Deck The Trees…

In The Dark Mid-Winter

Meanwhile, Graham had limited himself to just a few glasses of the highland nectar. The effect upon him was quite profound after weeks of abstinence and he found the situation most agreeable. What could be better than a winter break, in a beautiful castle with friends? Planning to sight see all on his own, he was quietly pleased when a number of others joined him in his stroll around the place. His historical knowledge removing everyone from the reality that lay beyond the walls.

Judith was at her best organising others. That first evening when the combined efforts of herself and Mr. Dale had resulted in a room allocation that would have not looked out of place in a military mobilisation, she set about further managing arrangements for the evening meal. Not venturing into the kitchen personally, the memories of her incarceration still vivid, she sought out the best cooks, peelers, kitchen porters and washer-upperers. Tinned food was in abundance and so, to their surprise was a vast stock of game that hung invitingly in a cold store. Not just a meal but a feast and Judith wrote a menu to boot.

When eventually the dinner was served, the clocks that were still working stated that it was nearing two in the morning, nobody seemed to mind. Time had been put on hold and, for the family of friends, it was the moment to celebrate some type of deliverance. Wine had been discovered, beer was drunk and laughter was heard to echo around the halls in a way that it had never done so before. Graham would have given a speech but had to abandon it when his worlds refused to emerge unadulterated by a certain Speyside that had taken his fancy. With unknown forces closing in around them, the members of the group had not felt as secure as this since well before that terrible day.

At some point, a guitar was produced and, to the amazement of Graham, Judith took hold of it and played one of the most haunting renditions of  Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind. When she stroked the final chord, a roar of applause rocked the room. Those who had been singing smiled through their tears and the younger ones just laughed at the way the old ones did not seem to care that they were embarrassing themselves.

“Where did that come from?” enquired Graham in an instant of lucidity.

“The guitar or the song?”

“You.”

“Oh, I was a child of the sixties, flower power and all that. I was a hippy for a while, still am deep down.”

“Must have been one of the most organised of your brethren.”

“Hippies can be organised. Look at Woodstock and Glastonbury. Look at all of us here.”

Graham did so and realised her point. “Hippies one and all,” he proclaimed to himself before falling into a contented miasma once more. 

At some indistinct point in the very early hours, most people went to bed. There would be some extremely thick heads in the morning.

Chris and Lucy had wandered off to find the quiet that was needed for what they could not keep holding in. Keeping a torch held between them, they made the progress through corridors that yawned open at their approach. Regardless of all they had seen, there still remained a nostalgic menace about the adventure.

“Do you think it is haunted?” Lucy asked through a childlike smile.    

“What? Headless horseman and all that? Yes, I hope so.”

“So do I.” She pulled closer to him, pulling on his left arm and squeezing it for reassurance.

“I think I’d welcome a proper ghost, it would make things seem right again.”

Lucy agreed yet didn’t say anything.

Chris found what he’d been looking for, the library. The sheer volume of books leant another comfort from a bygone time. Bookcases reached to the ceiling, leather bound volumes a testament to mankind’s worth. Lucy was smiling broadly now.

“I love libraries and this, well this is just magnificent.”

Chris, who had never been as bookish as his elder brother, was surprised to be thinking the same thing. It wasn’t just the books, or the supreme environment, it was statement, the certainty that the room afforded them. He felt Lucy strain a little and felt her impulse to search the tomes, but he needed to talk and there were a couple of inviting Chesterfields waiting near the huge window. If Chris had ever known anything of romance, he could not have picked a better place. His decision, however had been informed by a nagging doubt that remained like a tiny alarm bell going off deep in the cellar of his mind. From here, he could see the extent of the snowy grounds. They sat facing each other. Lucy spoke first.

“D…Chris…”

“You always do that. Ever since we met, you’ve been calling me David. Who’s David? An ex boyfriend or something?”

Lucy was relieved that the darkness hid her rising blushes.

“David is from the Bible. He was the one who fought Goliath. It’s just that, when I saw you, when I was hiding in the Head’s office, you made me think of him.”

“Well, that’s probably a relief.”

“I’ve never had a boyfriend before.”

“And I’ve never had a girlfriend.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No. It was always sport first. Nothing else.”

