My Words, My World

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Archive for the tag “winter”

The end of his tether

He’d often wondered about his tether and the end of it.  Until he picked up a dictionary only a week before he hadn’t known what a tether even was.  Now he knew and now he thought he’d reached the end of it.

He was glad it was winter.   He didn’t mind the cold and the snow and, in happier times, he’d always been an enthusiastic skier.  In happier times.  Yes, he thought, he didn’t mind the winter with its snowy peaks, white crystal frosted fields and the smell of mulled wine in the market square and steaming paper cups warming hands in the cold.

He looked out of a window to the outhouse.  The cold.  The cold was good.  It killed off many of the pests that hung around in warmer climates or even down in the valley, although now other pests had found him and disturbed his peace.  Footprints and a strange indent in the snow crossed the yard, as if a sack of firewood had been dragged.  Yes, he’d reached the end of his tether, and the bodies mounted up in the outhouse.

Dry

The old man stood with a length of coiled rope around his shoulder and spat into the dust.  The sky was cold and clear.  He looked at the sky every day but the clouds still avoided him.

“Giovanni, what’s the latest?”

“January, papà.”

In November they said early December, then it was going to be mid-December, then Christmas.”

“No one really knows, papa.”

“No one knows?”  The old man spat into the dust once again.  He took a leather pouch from his jacket pocket and started to roll himself a cigarette.  “My father could tell what the weather was going to do, a week before it did it.”

“You know as well, papa.”

The old man flicked a match.  He scuffed his boots in the dust, kicking up a little cloud.

“I did once.”  His rummy eyes looked up again at the clear blue sky.  “This year is different.”

From their lofty position on the lower slopes of the mountain, where the pastures lay brown and dry, they could see the distant Monte Rosa.  Even from that distance they could see its barren slopes; only its vague glaciers flickered white in the sun.

“There’s no tourism yet.  Tourism’s suffering and we’re suffering with it, Giovanni.”

“The snow will come papa, it has to.”

“Do you think?  When was the last time it rained, son?”

“October.”

“It drizzled for a couple of hours, Giovanni.  It hasn’t rained in anger since July.”  He flicked his head in a backwards movement.  “Those woods are a tinderbox.”

Giovanni nodded his head.  “The weather channel put the area on high alert for forest fire risk.”

The old man crushed his cigarette carefully under his heel.  “It’s about the only thing the weather channel has got right this year.”  He lifted the rope from his shoulder and placed it on the old trunk of a walnut tree that served as a chopping block.  He nodded down the slope.  “I want to get that fence in the bottom field repaired.  If the snow does come at least the animals will be contained.”

This last comment fell like an axe blow between the men.  They’d already lost a few animals, sickened by the drought conditions; they couldn’t afford to lose any more, there dwindling finances couldn’t take it.  They’d lost the annual orders from the surrounding ski resorts, whose slopes were bare and car parks were empty.  In his 72 years the old man had never known anything like it.  He was almost glad his wife had passed away the previous spring and didn’t have to see what the farm had become.  His son brought him back to the present.

“Five months ago we were enjoying a beautiful summer and everyone said we’d pay for it, that the winter would come early and the snow would be heavy.”

“Yeah, and I was one of them, telling the same thing to anyone who’d listen.  Now I’m just the foolish sheep farmer who can’t tell the direction of the wind even if I wet my finger and hold it in the air.”

“Come on papa.  This year’s caught everyone out.  It’s not just down to us anymore.  Think of all those satellites out there and they still can’t give us an accurate forecast.”

“Any farmer worth his salt should be able to mind his own, without the need for satellites or weather channels, son; just like my father and grandfather used to do.  Maybe the people are right; maybe I am just a foolish sheep farmer that prophesises ‘red sky at night’.”

“Enough papà.  Come on, let’s get the fence fixed so I can go to Cristina’s with that firewood.”

Giovanni looked into his father’s face.  This autumn had taken everything out of him.  His face was drawn and his eyes sunken and dark-ringed.  The quick smile was no longer there, replaced by a stare which admitted defeat.

“We can do the fence later, son.  Take the wood over to Cristina; if her father’s down in town, you’ll have to unload yourself, it’ll take time.”

Giovanni considered this.  It was true.  All the while the weather held, and it looked like holding for a fair while still, the bottom field fence wasn’t a priority.  The nights were cold and Cristina needed the wood.  He took the pick-up keys from his jacket pocket.

“Get some rest papa.  I’ll be back in a couple of hours, three at the most.”

