The Game – Intro

Jimmy Bones stumbled through the front door of his mother’s apartment. With a hand on the wall to guide him, he slowly made his way to the kitchen to get a drink of anything that didn’t contain alcohol. It had been a long night. Nine Toes Jenny had an appetite for trouble and Jimmy couldn’t help but follow along. Maybe one day he would learn that she wasn’t worth the trouble. Maybe.

He paused as he reached the edge of the kitchen table. Something was off, but the booze, pills, and God knows what else he had ingested over the last 24 hours were preventing his few remaining brain cells from connecting immediately. On the other side of the over-sized kitchen table sat an old, chipped side plate with a half-finished cigarette hanging on the rim. Lazy smoke drifted up to the ceiling undisturbed. A single high back chair sat at an odd angle away from the table. Looking down he saw his mother’s bare feet, cracked and calloused, sticking out from underneath the table.

“Ma!”

Jimmy ran around the kitchen table to see his mother sprawled out on the floor. Her tattered floral night gown covered her like a drop sheet at a crime scene. Her eyes fluttered in an attempt to regain consciousness.

“Jesus Ma, ya fainted again dint ya.”

Jimmy’s mother muttered something unintelligible among the shuffling and scraping as Jimmy fought to haul her frail body upright.

“Come on, let’s get ya to the window, the fresh air’ll be good for ya.”

Suddenly Jimmy’s mother spun away from him, back toward her spot at the table.

“Don’t Ma!”

“I need my smoke boy!”

“Ma, ya need to get some air!”

“Dammit, I ain’t gonna faint no more, let me get my smoke.”

Supporting herself on the table while Jimmy held her under one arm, she snatched the lit cigarette from the plate and quickly set it in the corner of her mouth.

“Alright, let’s get me some air then.”

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The Storm – Intro

It’s dark. I’m sitting in the corner of the Miller’s living room trying to catch my breath. The sickening mess I’m covered in is cool as it dries on my skin. George Miller is on his back between the living room and the dining room. I hit him pretty hard. Didn’t mean to but the old bastard went crazy on me. Now I’m waiting to see if he gets back up. Sure he’s dead, but it’s been a weird couple of days so better safe than sorry.

I watch his eyes begin to cloud over as ice crystals click against the aluminum eaves outside. The wind gusts against the thin window panes and makes them rattle, adding to the sense of being trapped in some low budget horror movie. Perspiration on my forehead drips into my eyes. I blink the salty moisture away, afraid to touch my face and risk exposure. I wonder if George would have given the same consideration.

George said it was all a lie, that God would never let such a thing happen. He said it was all made up to keep us isolated and afraid. He told me once in a surreal moment of clarity that everything is fear. I’m not sure why he kept his wife locked up in the basement. Maybe he thought that one day she would be normal again. That’s why I came here though, for his wife, to confirm my own worst fears. What I didn’t anticipate was George coming home from his daily firewood run early.

Darina Miller came across as being generic in every way. Average height, average weight, short permed hair, and surrounded by the scent of old lady perfume wherever she went. The Millers had no children of their own but Darina loved to play substitute grandmother to the local kids. She had babysat for most of the families in town, some for two generations. She had directed the kindergarten play at the local county school for the last 23 years. It would be hard to find anyone that had a bad word to say against her.

It was all a façade though. Mrs. Miller turned into Mrs. Hyde behind closed doors. I would hear her late at night screaming at George. Tormenting and berating him. I know for a fact the abuse would sometimes turn physical. And that’s why it’s so confusing to me that George was fighting so hard for her. Trying so hard to hold on to someone that must have been making his life miserable. Who knows, maybe he got some enjoyment out of it all. Maybe it was the only way he knew how to be. People are funny I guess.

My train of thought is derailed as I look up to see George begin to twitch. His head starts to rock back and forth, then his body begins to shake and convulse. After spilling the contents of his stomach the tell-tale foul, tarry mess follows shortly after. I tighten my grip on the axe handle in my right hand and start the slow climb back to my feet. Time to get back to work I guess.