“Chris,” Lucy had returned to her formal voice, “are we going to be, well, attached?”

“If you want to put it that way, yes.”

Lucy lifted herself from her chair and walked over to her new hope. She sat down gently on his lap and raised both hands to either side of his face.

“You promise me that you will be true.”

“I will. I do.”

“Then let’s honour this with a kiss.” She moved her head forward with the grace of a swan, meeting his lips whilst running her fingers though his hair. Chris had never thought that a kiss could be so enveloping. He closed his eyes and imagined myriad possibilities for their futures. 

The first kiss, an exercise in time-travel, lasted for a duration that could not be defined. When they finally parted, the need for air being greater than their desires for each other, Chris opened his eyes. What he wanted to do was behold Lucy, her face a radiance in the cold moon of the night. What he glimpsed from the corner of his eye was a movement hugging the line of trees across the vast lawns, a movement that was vague and yet distinct. Lucy immediately noticed the change that had occurred.

“What is it?”

Now Chris had turned all of his attention to the view from the window and Lucy did so as well.

“What is it? What do you see?”

“I don’t know. Look over there by that line of trees.”

The torch had been placed on the floor so that the light it emitted would not be apparent from without. Whatever had moved, was now still.

“It might be nothing. It could have been an animal. Probably nothing…look there! Did you see that?”

Lucy did think that she may have seen something so she sharpened her perception, adjusting her eyes to the night. The moon was now almost full and was sitting in an empty sky. Already, with the lack of cloud cover, the recently fallen snow was taking on a sheen that spoke of near artic conditions. They watched for a long time, but nothing re-emerged from behind any of the foliage.

“Whatever it is, it will freeze to death if it stays out there for long.”

Chris just nodded.

“Come on, let’s go so our room.”

That night, they kept to their promise even though nobody would have known if they had not. Struggling with what he thought he may have seen, Michael got out of his bed not long after he had heard the noises that suggested Lucy had fallen into sleep. He stood by the window and kept vigil until morning arrived.

Nothing was stirring, not even a Rat.

Merry Christmas from The Piper

Those creatures that could hibernate had already done so. The snow lay upon the earth and suspended much that was life. In the bleak midwinter, only those things that needed to move, moved. Without man, without his never ending battle to control nature, without snow ploughs of gritting machines, the world was thrown back to an age that was pre-industrial. An observer, unknowing of the causes of this white wonderland, would have marvelled at the beauty of it all. In the days leading up to Christmas, very little was stirring but the rats and the first of The Leathermen.  

The dead father, as Michael called him, had done his job well. His works of art had been well preserved. Away from the damp, devoid of heat and free from pests that would chew, burrow and lay eggs, the works of art had hardened in the freeze. Perfectly preserved (a few major cuts and bruises not withstanding) they were as near to excellence as one could imagine. Not even the celestial majesty of the Sistine Chapel could have created a thing as miraculous as this. For these creations were now a part of the living world once again and had the power to move one emotionally and physically.

These new additions were welcomed to the ranks of the distantly deceased, that forgotten brigade of hermits who had perished unknown, unwanted and unmissed. Of these James Harrison had assumed a mastery that was only matched by the positions enjoyed by Flowers and Hope in the respective worlds. The days were at hand when the dead would walk the earth, the world of creation would choke upon its implausibility and the forgotten ones would rule.

Those followers of Flowers who had not entered the forest in pursuit of the traitor and the girl had massed. Their numbers were greater than had been estimated. There eyes were added to by the rats who would scour the land for the remaining Resistors and a large group of them had been found. They were close by in an old castle escaping the worst of the snow. Already, scouts had been sent to reconnoitre the place and it appeared that the Resistors had failed to mount any guards or sentries. There was plenty of time to gather and plan. Once the snow had abated, they would move themselves into position, encircle and ensnare. The end was nigh and so was the beginning.

Unsaid…

“It’s okay to cry.”

I was back in the office of my counsellor.

Could it be just me or is crying in front of a stranger, a strange female, something that most middle-aged men would find acceptable? I did everything that I could do to keep a stiff upper lip. I braced myself. I took deep breaths.

“If you want to cry, it is all part of the process.”