“Give my regards to Cristina and her father, if he’s there.  I guess you’re right, I could use a little rest.”

“There’s nothing more any of us can do papa, at least until this weather shows signs of breaking.”  He got into the pick-up truck and the electric motor hummed as the window rolled down.  “Get some rest papa.  How about we go into town for a couple of beers this evening; it’s been ages since we’ve done that.”

“About the last time we saw any money coming through the door, son.”

The truck engine revved into life and Giovanni waved through the open window.  His father watched as the brake lights flashed once before the car drove out onto the road.

With a final spit into the dust, the old man looked once more at the sky.  With his head bowed, he heaved the coil of rope onto his shoulder and walked slowly to the still-empty barn.

Night kiss

3am, Sunday morning.
Dragged from dreams,
where feet walk on frosted blades
as a million stars fall from the sky,
which shivers
over silent faces hidden from me.
I reach out, they turn away
I call out, and they fade
 
The day,
still hours distant
is crawling round to meet me
 
I stand in the moon’s shadow
as the snow peaks stand hard and white
against black sky brushed with sweeping cloud,
the air cold on my skin
and I awaken under its kiss.
Nocturnal sighs in the blackened boughs
and, once again,
I have been tossed out into the night.

Lugano night, 3am.

Lugano night, 3am.

Dawn

The brevity
of morning’s clarity
Crystal-crusted peaks
standing sentinel

A sheer-sided cliff
black against blue
hides the sky above me
Its sides thick
with winter’s skeletons
stalking stick shadows,
stark
against night’s incandescence
which chases up the sun

A once waterfall
in winter suspension
and, like us all,
awaits the sun.

Goodbye, my sun

As the leaves burn brown
and rage in a riot of red
The low, winter light losing colour
looking tired and stretched
The sun’s early rising all but forgotten
another life, another time

The soltice shroud of darkness covers all
and the frost fingers;
hard and cold
grip the earth
And its frigid breath
bites the air

As the year ends in a flurry of colour

As the year ends in a flurry of colour

StoryADay May day 3 – Red sister

The prompt from 3 May contained required the use of ‘vermillion’ and ‘musky’.  I think I managed it.  It’s still 3 May in New Mexico, for example so technically I can still squeeze it in.  Well, it was written before my Swiss midnight.

**********

 

Her face looks beautiful in the bright, white light.  Her musky perfume fills the air as we sit on the terrace.  The shadows of her features pronounced in contrast, her nose creating a pyramid-shape and the furrows creating trenches in her forehead as she looked away from the glare; it’s a magical moment but one doomed to pass quickly, as all moments do.  In this early evening dim I am fascinated.

The day had dawned cold but bright, and, following breakfast of espresso and a croissant we decided to take a long walk along the coastal road, up and down the small hills with little traffic to disturb the tranquillity of it.  We must have walked more than 10 miles before deciding to stop for lunch at a small restaurant just off the road, perched on a small cliff overlooking the rock-strewn beach beneath us.  We ordered a Prosecco each from the bar and sat down at one of the small, plastic tables on the terrace, pulled our coats around us and lit a cigarette.

We had a fine lunch of spaghetti with clams followed by a shared lobster – what the hell, it was a special day after all.  The two bottles of white wine went down well, so well in fact I kept nodding off in the taxi taking us back to the hotel.  We stayed in bed for a couple of hours, making sweet love and holding each other close, barely speaking; there was no need.  Finally, as the daylight outside faded in its wintry haste, we took a shower, dressed and went down to the hotel terrace looking over the sea.  I tightened my scarf around my throat while she pulled down her hat and we sat.  Our drinks arrived.

The seagulls were screaming, swooping and diving every time a wave broke and the sound, along with that of the waves, filled the evening.

The western sky still glowed a variety of pinks and one by one the stars appeared but none outshone the beautiful Venus, her vermillion majesty abroad in the evening sky.  Sitting above the now-set sun she took centre stage.

“What’s that low star darling?”  She asked, pointing to it.  “It’s so bright.”

It was in fact enormously bright, even in the frigid winter air.  The hairs on the back of my neck made a lazy, crawling motion.  As we looked, she continued to burn brighter then, suddenly, her light expanded. It continued doing so until it seemed the sun had returned from below the horizon.  Still the light expanded.  The first knot of fear appeared in my stomach.

“What is it Honey?” She asked, holding my arm tighter.

“No idea, well actually I do but it’s not a rational one”

“Tell me!”  It was an order.  She fumbled in her bag for her cigarettes.

