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THE HISTORIAN

PencilpageShe held her ledgers closely, as if protecting their contents from prying eyes. But how can history stay hidden? She wanted the world to learn what life had been before the conflagration. But she had forgotten one important fact. A far as she knew, she was the only survivor.

They had called her “Historian”. That was a name that carried great import. And since the Great Truth Purge, Reconstruction history was punishable by death. Little did that matter now, but the Historian held ethics in high regard.

She had a sudden pain in her head, a stirring of thought in the guise of a memory. It needed to be recorded. She went to the case mounted on the wall. Sliding the glass panel to the left she exposed the object of her office. It was a primitive instrument unearthed in the battle. She held it in as much reverence as the ledger clutched to her chest. She had found mention of it in the earliest pages. It was referred to as a “pencil”.

She handled it gingerly; the tip of the nib was fragile. She knew that once it had deteriorated beyond usefulness, all history would cease. She was frugal with her words. She was not ready to die.

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HIS ROPE’S END

McGinty always found a way to keep his wits about him. An analytical mind was not something with which this cow poke had been blessed, and yet things worked out for him.

He was chosen ranch foreman because he had been at this for a long time. Add to that the fact that he could lasso better than anyone “the Boss” had seen, Mac was a shoe-in for the position.

Driving this beef had been arduous lately. The terrain seemed rougher and rougher, the cattle having grazed the old paths clean. There was space in the high country that was relatively untouched. McGinty thought if he could take them through Cherub’s Pass, he’d kill two birds with one stone.

The incline was rather gradual, so the strain wasn’t overtly terrible. But the ledge of the Pass seemed to narrow as they went further up. Mac thought of scrapping the idea, but he had too much time invested in it, plus he didn’t need some ambitious hand taking him down. On they went.

Near the rear of the pack, McGinty heard a rather raucous noise; his animals were in distress. One of them anyway, but the rest of the herd sounded the alert. A young calf, had strayed behind and had gotten too near the edge of the ravine. It was a minor drop, but it still had separated it from the rest of the herd.

McGinty secured his rope around a stump and then around his waist. The other hands lowered him to the calf. As he worked to calm the animal he felt something hit his back. It was the other end of his lasso. He needn’t worry about an ambitious hand; an unscrupulous one was just as dangerous.

“You babysit, Foreman! I’ll take ’em from here!’ shouted the villainous varmint.

He had been duped. And there McGinty sat, stroking the calf and trying to think his way out of trouble. Surely he had come to the end of his rope

GOSSELIN’S GALLERY – 25 Jan 2013

'Twin bicycles stood near the front entrance of the abode"

‘Twin bicycles stood near the front entrance of the abode”

EXHIBIT #1 – IN TANDEM

Twin bicycles stood near the front entrance of the abode. It was cozy. A lovely little cottage where life found a way to flourish. Richard used to tease Talia that it was a great home for a swinging bachelor.

“Or for a young couple just starting out… if they were really in love!” he teasingly amended.

It remained home for him after she had passed. He was reluctant to change anything. Richard felt that Talia had worked so hard to make this a proper home and besides, it reminded him of her loving hand in every nuance of this place, he decided to leave it intact.

For forty-three years, they had shared a simple home; their hovel was more of a palace in their eyes. The lack of offspring became a convenient reason to stay.

“This is a great place for the two of us” Talia would mimic, “if only we were in love!” We couldn’t possibly squeeze any children into this small space.”

There was always sadness in her voice when she admitted this. Oh, how much Richard wished it was a problem with his “plumbing”, and not her cancer riddled ovaries. He was glad that early detection had bought them so much time. So what if the had no children, it was the trade-off that gave Richard and Talia a lifetime together.

He held fast to his resolve. The divan would remain by the window. Their chairs would remain side-by-side at the far end of the living room. And the bicycles they used to ride around the villa would stay shackled near the front door. Talia would have wanted it that way.

EXHIBIT #2 – WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM…

"She wanted more out of life than a 32 inch phosphorous screen."

“She wanted more out of life than a 32 inch phosphorous screen.”

Chester was a glutton for information. Where everyone had a favorite television program that they would watch and comment upon, Chester’s show ran four times a day. He could be found as a fixture on his couch, remote control at hand at five and six, ten and eleven.

News was his addiction; his obsession. He could tell you the price of oil in Kuwait, and which despotic dictator ran roughshod over his populace. Which celebrity did what with whom. What parts of the county could expect heavy snowfall… Any bit of minutia was fodder for Chet’s fertile mind.

And the world around Chester still went around. Neighbors came and went. So did his wife. She had enough of the constant barrage of depressing news. She wanted to laugh. She needed to dance. She wanted more out of life than a 32 inch phosphorous screen.

And his show continued on. Daily death and destruction. Weekly features about foregone conclusions. Analysis and more analysis. But life as he had once known it had changed. It had been interrupted. And he had never noticed.