I was part of a process now. I was in the process of working through a personal trauma that had brought me to a crashing standstill and…now I was being asked to cry as some type of cleansing therapy. The problem was that I thought that crying would be just a little distraction. It would be like having leaches placed on an exposed stretch of skin with the intention of them sucking out the corruption. Tears would not do it. I hadn’t even cried at my father’s funeral or at any time since he’d died.

One of my favourite films is Field of Dreams. This, as most of you will know, is a male weepy. There has never been a time when I have watched it that I have been able to control the seepage of emotion.

“Dad, do you want to play catch?”

I can feel the artesian well now, but there is no music, no camera angles and no conclusion to our shared journey. You see, the film was a process in itself. As was my father’s death. The question is, why has the death of my dad come back to haunt me after over five years?

A huge lump of granite lay in my stomach. I was being asked to regurgitate the past. That block of forever granite was there, sentinel, obstructive. My dad was listening to what I was about to say. I heard him sitting in the corner, a shuffle of shoes and a cursory clearing of the throat. It is alright, I wanted to tell him, it is alright, I’m not going to break down. But the tide of emotion was returning from the morning I saw him cold and grey in the sterility of the hospital’s chapel of rest.

“You go, Matthew,” my mother had said. “I can’t look at him.”

She had sat all day and through the night. She had talked and silently sobbed as he waded into the shallows. She held his right hand, closer in this moment than in many a year they had shared before. She was holding his hand when the nurse arrived to check. It wasn’t alright. My mum, trapped in hope, had not noticed the changes on the monitor. She held his hand and squeezed as if to rub some more time into him. His chest rose and fell, rose and fell, and he was, for all intents alive. The nurse moved off quickly and returned with the doctor. By this point, my mother would have been becoming aware. But her husband was breathing. Watch the rising and falling of his chest. He always slept deeply.

“Mrs Evans, I’m sorry but your husband is dead.”

What did they know? He is still breathing. Look at his chest. Look at his chest.

“That’s the respirator, Mrs Evans. It is the respirator that is doing that.”

No, it wasn’t. He was still alive. He was sleeping. Come on Brian, wake up.

I have never seen her so empty as I saw her that morning. I was the dutiful son taking the lead. When I saw him in the chapel of rest, I understood that his passing had left a vacuum in all our lives.

“Dad,” I murmured. “Dad, what are you doing scaring us all like this?”

He didn’t answer. His face was sunken and pale. Death had been with him for some ten hours.

I wanted to be Jesus. Come forth Brian. The stubborn bugger wouldn’t move; he was in a mood with me.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered so that my mum wouldn’t hear me.

I wasn’t really sorry about what I was apologising for but I was sorry that he managed to die before we had properly worked it through. You see, we had argued some months prior to this and had only recently, grudgingly shrugged of the disagreement. And disagreement it certainly was. As our arguments went, this was top by a long score. Every single family factor was brought to the table and every last piece was served in ballistic fashion.

Charlotte had started sitting forward in her chair as I spoke. She was avidly listening but her stance had changed from counsellor to interested participant. She had become the audience and would occasionally stop me to ask for explanation of events and back-stories. Back-stories, I had in abundance.

My dad was born the second youngest of a family of twelve. He had ten brothers and one older sister. By the time he was ten, his father had left the family in search of work. He never returned so it fell upon his mother to bring up the sons. The daughter had married and moved into her own home. At the age of twelve, my dad had to go around to his elder sister’s house with a note. The note informed her that their mother had died suddenly. Norah, the sister, was obliged to take the other siblings under her wing. I gather that she did so with a stoic quality that was common of that age. The war had just ended so there were a lot of people in similar circumstances. War had taken many fathers in the field of

combat whilst enemy bombings had taken a significant number of those who remained at home. A brave new world was at hand and the ones who faced it did so with uncertainty and trepidation. Nevertheless, the worst was over.

I have stories that he told me about his childhood but there aren’t many. I know that a bomb once landed in their back garden after a raid. They discovered it the next morning and put ashes over the offending intruder until the right authority came to deal with it. Ashes? Odd choice.

