by Gregory Wilde  /  fiction  /  25 Oct 2007
I walked from the house with my last candle. The streets were free from cars, and the sun had just fallen behind the valley. She had not come back yet, and I feared she would never come again. It had been three months since she called, and the nights were freezing and the feeling of her was slowly leaving my mind. The candle sparkled through the night; soft droplets of rain fell to the ground between the flame and me. I walked through the trees and listened to the owls cooing and the birds chirping somewhere above me. I didn't know where tomorrow's meal was going to come from. All I had left were three logs of burning wood, a candle, and a place to be.
It was the next morning when I listened to the radio. There was a weatherman on and he reported a bad wave of snow coming my way. So I walked outside and picked up the broken tree branches in the yard. Dusting them off, a spider poked out from a hole inside a branch, crawled over my arm and bit my elbow. I shook the spider off and looked at its bite. It was small, but the white crevice the spider left soon grew hot, and it felt like pins and needles were rushing through my bloodstream.
She had a first aid kit in the bathroom, filled with little packages of bandages, disinfectant, and needles for rabies shots. I unwound a brown bandage and watched my arm swell under the bandage. Soon, it was twice the size of my other arm, and I was wondering if I should call the doctor down the road. His name was Dr. Henry Galwick. But I didn't have a phone now, it was out due to the storm coming our way, so I walked to the fireplace and watched my arm grow beside the heat and light.
I dreamt that night I was eaten alive by snakes and wild pigs. It was the first time I had a dream where I didn't survive. I guess it was the spider bite, but when I woke, my arm was nearly normal and the pain was gone. "Oh, thank god," I said aloud. Thank the good Lord above I will not lose my arm like my mate, Charley. He lost his arm while cutting a tree down, then slicing the tree into logs for burning in fireplaces. Charley never got over that. He was a sad cripple.
The storm arrived the following morning. Snow came up to the windows, and I was nearly out of wood. I figured I better go outside and find some more wood before the snow completely blocked me in. So I exited through the back, the candle still bright, and I found several branches spread about the yard. Once again, I dusted them off, but no spiders came up to bite me. I gathered five long, thick, wet branches and threw them beside the fireplace. The radio weatherman said the storm was just beginning, and to make sure you had enough wood because it may be a week before you can head outside again.
The snow did not go easy on me. It filled the windows with a white so clear and simple it felt like existence was an illusion. I poured a glass of red wine, some old red wine she bought in Cork. I sipped it slow while listening to some classic Irish music. A boy was doing a version of "Old Dan Tucker," and then a woman that sounded partly dead, partly smug, started singing "Danny Boy." The wine really matched my mood for "Danny Boy," but when a group played the standard "Pay Me My Money Down," I started to cry a bit because I didn't have any money to be paid down. I sure needed a job. It was too bad she was gone now, since she said she had a job all lined up for me at the forestry in the next town. She knew the owner from school and he was glad to give me the job, but now, with the storm coming and her gone, I didn't feel right walking to the forestry asking for Pete, claiming to be the mate he was going to hire due to him knowing Cathy, some bird from school.
So I stayed inside and listened to Irish music all day, for two days, with the red wine and some old bread I made weeks ago. I started thinking about death a lot. If I died in here, I thought over and over, would it have any bearing on society at all? I mean, shoot, did I really matter to anyone beside myself? And if that were true, what's the point of it all? Life sure can't be just to live. There has to be more than that. Maybe I needed to have a kid, then my life would pass on through him, and when I died he would tell his sons about me, and his sons would pass on their stories about old granddad to their sons, and so on, forever and ever.
I remembered then, for no real reason, old Matilda. She was your bog standard old woman. No one ever liked her, or disliked her. Matilda was my mother's best friend, and from time to time we would go over to her house and she would bake a pie, and it was too, bog standard. Her dog was bog standard, and even her toilet paper was bog standard! Nothing had a reason to be liked or disliked; it was all normal and pointless. I know it was strange to be thinking of Matilda in the middle of a snowstorm, but maybe that meant she wasn't bog standard at all, maybe she was really something different because no one seems to be bog standard anymore. Look around, everything is either great or bad. There's hardly anything you buy nowadays that claims to be bog standard; not like the olden days, anyway. You can't even buy a roll of toilet paper without it claiming it's the best toilet paper ever made, due to the softness and the little senseless designs.