—–

"The leather valise landed on the chair near the desk."

“The leather valise landed on the chair near the desk.”

EXHIBIT #3 – HIDEAWAY

Daniel Cavanaugh had finally found success. The latest of his manuscripts had been accepted for publication. It was indeed a proud moment and just the encouragement he needed to further pursue hid ambition.

Cavanaugh had “pretended’ to be a writer for twenty-two years. Always with something to say, or so he thought, he had ideas galore but very little time to hone his already precarious position.

So Daniel packed a small bag and headed for the cabin near Fielding Lake. It was an escape that his family had taken advantage of all these many years. Peace and serenity oozed from the landscape and Daniel knew it was his best shot at completing his latest project.

The place was… rustic. It needed some work, but that would have to wait until he had finished his draft. Cavanaugh took note of the broken hinge on the screen door. A family of birds had nested under the south eave. They added atmosphere; character. It was just the right setting.

He removed the coverlets from the furniture. He dusted off the desk near the rear picture window overlooking the water. Daniel set a pot of coffee to brew. The leather valise landed on the chair near the desk. He stretched his arms out wide and breathed the fresh lake air.

It had been years since his parents had gone leaving him this property. It was almost as many since his face had graced this place. It was always a home away from the confines of home. It was peaceful and serene.

“Work can wait” Daniel mused. “I’ll just enjoy being ‘home'”.

Amidst the water’s splash and the wilderness noises, Daniel fell asleep upon the couch. Work waited. It had little choice.

HOME SOON

A sleigh pulled by two strange horses and an old driver came alongside the dead snow tracker.

It was a strange twist of fate. All of his luggage made it home fine. But somehow, Andrew Worton never did. How the hell he ended up in the Yukon was beyond any stretch of imagining. Clad in a short sleeved Polo shirt and light khakis, Andrew looked out of place.

And here it was, a week before Thanksgiving and no means of getting out of there until Tuesday. He had resigned himself to missing the dinner. He would not get to sample his mother’s pie. Her health wasn’t what it used to be and his sister was lousy with Mom’s recipes.

Dad was another story. The picture of health and vitality. Golfed twice a week. Swam at the “Y”. Walked the treadmill with great regularity.
Working his way to better health. But something went off course. He had worked himself into a massive heart attack. Andrew wished there was another way.

Stewart Crossing sat mid-province and had been isolated just after Andrew’s flight had landed in Canada. Snows and wind whipping and the cold was stinging Worton’s bare arms. The constable at the landing strip had found Andrew something more suitable, which was a blessing, he thought.

“Don’t think you’ll make the States by  week’s end”, the officer informed, making Andrew more anxious to head on out. “If we can get you to Whitehorse, you can catch a flight there, but getting south looks treacherous.

Frustration had settled in and Andrew did a foolish thing. Bound and determined to get home com hell or high water, he rented some skis and headed southward.

He was making good time, considering, but his legs were tired and sore, and stray caribou mocked him with their trumpeting and snorting. In a clearing was a small village, a new destination.

Nothing spectacular. Some residences, a general store, a postal facility and a snowmobile dealership. Great luck for Andy!

The proprietor felt for the young man and traded an older machine and some gasoline for the cross country skis and the promise to pay him when he got back home. Andrew couldn’t say no.

The further south he went, it seemed the snows followed him. He ran adrift a couple of times. And ran out of gas near Champagne, slightly off course. He sat in the rigging despondent and sure he’d never see his family before he met his end.

Something in the distance. A ping? A tingle? A jingle! Louder and stronger it came. A sleigh pulled by two strange horses and an old driver came alongside the dead snowtracker.

“Ho-ho” the old man said. “Looks like you should’ve stayed put now, doesn’t it.”

Andrew was in no mood, but did agree. The man offered transportation. Andrew accepted and climbed in beside the gentle soul.

“Get on, Musher! Get on, Mudder!” he yelled.

His beasts sprung into a gallop and leaped over a fence rail. The rig rose skyward gaining altitude and Andrew held tightly to the side rail.

“Breaking in the new “guys”” the old man smiled. “A little over a month and I may need backup”.

Andrew stared at the driver and finally realized he had seen him before. The old man glanced a wink at Andrew.

“You know, they’re not going to believe you!” smiling so lively and quick.

“Just get me home, Nick. I’ll worry about that when I get a drumstick in my hand!”

FROM HELEN BACH…

“One may very well start with Helen’s letters to her sister.”

The last three pieces of correspondence had gone unanswered. That was unusual for Sylvia. She loved to hear her thoughts spring to life and her skill in letter writing was indeed poetic and heart fulfilling.

But Helen Bach, was worried. Sylvia had remained in the family home long after their parents had parted this earthly plain. The neighborhood had become decrepit, and the old homestead reflected as such. And Sylvie could no longer care for the house, or herself for that matter.