So, the years that followed were growing up years. He was a bit of a dare-devil and a tearaway. He played rugby to a decent standard. He told me of a brief relationship he had with a married woman and about the ensuing fight he had with her husband. In fact, he had two fights: one with the husband and the husband’s mate in which my dad was beaten up and one when he hunted down his cowardly assailant some months later and gave him a return beating. I was proud of that part of him. After the war, he went to technical college even though he had passed his 11 plus. He was bright, gregarious and sharp as a knife.

“You sound as if you’re proud of your father.”

“I suppose it does. But…” I had to stop and think. “But actually, I often think that I never knew him.”

I’ve noticed with myself in the last couple of years that I have drawn further within the older I get. My wife has noticed it as well. She has told me that I never talk about anything.

“Why do you think that is?”

“What’s the point? It doesn’t solve anything. Nobody notices. It’s like the stuff that people say after a sudden death, “Make the most of every second because you never know when it’s your turn”. The thing is, that it is always going to come around, your time. Somebody has just died since I’ve written that and you’ve read this . Seize the day! What I want to know is how we are supposed to seize it. What are we supposed to be seizing?”

“Do you think they may mean that we should do what we really feel that we should do?”

Charlotte was coaxing out more explanation.

“I think it’s just something that people say as a comforter. When somebody has died, we have a desire that it must make sense. We aren’t just born to die. We are supposed to be creatures that have a higher purpose. It’s supposed to have meaning. What if it was all just nonsense? What if every single thing that we do, every series of events that snake around us, everybody we have ever loved or even hated for that matter, are just accidents of chance. If that is the case, then we are all lost without even knowing it.”

“What do you think?”

She asked me this question, probably aware that I didn’t have an answer. My mind was tumbling with newly sprouted hypotheses but there was nothing firm about it. Mental masturbation is what it was, creating questions and running down pathways, not to reach a climax of understanding but just to play around with the thoughts. The truth of it was that I liked this after-accident evaluation. Part of me was dead and the rest was floating above the scene trying to make sense of it. Nevertheless, just the act of trying to make sense made sense.

To Be Is To Do.

To Do Is To Be.

Do Be Do Be Do.

Cognito ergo sum.

“I think that I don’t know. I think that I will have to think about it some more; and then some. I think that I should sometimes stop thinking and just do, be do be do. My dad never had a problem with discarding deep thinking. He once criticised me for thinking too much about the past. He told me to, “Just get on with today.” I told him that I found that impossible and that I found the past interesting. He said something about dead people and nonsense. I just nodded and turned away. I wonder if he would have ever imagined that I would be thinking about him now all these years after he died?”

Don’t think. Don’t prevaricate. Act.

Act 1 Scene 1

A middle-aged man in a room with a woman. They are sitting facing each other. He has his right leg crossed over the other and is pushed back into his chair. She is sitting slightly forward. She holds a notepad and a pen but she doesn’t write. The man is talking. The woman is listening. Her eyes watch him whilst he looks beyond her into some vague setting.

“Where are you now?” She asks.

I’m back in school. I’ve just played football for the school team and I scored the winning goals.”

“Why do you look so unhappy?”

“My dad never came to see me. I played football lots and scored lots of goals. I was a decent player. Not once, not ever, did my dad come to see me play. How does a father do that to his child? What was he thinking? The thing is that I learnt from him. I learnt how not to be a father. My wife taught me how to be a proper one, a dad and a husband.”

“How does that make you feel?”

“I suppose that it should make me feel angry. I should be full to the brim with resentment. All those years of playing and not once was he there to see me. That was the norm for working class men. Too busy at the club with their mates playing at being lads who never grew up. Never, never. And, do you know what? I do feel something about that which is not anger at him, but guilt for my own self. It was me who was the cause of him not being there. I was a let-down and there was nothing I could do to change his mind. He didn’t come to see me because he wasn’t proud of me so I spent the rest of my life trying to make him proud. That was after I had got over the fact that I once thought that I hated him.”

The Troubled Saviour

Lucy had not spoken much to Chris since that terrible day. If his brother had folded in on himself, so had Chris. Lucy thought that it was like a house of cards, when one was taken away, the whole thing collapsed. Where Michael had fallen, his brother and mother could soon follow.

