness of the air. My own breath rose before my face.

Buckled legs straightened. A graceful and long back arched, coiling and extending, turning and rising into a large and beautiful creature. My wife’s hand, previously still on the animal’s back, settled to her side.

– Ready? I said. I was cold. The wind was cracking at dead trees and nipping at my ears. It served only to make my want for the warmth of the car stronger.

For an instant, my wife was mesmerized. The eyes of the deer, deep and black and endless, had met her own. They met together, gazes entwining, for a short time before the deer turned away. Trotting, running, and bounding, it’s shadow blended into the night. Over the stone fence and through the field, the deer’s structure drained out into the fog.

I walked to my wife and put the fleece around her shoulders. She was colder than I.

The headlights shone brightly into our eyes as we walked back to the car, our hands clasped as one. Warmth padded every inch of our skin as we buckled our seat belts again, and as I started the engine once more I felt lighter. I looked at my wife, and ease in her smile said that she felt the same. We – both the deer and my wife and I – were headed home.

Two Old Men

Image

“And that is precisely what I’ve been saying for years!” said the man with the beard. “What a wonderful connection!” His voice was warm as the corners of his eyes curled with appreciation.

There was a silence after he spoke, one which at first was heavy, made comfortable with the resounding gladness of his voice. Time passed coldly. The comfort between the two men, as the wrinkles at the corners of the bearded man’s eyes, seemed to fade away.

Lips near shrouded by wiry grey beard scowled. His glance shifted out the window, away from me. I could not see on what his eyes laid.

For the first time since I sat down, the smaller man spoke.

“And it is a shame. I know that it is, believe me. To celebrate what we have within the walls or to tear them down altogether is something many people fail to truly recognize as an issue which must be addressed. And I see the value in both sides, I really do.” The younger man paused, moving his drink he held in both hands to his mouth. “But my heart tells me that you’re right, I think. If we are to lift ourselves out of these bogs of society – hostility and difference – we must reach, with open, outstretched hands, to the other side of our walls.” His voice was worn. His intonations were not new. He had said this many times, in many coffee shops before.

The bearded man had not moved. It was as if he had not heard the smaller man at all. The smaller man’s words had dissolved, like the warmth of February breath, before they ever had the chance to pad the bearded man’s ears.

A heartfelt suspiration.

Unscrew the locks from their doors …..

Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs…. 

There was a shared sobriety between the two men. The smaller man’s eyes looked away from me now: somehow I had not noticed the change. His eyes took in the same portrait as the glance of the bearded man – an airy and unobtainable scene, somewhere 1000 miles away.

Before the third bite of my muffin, the two men stood up and left, their eyes still fogged by what they had both seen.

I watched them go. The smaller man waited for the bearded man to go first, and the bearded man held the door for the smaller man as the exited. They stepped out onto the sidewalk together. I watched them for as long as I could, but as people with more immediate things to do than listen to old men squabble enveloped them, I could follow their path no longer.

The bearded man and the smaller man were swallowed up – a pale end to a means in a heedless world.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/writing-challenge-dialogue/

100 Word Challenge

This (very) short story is my first entry to the 100 word challenge. I promise it has less than 100 words.

The prompt is

..but where did the noise come from…

 Enjoy!

“NOBODY. LEAVE. THIS-TABLE.”

Each pupil was suddenly glued to the dinner in front of it. I couldn’t tell which child of mine was the perpetrator, and anarchic smiles from lowered heads made it clear that no sibling was prepared to throw a fellow disputant of the dad regime under the bus.

It had been the loudest fart, I’m sure, ever heard in this galaxy. Even worse – it bookended my big speech on manners.

“I’m going to ask nicely one time…”

I waited for an echo of the gaseous grumble to recede before continuing.

“Where did the noise come from?”

Nebraska

My Inaugural Attempt at a Short Story

For hours each night, a yellow and wilting Nebraska stared at her.