My little brother, Steven, he moved to London a few years ago. He had a job working at the post office, and he hated it grandly, but he couldn't quit because he had a daughter and a wife, and a big debt problem ever since he moved to London. So Steven bought a big life insurance plan one day, then two months later, walked down the road and was hit by a bus. The bus driver claimed my brother committed suicide, but the passengers on the bus said the driver was drunk. So when the insurance company did a blood test on the driver, guess what, it came up positive for cocaine and excess amounts of alcohol. My little niece and sister-in-law, they got a million quid, and I never heard or saw them since.
Matilda, bog standard as she is, said she heard from my sister-in-law and niece in Ireland, in a big house somewhere near Phoenix Park, with a dog and the whole nine yards. I was mad when I heard that; but then I figured, hey, that's what my brother wanted, and who am I to go about messing things up for them? I don't want to go over there asking for money. Shoot, it's my brother's wasted life! The least I can do is let him rest in peace.
Cathy, the girl that left me here, said I could stay in the house until I found myself. Then she called a week later, and said, "Don't you worry, I will be back soon enough. This life on the trains is really killing me." But Cathy never came back, and she never called again, so I wrote her a letter and put it inside the mailbox in case I died in this house, or left before she came back. The letter was real simple, nothing in it except a few lines about being sorry for saying she was worthless. I was drunk, and she was real emotional. Sometimes it's better to keep your mouth shut and to smile and to never say a word you really feel, because women are like razors edges. One little slip and your whole life is cut open.
I ran out of bread by the third day of the storm. The snow had stopped falling down, but it was still freezing and the white was sharp inside the windows. So I searched around until I found an old pot of stew that was made years ago, buried deep inside the freezer. I walked to the stove and lit a match, and luckily, the wood caught on and I was able to reheat the stew. And after a few hours the whole house smelled like carrots and chicken and celery. The stew was hardly as good as it smelled, but I ate it, then covered it on the stove and listened to the radio again.
This time they were playing some Italian music, and I didn't know a single word they were saying. It was real pretty, though. It made the time go by faster, and soon enough, the sun went down and the white outside became black. The owls were somewhere; I could hear them outside through the windows, cooing tales of tomorrow.
"Oh, owl, please remember me, for I will be gone," I said.
"Oh, birds of the sky, please remember me, because I won't last much longer," I sung.
"Oh, life, please speak of me, for I don't have much to offer," I howled.
Then the snow started melting. A few days later I could see the trees through the windows, and the skies were clearer than I'd seen in months. The door was ice cold, though. I had to put on gloves just to hold the doorknob. When I stepped into the sea of branches, I walked along the road until I found the cemetery that my mother was burred in. It was masked in snow. The headstones were invisible. If you didn't know it was a place of the dead, it would look like a field the children could play in. I guess that's the only way rebirth can happen. Something has to be hidden.
I found my mother's headstone because I remembered it was on the far right, third row from the top. I dug into the snow and when I touched her stone, I uncovered it and whipped away the sadness Mother Nature had left behind.
"Oh, mother, don't you weep," I sung, "The morning sun will wake and she will uncover you. I love you, but are you with me now?"
"Oh, mother, I'm trying" I said, "But it's not as easy as yesterday."
Watching the cemetery still, a bird swooped down and sat on my mother's stone. He was a red bird, with little feathers that were brown at the base of his neck. His little eyes were looking all around, like he found a happy time.
"It's a happy time when I find the melody inside my mind," I sung. "Lord, I'm coming home to stay, coming home to stay. It's just the same old story, just about love and morning glory, a nickel and dime doesn't pay, what a shame, what a shame, what they'll do to your name."
The bird ducked when I stopped singing, and then he raised his little head, watching the sky like he was really with me. Then he chirped a few times and flew into the air and I watched him with the intent to follow his docile movements. He went into the trees and walked along the branches, making chirping noises, then sung a little song for a second or two. Real pretty, I thought. I sure am happy I found the time to see you, little friend.
Then the skies darkened, and I walked back to the house with some fresh wood that I found on the way home. But when I came back to my home, it felt old and foreign. So I dropped the wood and locked the front door. I checked the mailbox. My letter was softly set inside the wooden box. I shut the little door and watched the birds flying between trees. Then I put my hat on, and walked there alone.
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