She was grateful that Laura had taken to her. Chris, on the other hand, had seen the urgency of his brother’s situation and had devoted all of his efforts and time towards him. This left Lucy stranded yet concerned. Her thoughts about the eldest brother were complicated. He had been there in her dreams and she had witnessed the power he could harness. He had destroyed the Leathers and had chosen to appear from nowhere, just at the thirteenth hour, to save them. Yet it was not Michael who had been their saviour, but that dark and troubled archangel. Well, that was everybody’s belief.

Laura had snuck out of the room some time ago, her steps speaking of her desire to mask her exit. Lucy had played along, closing her eyes and taking deep sleeping breaths. When she heard the door close behind her, she slowly sat upright before making her way to the wall between hers and Chris’s room. She placed a glass to the wall and listened to the barely audible conversations beyond. She listened as the voices of mother and son fell little above silence and then she heard the whispered opening of their bedroom door.

Lucy adjusted her position and moved towards her own door. Once more, she placed the glass quietly against the old wooden panel and rested her ear on the cold base. Now she could hear more clearly. Chris’s voice was raised in panic. She dragged at the handle and was outside her room as Chris struggled with the stiff figure that was his mother.

“Chris, what’s happening?” she almost screamed.

“It’s Mum. She found this thing,” he said pointing at an item that was about thirty centimetres in length and was glowing, “and now she’s just gone blank. I can’t wake her.”

For a moment, Lucy looked upon the older woman and saw an unwanted resemblance to the expression she had seen on Michael’s face. It was an unlikely marriage of happiness and grief. Her knuckles were whitening around the object she was holding and the strain was in her face.

“Get that thing out of her hand,” she rushed out.

The spell around Chris was fractured. His eyes turned towards the flute his mother had lifted from the bedroom floor and he made to grab it from her.

Lucy saw that something was wrong. The woman whom she had come to know as Laura, a person whose kindness and consideration stretched out as caring arms, was now changed.

Laura snarled. She actually snarled and a bared her teeth at her middle son. There were no words, nothing that was language. The noises coming from Christopher’s mother were primitive and defensively aggressive. Before she knew what next to expect, Laura was falling upon her middle son. Lucy could stand no more. She attacked the mother.

The object in the mother’s hand was a needle, a hypodermic needle, and it was moving towards her son’s eye. Chris was struggling to keep it at bay, but he was losing. Laura had to do something significantly more than just pulling.

She scanned the corridor for a weapon. She wanted something heavy and blunt, something that would impair yet not kill. A red fire extinguisher lay on its side and she grabbed it.

The distance between the tip of the needle and the boy’s eye was reducing to nothing. The madness of the world was falling around her. Without thinking, she raised her weapon and prepared her assault.

In the Attic

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At the top of our house sits the attic.

It is a part of our home in the same way that deeply forgotten thoughts are a part of our lives. It houses (it warehouses) those things that are no longer relevant to our current lives: old records, VHS videos, children’s Christmas presents (old ones), books, sleeping bags and Christmas tree lights.

We were up there again, commenting on the damp, and finding things that we really should have thrown out. I am the one who keeps things. I think that everything has its place in life and to discard the unwanted may somehow be wrong. My wife likes to clean out so as not to collect too much baggage and possible nonsense.

So, as a recently recovered madman, I agreed with her. Throw, throw, throw. But it’s Sunday and the tip is closed. The wife loves the tip, I sometimes think more than she loves the present. The tip is a clean break, a fresh start, a cleansing. I just see lots of memories thrown into piles in skips that don’t care.

The attic was cold and there was a definite kiss of damp. the edges of some old books had curled and some odd growth had settled among reports from my middle-daughter’s primary school. They were of no use, but it was somehow wrong to confine them to the eternity of refuse.

At moments like this, I find it impossible to reason with my wife. She is right and I am emotionally wrong. I would hoard everything as a way of keeping the memories alive.

She found a bag of letters and she told me to take them downstairs. When we sat at the dining table and examined our find, it was like uncovering the remains of an Iron-Age burial mound.

There were letters from people whose names we hardly recognised, but to whom we must have been really close to at one time. There were letters from people from whom we had strayed in the intervening years and we wondered at the changes that life had inflicted. There were letters from still close friends that unveiled a long forgotten aspect to their personalities, lines that could prompt genuine amusement all these years later. There were postcards. There were photographs. The captured images revealed us over twenty five years previously and we had to look at ourselves to be double sure.