Without wane or want – in the manner that only a water stain is able – it thrived by the light of the moon. She began to count on its awakening, awaiting the secrecy of still and silence to revel in its beauty. From the darkness of her bedroom she would listen. When the television no longer peeled at her ears, and her mother’s bottles of the night had been collected and abandoned in the trash, she would turn delicately, carefully – savoring the silence – and bask in the warmth of her thoughts. The brush of the moon’s glow would paint on her wall silvers and blues as pure as sea glass. The curves of her Nebraska would glisten, gazing fixedly and intensely at her until finally, peacefully, she would close her eyes. A golden breeze would begin to lace along her eyelids. Car horns outside and drunken shouts down the street – the sounds of her world – would fade. When she would open her eyes, it was as if her world was never there. Fields of grain that ebbed and swirled would carry her mind toward an ocher horizon. A house, alone and undetected, surveyed this sea of gold: she would pass it every time. Immersed in a honeyed content light, she would look to the sky and inhale the buoyancy of her dream.

For hours each night, a yellow and wilting Nebraska would take her away. It would take her away from obligations, away from the weight of the breathless bedroom down the hall where memories, cuff-links and cologne no longer worn, were pressed into an untouched closet. It would take her away from responsibilities, away from the tinged words of her mother, away from the cold and keen emptiness that reigned within her being. She would cascade into sleep in the middle of her warm and lucid escape every night.

But every day she would wake up. Engines staggering down the street mocked her. The old man who lived upstairs – who did nothing but sit in his rocking chair and smoke his pipe all day – creaked on in somber sarcasm.

Trains poised to head west beckoned to her. The bus took her past the yard twice each day. At sunrise, the trains – dark and stoic metallic mysteries – were little more than shimmering reflections of the sun’s admiration; a new and amber light surrounded them. In the evenings, as the sun was setting and her senses lulled back and forth with the grumbling of the bus, the train cars were heroic silhouettes standing boldly in the foreground of the the plush watercolor that marked the end of the sun’s soliloquy. Watching the cars depart brought her a quiet joy. Many of them were empty; spaces for a body passed her one after another. Each was perfect, each the  key for which she had waited so long. Her heart was magnetized.

In the silky coolness of fall nights her mind ached and longed for deliverance. Nebraska shone in the silent air as never before, radiant and beautiful. Soon it was too much for her. She was overcome by desire for flight. Restless, her mind often denied her the comfort of her bed. Four walls that housed her life all at once seemed to shun her. The harrowing ruminations of the still night surrounded her and, like cupped hands, enveloped her sanity.

The peaceful midnight air of her doorstep welcomed her before she knew it. It was as in a dream. Onward she strode; the sidewalk was not felt under her two feet – which for the first time within her memory moved not against her heart, but with it. She was flowing, each breath a blanket of warm velvet inside her. Past rows of haggard homes she walked; they loomed over her with the wrinkled sagacity of thick, old oaks.

She was alone and undetected, entranced by the escape that was now really and truly within her reach. Three, four, five corners she turned – the way was inside her.

Swirling and spinning came to a halt as she approached the wire fence of the train yard. Just past it, a beautiful sight, held still by a fog as palpable as cotton, laid peacefully before her eyes. Lights orange and glowing kissed the ground under them with a felt radiance. The westbound trains hid in the shadows. She could not see them, but – like a note she could not range to sing – she knew they were there. Her future in the burden-less fields of golden Nebraska depended on them. She knew herself; she was ready.

Her fingers curled around the fence.

In an instant, her eyes clasped shut – she felt the sting of icy reality charging through her veins.

Fingers tightened and strained around the wire. Reeling back and forth she was taken into a trance – held captive by the force of inhibitions, of home, of what she knew and would know forever. Behind undulating eyelids she saw a picture frame, a little girl perched on the back of her father. Her nostrils twinged with the smell of morning coffee, black and rich, before work and school. She felt the musky embrace of an old grey suit, and as her senses surged around her the deep blue eyes no longer shared with anyone welled with silent, sentient tears.

Languished and limp, her fingers left the fence.

The sun rose the next morning, casting a new and amber light on the train yard. The trains would leave soon.

Engines staggering down the street: the first sounds of her new consciousness. A glance in the sober light showed no sign of the stain at all. It had become a name long forgotten, a town visited decades ago. The wall was a pale, empty hue. The old man upstairs – sitting and smoking and doing nothing at all – creaked on.