Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Nanowrimo #12

The Man began his day with a cup of coffee and started a kettle of water for the Lady’s tea. He walked out into the yard in front of the shack to greet the sun as it woke the earth. He finished his coffee and walked over to the Lady, who was already in the garden preparing the day’s food, pecked her on the cheek, and walked down the road that he always walked down into the woods in search of the day’s meat. He passed the sled, which was already rusting from disuse, a gun, which he had damned months ago and tossed away, and a pile of various other belongings that neither he nor the Lady had any need for. The Man took only a rather large stick to bring back any carcasses, if it was necessary and plodded away down the trail.

Before he realized it, the afternoon was turning into evening and he had two squirrel carcasses and a half of a mouse tied to the stick, which he held with his right hand propped up on his shoulder, like a Norman Rockwell picturesque hobos. He reckoned that he must have eaten some of the mouse for lunch, but he couldn’t remember it. He also realized that he was almost home, and that made him quite relieved, and he looked forward to sitting in the little kitchen with the Lady, enjoying the night air and the sound of the crickets. As he bounded the last few yards towards the house he congratulated himself on such a productive day. As he set the stick on the porch, leaned up against the wall of the house, he noticed there, on the drying rack, another mouse, one that he had not himself caught. He set the food on the rack to dry and went into the house.

“The mouse on the rack. Where did it come from?” he asked, as he slid off his cumbersome shoes that were now clearly much too large for his feet.

With a look of delight and surprise, the Lady responded, “I killed it!” and chuckled at herself.

“You killed it yourself?” he asked.

“I was in the far garden, behind the house, clearing weeds from the turnips and I thought I saw something darting around. Before I knew it, I had it in my mouth—isn’t it the strangest thing? I thought about it all day and just a little while ago, I noticed it.”

“Hmm?”

“Look at us!” she said. She stretched out her arm. Her eyes were wide and she wore a faint, quizzical smile.

“Look at what?” he said, bewildered. And suddenly, so suddenly that he wondered how he ever could have failed to remember, he remembered. He remembered the row house downtown. He remembered the car that he had once loved so much. He remembered the dark navy suits that he wore to work in the office overlooking the bay. “Dear God, what happened?” but no words came out of his mouth; only pictures of things that he now recognized.

Darkness inside the shack blanketed the pair like a quilt. Crickets drone as loud as bombs falling, screeching at white moon filling the entire horizon now. Not bombs. The moon is falling, getting closer to the earth by the second, rushing forward to smash headfirst… He runs outside and looks up at the moon now. She follows, too, four feet hurrying silently behind, brushing against droplets of water fastened to the blades of grass and soft skin prickled by the cool night air. He looks up—it’s so bright now, it’s like a new, beautiful white sun—a new sun for new life. There are no words now. No pictures. There is nothing left to say.

The Lady sprints into the wood quick as a bullet. The Man only watches. Dear God, he thinks to himself, as he lies on the cold ground, watching her dart away from him, and tears won’t come.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Nanowrimo #11

The Man began his day with a cup of coffee and started a kettle of water for the Lady’s tea. He walked out into the yard in front of the shack to greet the sun as it woke the earth. He finished his coffee and walked over to the Lady, who was already in the garden preparing the day’s food, pecked her on the cheek, and walked down the road that he always walked down into the woods in search of the day’s meat. He passed the sled, which was already rusting from disuse, a gun, which he had damned months ago and tossed away, and a pile of various other belongings that neither he nor the Lady had any need for. The Man took only a rather large stick to bring back any carcasses, if it was necessary and plodded away down the trail.

Before he realized it, the afternoon was turning into evening and he had two squirrel carcasses and a half of a mouse tied to the stick, which he held with his right hand propped up on his shoulder, like a Norman Rockwell picturesque hobos. He reckoned that he must have eaten some of the mouse for lunch, but he couldn’t remember it. He also realized that he was almost home, and that made him quite relieved, and he looked forward to sitting in the little kitchen with the Lady, enjoying the night air and the sound of the crickets. As he bounded the last few yards towards the house he congratulated himself on such a productive day. As he set the stick on the porch, leaned up against the wall of the house, he noticed there, on the drying rack, another mouse, one that he had not himself caught. He set the food on the rack to dry and went into the house.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Nanowrimo #10

The days were beginning to warm, and the sun beat the roof of the shack enough in the afternoons that the Man could let the fire go out after they woke in the mornings and he did not have to build another until the sun was well beyond the horizon. The couple had forgotten why they came to the woods months ago and lived only for each other. In the mornings the Lady would gather grass and berries for breakfast and lunch. The Man hunted for squirrels and birds for their evening meals. There was little need for words, as their limited interactions existed solely between each other and with the wood, but their love grew stronger and took on the character of an ancient oak, with roots so thick and far-reaching that it may as well have been indestructible.