And then there was the phone book. Numbers written a quarter of a century before. Numbers that would no longer ring or connect. Numbers that trailed off into a stifled eternity.

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For some reason, I wanted to dial those numbers and defy the time in between.

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Some day somebody may answer.  

 

Wise Men Say…

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My childhood was dominated by memories of The King. Elvis Presley, Aaron to be more precise. My mother was in love. She was smitten with this hip-shaking, breath-taking, king of Rock and Roll. We were the family from The Commitments who could not conceive that there was anything better than the lip-curling kid from Tupelo, Mississippi, the voice of a generation before us and one that could not be beaten. Our commitment to The King was complete and it was cemented with our mother’s undying love.

At that point, we never realised that she had another love, one that could never be requited; Rock Hudson. 

I had a particularly bad singing voice. People would stop me in the street just to complain to me about it. You see I loved singing, but singing didn’t love me. Unless I did Elvis Presley songs. Elvis and I, I like to think, were joined at the spiritual hip. We were both working class lads whose middle name began with A (mine was for Andrew not Aaron). For some reason, and this may have been only me who heard this, we both sounded like each other. I would practice at night upon going to bed. It would start with something rocky like King Creole and then move into a couple of love songs, Love me Tender and Only Fools Rush In. that helped to set the scene. With each hip-rolling lyric I was being transformed into The King. I even learned to roll my lip the way he did.

In the sixties, Elvis started to become a little uncool. He started making excrutiatinlgy unbearable films (movies to my American cousins) such as Kissin’ Cousins and Clambake. Regardless of being an Elvis Presley devotee, I kept it quiet if I ever watched these on Saturday afternoons. I did like Flaming Star, a decent western in which he showed a little acting ability and obviously Jailhouse Rock, King Creole and…the list is not endless. Still, I believed that I was becoming Elvis.

My mother loved Elvis whilst my father mocked him a little. Dad was a Frank Sinatra fan and, possibly like me, saw much of himself in his idol. He would never admit that he followed Frank, it was not manly and was certainly not the done thing in working-class West Yorkshire. I tried to keep my Elvis to myself. My mother swooned when one of his songs would be aired on the radio. She positively melted when he was on TV.

“He can only sing certain songs,” my dad would goad.

“Shut up, you. you’re only jealous!” She would snap back.

On those bitterly cold winters nights, I would retreat to the relative comfort of my bedroom, pull an extra coat on the bed, leave my socks on, roll my head to accompany the rock that was to come, and then sing my heart out.

“Shut up!” The chorus would come, “Shut up and go to sleep before your father gets back from the club.”

My singing would then take a downturn into the hardly-audible. I was praying the words, offering up myself to a greater power, the living god of Rock n Roll.

Getting older meant that certain songs could not be sung. The seventies brought Glam Rock, Prog Rock and then Punk Rock. The King must have seen it coming and decided to make himself less and less visible. Ironically, during this time, he was becoming more and more visible through his love of all food bad. His weight shot up as his fame dropped   down. I still managed a neat impersonation of him singing, In The Ghetto. That was a rather socially aware number that I believed was socially acceptable, As The Snow Flies. I have never seen snow flies, but I think that they must be rather hardy little pests.

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On August 16, 1977, The King died.

I was in bed, drifting off to sleep. Too old to sing his songs without my parents considering the option of sectioning me in our local lunatic asylum. I could hear the TV from downstairs. Mum was watching it whilst my dad shared a few pints with his mates at the club.

I heard a long drawn-out, “Oh, no.” Quickly followed by, “No. Please, no.”

I knew he was dead. I went downstairs and found my mum in tears.

“He’s dead, Mike. Elvis is dead. It’s not fair.”

My sisters were both downstairs at this point and they joined he in the ritual shedding of tears. Even my father was sad when he returned. The King was dead.

That night, I tried to summon up his spirit and channel it within me. I could think of no better use for my defunct voice box than to become the conduit for King Creole’s magnificence. It didn’t happen.

My mum got over her infatuation and moved on. She was never the same with her affections and never openly declared her love for icons until later when her somewhat secret love was no secret any more. Rock Hudson, dashingly handsome and quirkily funny in his outings in Pillow Talk with Doris Day, died on October 2nd 1985. He died of Aids related illnesses after hiding his sexuality for al of his movie-star career. My mother sobbed. My father shrugged his shoulders.