My Favourite

I’m sitting in the corner of the kitchen, snuggled up with Harley as he sleeps. The constant rhythm of his chest expanding and contracting is comforting. He is warm and familiar.

With me as always is my pink blanket. I don’t go anywhere without it. Well, since my white one was taken from me anyway. Mom said she’d had enough of it. It was so tattered and full of holes she said. So away it went.

What was a young boy to do? Knowing that his favourite possession was never to return? I took my sister’s blanket. Now it’s my favourite too.

Scatter My Ashes Over Fields of Gold

Behind the main house there’s an old wooden bench. It’s just past a row of tall Spruce trees and faces out over the fields and rolling hills that mark the edge of our property on the south east side. My wife is sitting in her usual spot. I join her, in much the same way I have countless times before. We don’t speak, but enjoy the last of the suns warmth as it begins to fade over the horizon.

A cool breeze is blowing gently from the north. We listen as it weaves through the trees and the open fields. A yellow-headed blackbird flies past in a silent arc towards the west.

Footsteps along the narrow pathway behind us announce the arrival of our guests. Many of our family and friends are here. Some brought campers or have driven in from one of the motels in town, but many have been staying in the cabins off of the north road. It’s nice to see them in use again. I haven’t paid much attention to them since we shut down the retreat a few years ago.

I see my children, grandchildren, even great grandchildren. Some are too young to fully understand what is happening I’m sure. I make special note of those that couldn’t be here, whether by their own choosing or not. Regardless, I’m grateful to all those who could make it. It’s not often that you can get four generations of family together. But then this is sort of a special occasion.

Groups of people gather on either side of the wooden bench. There is much holding of hands and thin lipped smiles that hold no joy. No words are spoken above a whisper. It’s hard to know what to say I guess. I’ve certainly been through this type of situation enough to know.

People come forward to say a few nice words. Some share a funny story or two. Memories from a time long ago. It’s nice to hear laughter, to see everyone experience a moment of joy, fleeting though it may be.

After the last person has come forward, our youngest granddaughter moves in front of the crowd, off to our left. In one hand she has a small stool, in the other one of my old guitars. She sits without speaking and begins to play.

The first chords ring out and I feel great warmth in my heart. Our granddaughter is playing her own composition. I’m so proud of her. She’s so young but already following her dreams. We’ve been lucky that many of our family have had the courage to do the same.

I turn to my wife. She continues to look forward, watching the fields sway and the sun set. I see the sadness in her eyes. It hurts me so much to see her like this. I look down towards her hands, folded on her lap. I want to reach out but I don’t.

“Well dear, I didn’t quite make it to a hundred and three like I had hoped.”

I smile a little at my own inside joke, even though it does little to lighten the mood.

“It’s been a tough couple of weeks to say the least. For all of you of course, but for me too. Watching the people I love so much suffer like this. I especially never wanted you to hurt this way. Leaving you is going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

My emotions are getting the best of me. I stop to look out over the fields again and listen for a while.

“The actual passing wasn’t so bad. Nothing like I expected. Not that I had any expectations really. When it’s time, don’t be afraid.”

The music ends with a few gentle notes. Among the shuffling feet and sniffling noses, everyone turns their attention to the old wooden bench. My wife, framed by the gently shifting Spruce trees turns to her right and reaches for the simple urn beside her. The boys come forward and help her to stand.

Her body is frail, her skin sagging. Still, I see the strong, beautiful woman I married so many years ago. Together they walk forward to the edge of the field. I follow a few short paces behind.

There is a short pause for a silent prayer as the last rays of the fading sun radiate over the seemingly unending prairie. My wife removes the lid from the urn and hands it to our first born. In a serious of strained motions she tosses my ashes to be carried on the breeze over our fields of gold. The release I feel, is more than symbolic. I reach out in a vain attempt to brush the tears streaking her cheek, hoping in some way that she knows I am close.

“It was perfect.” I say. “Thank you.” I close my eyes, fighting back tears myself. “I love you.” I say. And then it all fades away.