When the couple did speak, they spoke only of the present and the near future. Their deep-rooted past lives had finally eroded and the days were ephemeral now. This liberated the couple enormously. If, on a bad day of hunting, the Man returned with only one robin, neither the Lady nor the Man wished for yesterday’s bounty; Rather, they ate with gladness for the bird’s presence. When the day came that neither could remember what they had once thought flawed in the other, their love took on an immutable character, and they each breathed a long, deep sigh without knowing why.

That night they slept curled together on the dirt floor that the Man had dug out in the corner of the shack and that the Lady had bedded with straw and pine needles that she saved tending her modest garden. It was an odd sight, the couple cuddling in the corner, warming each other, dreaming about the sun and the clouds that made shapes when you looked at them for a long enough time. All the same, the two radiated compassion and tranquility as they slept, and when the two awoke early in the morning one might have noticed that neither the compassion nor harmony left their eyes when the magical world of dreams turned into sunrise. The chains that had choked the two in their lives before were unfastened at last.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Nanowrimo #9

Just as the Man was about to finish his cup full of lukewarm, instant coffee, he saw something move in the woods a few yards from him. He stood frozen and scanned the snow-covered ground for the movement. After a few moments, he noticed the slightest tremble of movement twenty yards in the direction of his well-worn path. A rabbit looked at the Man with deep red, knowing, eyes. The Man’s heart slowed to a stop and his mind went blank. There was nothing else in the world except for the eyes looking back at him. Slowly, after a long time, the details of the world came back; The Man could feel the heat radiating from the rabbit’s flesh, even from as many meters away, as it ever so slightly excited the molecules of air around the Man’s face. The air pressure increased and decreased with the rabbit’s lightning-quick inhalations and exhalations, and the man could feel it in his ears. When the rabbit spoke, the Man reeled backwards so hard that he struck his head on the stump and almost spilled his coffee. The rabbit did not speak in words, but in pictures. He showed the Man pictures of things that made no sense, as if he was speaking in a foreign language. When the Man tried to tell the rabbit that he did not understand only pictures came from the Man’s mouth. He crawled forward towards the rabbit, trying desperately not to make any noise. The rabbit stayed in the same spot, his breathing steady, without making a move.

Off in the distance the Man heard something that sounded like the boats that he used to watch pass in his office, and he realized that it couldn’t have been a boat, and that it had to be a tractor or some other sort of farm equipment. In the instant that this sequence ran through his head, stealing his attention for a fraction of a second, the rabbit was gone.

The Man walked over to where the rabbit had been sitting. Two footprints and an indentation from his haunch disturbed the otherwise pristine snow cover. To the east, five meters or more from where the rabbit sat was the divot where he landed from his first leap. The Man bent over and lightly touched the footprint. Then, carefully, he scooped it into his hand - whole, so as not to disturb it - and ate the snow in one mouthful. The Man stood up and walked back to the stump where he had sat down centuries ago for his rest. He finished the freezing cold coffee and gathered his bag together. He slung the bag onto the sled as he began walking back down the hill, trying to remember where he had seen the woodpiles earlier.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Nanowrimo #8

On the seventy-second day in the cabin the woman was outside picking grass for dinner. The man finished writing in his journal and put on his checkered hunter’s jacket to gather more wood for the ever-present fire. The winter had passed it’s peak sometime last month, but keeping the fire going each day was still a necessity, and, he imagined, would stay that way for at least another month and a half. After he had put on enough clothing to keep him warm in the forest for the next two hours that he would spend collecting wood, he took the sled from the corner and walked out the front door.

His path away from the cabin was already well worn into the snow. He knew his route well by now, and even enjoyed the solitary ritual of gathering loose timber. He kissed the Lady as he walked down the familiar path towards the woods, and checked the sky for clouds that might signal a fresh snowstorm. With the sky clear, he made his way into the forest. As he passed downed trees, he made a mental note of their location. He would walk for thirty minutes deeper into the forest, noting the deposits of wood, before retracing his steps back towards the cabin, piling the wood on the sled as he returned.

The final stretch of the Man’s route was an incline leading to a plateau raised twenty feet above the rest of the jungle of pines and snow. He would stop here and rest before embarking on his return journey to have some coffee from a thermos and enjoy the emptiness of the wood. When he reached the top of the hill and sat down on a stump that was once a great evergreen with at least two hundred years of life (and whose skeleton he had long ago harvested for the ancient timber) he found his thermos in his pocket. The Man poured himself a cup of warm coffee and thought about his new life without thinking about his previous life as a powerful man with an office overlooking the bay. Removing these things that he had known for so long – his home, his television, his linens, his car – changed little about how the Man went about day-to-day living but changed very dramatically the way that he thought about his own expectations. He no longer compared himself to his friends, for one thing. He was no longer waiting (always waiting, for what) for something foggy that never came into focus. He was no longer mired in anxiety over stakeholder confidence or his boss’s next paycheck. He tried not to think about this, however. The Man knew that he was happier but did not attempt to rationalize this happiness further for fear of the feeling leaving. Instead he sat on the aged stump and enjoyed the Ometeotl’ian duality of the warm coffee and the biting winter air before he returned to work.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Nanowrimo #7