“If only he had met me. I could have cured him,” she declared.

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In those days, they had no cure for homosexuality.

Nor for unrequited love. 

 

 

 

For Dark Winter Nights 3

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It was the freezing air that tried to enter. 

For a moment he stood, transfixed by what had taken place. The world had changed and it was waiting for him.

One small step and he was through the door. He wore only flimsy slippers, worn away to the bone. He wanted to turn back. He didn’t.

Under the slight shelter of his porch, he paused momentarily and surveyed the blank covering. It was simpler with snow. It was also easier to pick out tracks that could have been responsible for all of this nonsense.

In his eventual urgency, he had forgotten to take a torch, but a full moon rode the night sky and leant illumination. Snow covered contours, levelled slopes and shadow-covered hazards. It also betrayed tracks, or footsteps, of those that had been there. Yet, although he tried, he could not discern anything of importance.

He had always prided himself on his ability to track and to hunt. Little escaped him when he set himself to the task of proving his worth. In the old days, he had hunted the upper slopes and even the peaks. Both he and his brother ventured far into the higher reaches in order to win the respect of their father. They were as tight a team as any other on the mountains. No, they were tighter. But this didn’t stop their battle.

A year separated them, making him the second in line. Everything would go to the eldest. He had never considered this when they were younger boys, journeying into the winter lands and calling each other’s dare. Their challenges were frequent and forever evolving in difficulty. They liked to push themselves and each other to see what was possible. They had no mother to worry for them and their father expressed little concern. The boys could be gone for a number of days at a time, but there would be nothing of concern coming from the old man; nothing to suggest that he considered that there was any real danger. After all, hadn’t the last of the wolves been killed in his father’s time?

“Stop thinking about it!”

He had spoken these words out loud. He now spoke much of his words out loud. There was nobody to hear him, nobody to suggest that he was a crank. He could do as he liked.

“Hellooo,” he hollered into the vast emptiness and waited for his words to bounce back.

The exertion of the utterance had an unwanted effect. He was sharply aware that he needed to piss again. The house was behind him, further away than he had imagined. He didn’t realise that he had travelled so far away from it. Half a mile, he surmised.  Half a mile? However did that happen?

He had choices: he could turn back to the farmhouse now or he could just relieve himself out here. He could stain the brilliant white with his yellow issue. The idea appealed to him. He liked the freedom of pissing out of doors. He liked the potential offence that it could cause others. He enjoyed spoiling the perfection of it all. Just as long as it didn’t freeze his cock off.

He laughed to himself and started to extract his tool.

The piss was greater than ever. It flowed in an impressively torrential jet of liquid and steam. When it hit the snow, it cut through it like the proverbial hot knife; or, hot piss through snow. They had had pissing contests.

His brother prided himself on the unusual length of his member. But beyond showing it off at any chosen point in time, there was little else his extra inches were good for.  It was his, the younger brother’s item that could shoot faster and further, much to the annoyance of the eldest sibling. These days, his power was less, much less. The years meant that he needed to visit more, but those visits were very far from torrential; drips were all that occurred, drips and a bad aim.

“Tonight, I piss for the gods!”

And he did. He pissed so long and hard that the covering of already hardening snow completely relented and gave up its sovereignty. He watched it with wonder.

“Praise be,” he announced as his waters continued to part the ground. “God is great!”

He decided to leave his own name for everyone to see. Not until he had finished did he realise that he had spelt out, G O D . He laughed at his mistake. He felt that he could laugh until he died and that felt good, very good indeed.

It was the first howl that stopped him in his tracks.

He hastily replaced himself and searched the scene for the source. Some way off a stealthy shadow watched him, but did not move. It was the man’s turn to move. He was too old to play such stupid games and so, he set himself for the journey back to the house.

He had travelled only a few steps when his feet were lost from under him. He fell helplessly and face-first into the snow. He was dazed. He reached around himself to get support and something touched his outstretched hand. It was there in the snow all along and he had walked past it. But now as he pulled the thing towards him, he recognised a hand, a very old hand.

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This time, the solitary howl was joined by several more.