VENUS HAS EXPLODED! I wanted to shout.  I didn’t however.  My mind filled with possibilities and ramifications of our red sister disappearing into a million pieces.  My mind asked how, yet I knew the answer, it was obvious.

“Do you remember you read that article in the newspaper the other week about the approach of a couple of asteroids, big enough to do damage?”  I took one of her cigarettes and lit up.  Bloody low- tar were not need at this moment.  I broke the filter off and continued smoking.  I had her attention.

“Well the experts said they would pass within so many million miles of us.  I think that while we’ve been looking out of our porch to see if something was crossing our front lawn, no one told us what would happen if we left the back door open.  We’ve been worrying about a rogue asteroid or a misdirected comet for years but we’ve never considered other planets, I mean, why should we?  I think something has hit Venus and whatever it was was big.”

The light consumed the night sky.  The moon no longer cast a reflection over the calm, black sea.  The only reflection came from an ever-growing light around 100 million miles from us.

“Then we’re OK,” she said, sounding fairly convinced, “I mean what harm can it do us from here?”

She had a point; I mean what was going to happen?  A huge piece of rock had thrown itself into the second planet and by the looks of it had obliterated it, creating nuclear chain reactions and sending a million pieces flying through space.  What harm could it do?  I didn’t want to analyse that question, I didn’t need to.  I knew that somewhere across the gulf of space a piece of our sister planet was heading our way.

We ignored the cold and remained seated outside.  The bowls of olives and peanuts had been consumed; the ashtray had been emptied once and was steadily filling up again.  The light was getting ever brighter, the night sky lit completely, even the birds in the trees started singing, thinking it was daytime.  We continued to sit and watch, entranced.

Her face looks beautiful in the bright, white light.  In this early evening dim I am fascinated.  They told us the world would end December.  I’m now going to order us the most expensive champagne followed by the finest cognac.  I don’t think I’ll have time to pay for it.  I don’t think we’ll be here much longer.

Shadowplay

Living in a daily world of imaginary conflicts, in which the tide of others washed and pushed against him, He lived ever in anger’s twilight. The anger simmered, threatening to boil over but not quite managing to do so. In some ways it would have been better if it had.

In his make-believe world in which everything was a hurt against him, either directly or indirectly, he no longer lived; not in the true sense of the word. Whereas sensibility to his condition was heightened, other important aspects of his character were made obtuse. Happiness was an emotion felt by others. His anger would obtund any sense of enjoyment or achievement and his spiral continued downwards.

The world outside is bright
Spring fills the air
The fields and the trees are colour
Animals awaken from winter slumber
But within him the winter remained
And for him the clocks unchanged
He slivered on ice
where others walked on grass
He shivered with cold
while others warmed to the sun
He withered, his face white
when others danced with new life
He lingered in the shadows
whilst others cavorted in the long,
joyful hours of sunlight
He revered in his head
his sufferance in a world
where hurts imaginary
and conflicts obtusely
Beat him to the ground
into the dust, to be found
Where maybe hope one day
will bring him out;
out into the world again.

Depression can take manifest itself in various guises, this I know from personal experience.  Whilst at the height of my chronic insomnia 4 years ago the hospital put it down to depression which, personally, I couldn’t understand as there was no real motive, so I believed.  I just thought it was the other way around – that I was shot to pieces in the head, imagining scenarios which weren’t there simply because I didn’t sleep.  Thankfully, with loving support and no lack of determination, I managed to untangle myself from the shadow-spectre of this awful and destructive condition. 

During last 4 years I’ve started writing, which is a therapy in itself.  I still don’t sleep anywhere near the recommended 8 hours but whoever recommends this probably has nothing to do all day.  The above, in a very rough form, has been around quite a while, probably written during ‘recovery’ stage.  Ordinarily I avoid personally-related posts, but this is different – I want that reminder there.  I want to remind myself of where I was and where I am and be thankful for it.

C.

p.s. – Shadowplay is a track by Joy Division from their “Unknown Pleasures” album.  It just seemed apt in this case.

Flash Fiction Friday 132: Where There Is Hope There Is Hunger by Christopher Farley

Spring is now in full swing and I’m still writing with winter as a background. I think I need to see the sea…
As ever, thank you Morgen.

MorgEn Bailey - Editor, Comp Columnist/Judge, Writing Guru

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the one hundred and thirty-second piece in this series. This week’s is a 420-worder by Christopher Farley. This story will be podcasted in episode 40 (with two other stories and some 6-worders) on Sunday 25th May.