Helen had planned to visit her sister. Two of those letters that were returned unopened, stated so much. She had been prepared to change her plans on a moments notice, and stay with Sylvia until she could get back on her feet. But sadly, Sylvia had lost the use of her legs in a fall from the second landing of the staircase.

Her taxicab turned down Mallory Road and as it approached the driveway, Helen noticed something strange. A scarecrow adorned their front yard. It was dressed in Sylvia’s favorite frock, it’s arms draped over the wooden crossbar dangling in the wind. Helen could swear it moved its head. There was no wind of which to speak, so Sylvia ruled that out completely.

The visiting sister gasped in horror when she realized the effigy had indeed moved under its own volition. And it did wear Sylvia’s clothes, being that it was Sylvia that hung in the front yard. A cruel prank by the area thugs who had broken in and ransacked the home.

The officers who had responded to Helen’s enraged call were disgusted in kind as the poor woman was gingerly removed from her perch.

The detective was handed pages of a letter that they found on Sylvia’s kitchen table. It was in Helen’s hand.

“One may very well start with Helen’s letters to her sister.” the investigator posed.

She spoke of coming back home to “hang out” with Sylvia. She had given the scumbags the idea. Helen felt pangs of guilt for leaving her sister to fend for her own independence. Her decision was made for her; she decided to stay.

NO MORE FIGHT LEFT

“J.D. sipped his drink. He thought it would give him “courage” and settle his nerves.”

John Dunn Sylvester sat in his window seat staring out at the tarmac and watching the loaders complete their chore. The Flight Attendant came down the aisle offering assistance and instruction. She stopped by J.D.’s seat.

“Sir, can I get you anything?” she asked.

“Huh? Oh, no thanks, I… no, thank you, I’m fine” came his distracted reply. Her smile offered little in the way of comfort or assurance. It would take more than that, he was afraid.

John remembered passing through the terminal thinking how appropriately the word irritated him after his journey. The doctors at the clinic were all in agreement. They labeled his condition with the same hopeless word. Terminal.
His cancer had metastasized. 18 months was the sentence proclaimed. He got nothing off for good behavior.

“Get your affairs in order, John!” the words ringing hollow in his head.

Sylvester was coming home to do just that. For a moment he thought it was a blessing that he and Beth couldn’t have children. But guilt washed over him, knowing that now his wife would be all alone. Her tears had been plentiful during their ordeal, but the determination as a last “second” opinion would surely open the floodgates.

J.D. sipped his drink. He thought it would give him “courage” and settle his nerves. But all that the Sweet Soco Manhattan did was excite the butterflies in his gut.

It is amazing how when your mind seems a million miles away, you don’t notice the obvious happenings around you. Announcements and recommendations filtered across the intercom.

“Approaching runway 19…”

“Tray tables in the upright…”

“Keep seat belts fastened until…”

The screech of the wheels as they contacted the runway, pierced him with a final thrust. As the plane taxied to the terminus, he tried to compose himself. How could he face Beth knowing he had refused all further treatment? He didn’t want to fight anymore. He just wanted to spend every minute he could loving the love of his life in his last months.

The line of passengers spilled into the waiting area, heading for the baggage claim. John had followed the others like cattle; mindlessly plodding along.

And there she was. Near the carousel. He saw Beth’s tears glisten down her cheek as she tried to retain some semblance of calm. As they embraced, he felt her shudder against his chest in muted sobs.

Pressing his cheek against hers he whispered “Beth, I love you so much!”

She gave a squeeze. Beth sniffed in her last tear.

“Let’s go home!” she whispered, never veering from his side.

PLAID DEFINED HIM

He was tall. Lanky, they called him but never by name. No one knew his name. Even he had no idea. And so far, no one came forward to offer any insight into who he was. Or from wence he came. He just wandered.

His facial hair was patchy, tinged with flecks of silver and bare skin. An unintentional beard for an unidentifiable man. Steel blue eyes revealed nothing of his former self. His past had indeed passed him by. All identifying features were random scars on his cheek and a nasty bruise on his right temple. Both appeared to be a symptom of what rendered his identity null and void.

His shoes were scuffed badly, having dragged him through mud holes and ravaging rivulets that ran from the building downspouts to the sewer receivers. There was a tear down his right pant leg, from just below his knee down to his pant cuff. Pockets were empty, no change for bus fare (and nowhere to go anyway). No comb to rake through his matted and disheveled hair. His back pocket held no wallet to identify him. The remaining pocket contained a tattered handkerchief.

“How you doin’, Sport?” the other indigents called to him. As far as he knew, that was his name. Ask him, and he’d tell you that and nothing more.

But the “tag” paid more attention to the plaid sports coat that was clutched to his chest, than the man in consumed. It had see better days. But then again, so had he. “Sport” had no idea where he belonged. And he knew that wasn’t a good thing. How could one fall so far that the face of the earth was not recognizable?  The guy in the plaid coat just didn’t recall.