Days passed and the couple began to adapt to the life outside of the city. Away from cell phones and beeping fax machines and television in place of conversation at dinnertime, the couple began to remember the reasons that they first fell in love. Or, at the very least, why they believed they should have spent their lives together. On the fourteenth day living in the cabin, the Man said something about someone that they both knew in school that made the Lady laugh for a long time. On the seventeenth day in the cabin, the woman kissed the man passionately and the Man forgot for a moment what he had been writing in his journal. On the thirty-first day in the cabin, when the couple made love, neither one of them thought about anything except the other for the entire afternoon. Even when they awoke the next morning, they both looked at the other with truly loving stares even before wondering if the instant coffee would taste better this time, or what the weather outside was like outside.

When the Man and the Lady had known each other for a year, the Man took the Lady out for dinner at one of the nicer restaurants in their city. The Lady wore a black dress and pearl earrings. The Man wore a suit and a tie. They laughed at dinner and ordered too much food and too much wine. When they looked at each other at the end of them meal, they both saw something different than the person who was sitting across from them at the table. What they saw was, in fact, something entirely different than who was actually there enjoying dinner with them. And so it went for a decade and then some, each seeing something that was never there, until that morning when they awoke beside each other. That morning they saw exactly what was there, and nothing more or less. They smiled at each other, and this time they each knew what the other was thinking. For the first time in a decade of living and loving together they understood each other without speaking. The Man smiled again, rose, kissed the Lady, and walked towards the kitchen to make instant coffee that would not taste any better this morning than it did yesterday.

Ed: Please note, it does not stay faggy like this for long.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Nanowrimo #6

The fire roared when the man finally got it started. Starting fires was no longer an everyday activity for the two of them. At some point two hundred years ago people began to forget how to do things like starting fires. We learned new things like how to light gas stoves and cigarettes, but something more basic was lost in the shuffle. The Man remembered when he went with his father on trips to the mountains. He thought that remembered that you start little pieces of cotton and get slowly bigger, until the flame could lick its way around the trunks of trees and rise into the night sky filled with crickets and stars and the lake lapping the shore. He didn’t have any cottonballs, but he managed with a pack of matches and some twigs. This fire was captive, inside the stone fireplace, and considerably smaller than the ones that he remembered laboring over with his father, but after an hour he reared it to a point where the two of them could relax and sit back in the simple, luxurious armchairs in the sitting room.

Neither of them spoke a word as they sat in the armchairs, both believing the other to be deep in thought regarding their faltering love. What they were both really thinking about, however, was the snow bunny that they saw dash away hours earlier, into the forest where the animals lived secret lives away from the eyes of all of us.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Nanowrimo #5

The cottage that they were renting was a six hour drive north, far away from the metropolis where their love had first blossomed. As they got further and further from the futile city in the rented jeep, they began to relax and enjoy the drive. The robust city blocks turned slowly into suburb and then into farmland. The anxiety of the coming months was undeniably overpowered by the connection that the Lady and the Man felt coming back as they retreated into the country. Soon trees replaced the rows of corn. Soon after that the road began twisting and turning as if it would not have allowed itself to be laid down in a straight line, as if it wanted it’s patrons to explore the surroundings. The road gave several unexpected inclines and declines before settling on a steady uphill grade. Snow was accumulating along the shoulder and soon the couple had to slow their ascent to stay on the pavement.

The Man and the Lady in the rented, green jeep passed a road sign that proclaimed: "Welcome to Maryhill, Population 364, Elevation 2860." After a moment, they found the turn that the travel agent told them to take, 'the one with the red barrel off the road,' and they turned right onto the muddy road. Another half mile from the main road they found a cottage that looked like something described in a children’s book. It was, truly, everything that you might imagine a real honest to God log cabin to be. The sides of the house were made of hand-hewn logs. The shutters were painted a dark shade of green. The door was also the same shade of green. Both looked as if they were chiseled from solid blocks of the towering oaks that stood around them for miles, and painted once in the last century and left to weather as the sky saw fit.

As the snow floated down from the canopy above, the couple exited the carriage and stood in awe at the scene. For hours the couple stood in front of the cottage without saying a word. The snow flirted with their lips and bare hands and melted before it might have had the chance to be brushed away. Suddenly, to the right of the house, there was a quick, fleeting noise of undergrowth snapping and branches rubbing against each other. “What was that,” whispered the Man. Then they saw it, moving away from the house. A snow-white bunny leaping feet at a time across the white ground, leaving dimples in the powder where he landed. And before the Lady could say a word the rabbit was gone into the forest.

The movement broke the spell of the house, and the couple gathered their supplies and brought them inside.