Where There Is Hope There Is Hunger

The bees were the first noticeable difference. Within just a few years there weren’t any. The pollen must have been modified in the same way the plants had been. The honey stocks fell quicker than a suicidal stockbroker after a Wall Street crash. They told us to be patient and that they would replenish the honey from laboratory stock, which they did. I don’t know what the hell it was made from but it was soft, runny and sweet, so I guess some people were happy. However, honey wasn’t the biggest problem; after all, we had sugar if we had the money…

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This cold dark night

Firelight, flame dance

shadow tango, flicker bright

Light, blaze and burn away

the cold, dark winter night

 

The cold black winter night

of frost, snow and ice

of chilled bones gently warmed,

reading by the firelight

 

Reading by the firelight

Shadow tango, pages white

Let your warmth envelope me

and burn away this cold, dark night

 

 

Cold and Dark

January;

gloved and hatted

walk.

Frosted breath,

then, finally

the warmth.

Then cold

that condences

on glass,

rivulets running.

The dark:

getting darker, and

crowned

by white.

The cold;

to the touch,

to the senses.

How I enjoy

a pint of Guinness

The Train Window

I was still breathing deeply and out of breath as the train left Milan and entered the countryside.  My heart was beating like a hammer on an anvil.  Did I really just witness someone killed?  Did I really see those men take a life?  Did those men see me as I ran for the safety of people and the station?  I was too far away to do something and hopefully to far away to be considered a witness, at least by those men.  Who were they?  What had the dead man done?  I relax into my seat, breathing under control and look out of the train window.

The flat, still-green farmlands speed by my view at about a 100 miles per hour; la Frecciarossa – the Red Arrow – is the train taking me across the northern Italian plain.  The vineyards; with vines now stripped of their fruit and displaying their autumnal dress.  Shades of green, red, yellow and brown fill my view: The window view.  Like the mother whose son has upped and left home, bearing the weight of the grapes is now a memory for the vine, which will soon be bare for the coming winter.

The low pylon wires running parallel to the track, powering the great train on its way, keep me company but spoil my view of the pale blue sky, slowly suffocating under fat, moist, grey clouds from the east.

The tilled earth of the northern plain, the soil, freshly turned, contrasting with the green, showing brown but somehow…clean.  The appearance of a hard job done well, of a tidy desk left in its place after a day at the office.  For the farmer it is his desk.  Where is that farmer now?  Enjoying the fruits of his labours?  Probably not; it’s a little early to get on the wine but I appreciate his spotless fields.

Now I’ve left the fields and entered a town.  Grey, monotonous concrete destroys any view I might have had.  It’s strange how grey feels so dismal, especially concrete, even in the sunshine.  If I can’t see out the window then I prefer the black of night, at least I can use my imagination.  God forbid it rain; there’s nothing more depressing than a miserable, wet winter’s day, with the light failing early and the concrete, sodden and cold, both to the touch and eye.  But it ends.

The fields have returned.  In the sunshine the fields come to life, even in the autumn.  The sunshine brings animation, inspiration, motivation even.  Motivation to keep moving; to follow the sun.  To not allow the autumn sun to set forever on another year and be followed with a violent sadness by the arrival of winter.  The sunlight flickers continuously from the flashing shade of the pylons and I shield my eyes.  Then relief comes as the train enters a tunnel, if I remember rightly it’s a long one.  I continue to stare out of the window.  The train roars through and I can’t hear myself think, so I don’t: I just stare, waiting. 

It’s then I notice in the window a shape behind me, blacker than the tunnel wall.  A man; standing…also waiting.  In the reflection is that a knife I see in his hand?

She

She whispers to me

the sound of the spring snowmelt

She holds me

in a snow-chain grip

She loves me

I’m pierced by an icicle

I slide unhindered

on black ice beneath me

Grey sky, leave me

Monday morning, dingy grey

Rain and sleet, sleet and rain

My mood, my being cannot sustain

The will to weather the winter

I wonder whether

I will fade to grey

As will fade this winter’s day

But a ray of light, burning bright

Incandescent, infinite

Crosses the continental divide

Across the ocean, cold and wide

But wider is the chasm without love

When I look upon a grey cloud sky

I should see the blue above

Winter

Old, tall silver-sided Sycamore tree

Silhouette against the grey winter sky

Leaves fallen, now gone

No sign your summer ever existed

In this cold December air

No sign my summer ever existed

Gone.  Another year passing.

The longing for spring is already upon me

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