|A Oneshot a Day
Author: Walking in Xanadu PM
...keeps the psychiatrist away. My summer project; a collection of short-less than 2,000 words apiece-oneshots. Rated T for some dealings with death, mild cursing, mentioned drug use-nothing really bad. WARNING: 1ST PERSON DOES NOT MEAN IT'S ALL MY LIFE!Rated: Fiction T - English - Chapters: 25 - Words: 18,003 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 06-23-08 - Published: 05-30-08 - id: 2524596
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The park bench was warm when I set down, though the sun had already drifted behind the nearby oak at that point. The oak was tall and stately, and I imagined that I would have climbed it, had I spent my childhood days thereabouts. Unfortunately, I had grown up in the middle of the city, far from trees of any sort, but for the scraggly plants they stick beside roads to lend to the picture that everything is beautiful in the city. Those trees, though, are ever sickly and weak, mere cotton swabs attempting to brush away an enormous spill of smog.
Here, though, Kingsfield, Vermont, it was a nice place. A little quiet, maybe, but the neighbours were friendly. They had to be; there was no one else around. It was one of those types of towns where everyone knows everyone else's business. I had yet to get used to that aspect of it, however I fancied that I would like it once I had. Well, not like it, but appreciate it, at least. Knowing that I could ask my neighbours whether I could borrow a spatula or a hammer or whatever else had definitely come in handy while I was still unpacking.
I wondered whether Carol would calm down some when she saw how friendly the town was. She was thirty years old, so I suppose sixty must have seemed ancient to her, but I didn't need her constant nagging, no matter how touching it was. I was in fine health; I wasn't about to kick the bucket yet. In fact, the move was probably delaying my death, if anything, since I was getting away from the smog and away from the constant noise of the city. Here, here was peace. Carol was concerned, though, because there was no hospital within a twenty mile radius. Not that I needed one; I hated the places and would only relent to going to one if I were deathly ill.
I leaned against the stone back of the bench and tipped up the brim of my hat, drinking in the sun like a plant left too long in the dark. Yes, here was peace. I couldn't think of a better way to retire. The teenaged boy who lived three houses down from me jogged past with a nod of his head. I waved back, and the boy was gone, leaving the wails of guitar in his wake. Kids these days listened to their music at such levels; it was a wonder they weren't all deaf. Then again, in another twenty years, they probably would be, if I stuck around that long.
What was the boy's name again? I had never been good with names, and after being introduced to nearly everyone in the town (no matter how small it was), I was hard-pressed to remember even one. I thought for a moment more, staring down the trail after the boy. Damien, I believed his name was. Yes, Damien LaGaule. And his mother was Cindy or Candy or some name like that. I shrugged it off; if I really needed to know her name, I had it written down at home. I had drawn a diagram of all the houses and written down the neighbours' names as they were introduced.
A group of seagulls began arguing over who got a piece of bagel that lay beside the pond, screaming and bickering like children. I was ever so glad Carol hadn't been one of those loud children, one of those children who was constantly squabbling or just keeping up a constant stream of chatter. Talk was nice at times, but she and I both preferred to sit in companionable silence, thinking or playing chess or stimulating our minds in other ways.
And she painted, oh did she paint. Currently, she was painting landscapes, rich fields of grain, or mountains jutting up towards the sky, or ocean waves stretching in the direction of the sandy shore. Before I had left the city, she had given me one of her pictures, a lake nestled in a valley, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Sometimes, I wished I could enter her dreamscape; it seemed a lovely place to be.
The sun slid behind a cloud, and the park was plunged momentarily into darkness. I sighed heavily and shifted uneasily-it smelled like it would rain that afternoon; the air was sharp and crisp in the way it only got before a thunderstorm. Annie had always loved summer showers, more than any other type of weather. Heedless of the thunder, of the lightning, of the danger that came from being out where she could be electrocuted, she would stand on our balcony, above the city streets, and just stare up at the sky. Sometimes, she would dance, but most times, she just stood there, solemnly, her arms spread out to the sides.
"Annie, my dear," I had once asked her, when she came back into the apartment dripping of rain and smelling of life, "what do you see?"
Annie had laughed in that special way of her, that way that said that she had a secret, and replied, "I see the world, Eric, I see the world." Then, she had flounced into the bedroom to change, bringing the light with her, the sun going behind a cloud.
As I replayed my memories of her, I wished yet again that I had brought her to the countryside before I lost her, brought her there to live, not just brought her there for the short picnics we used to enjoy on Sunday afternoons. Her personality fit so much better outside of the city, away from the noise and the confusion. She would have joined the town book club, and she would have baked her turkey casserole for the block parties. Most of all, she could have had a garden of her own, not a miniature, shared block of dirt on the rooftop of our apartment building. I wondered what she would have planted there.
Instead, I was the one who was working in the garden, though Carol said the effort would kill me. I had bought the plants I though Annie would like, daisies and tulips and pansies and carnations. I had had lilac bushes installed on either side of the stairs leading up to the porch. The place smelled wonderful, and I loved to sit out on the porch with a tall glass of lemonade, just thinking or, perhaps, reading. Sometimes, I imagined I could still hear the chords of Annie's old acoustic guitar drifting on the breeze.
The thing I hated about the move, though, was the change in houses. This time, there was no Annie to make the house feel like a home. She wasn't there to pick out curtains that would match the carpets, to hang pictures just so, to fill the house with the aroma of baking things. I had tried my best to find the curtains, to hang the pictures, to bake the cookies, but the house still felt empty, as though it were waiting for someone else to come along. But Annie never would. I didn't spend much time there, unless I was out on the porch or in the backyard.
I had never had a yard before, unless you count the small patch of shared grass in front of our second apartment building, and even that had technically belonged to the family living on the first floor of the building. Having nearly an acre of land was a new experience, and it was wonderful. When I had told Carol how much land I had purchased, she had merely sighed and told me I was too old to learn how to work a lawn mower. I don't think she really believed I had that much land or could picture how much land it was-she was a city kid, like me. I had laughed and told her that I would hire someone to mow the lawn. In fact, maybe I would talk with Damien later that afternoon.
The best part of the backyard, though, was the tree. There were actually a handful of trees back there, maples and oaks and a peach tree, but this tree, this tree was special. This tree was a willow tree. The branches bowed nearly to the ground, and with the summertime leaves bejewelling it, a person sitting beneath it became nearly invisible. I had carried one of my wooden chairs under there, finding it to be a better retreat than the porch. Willow trees, they were the most human of all trees, they showed their emotions, they were crying trees.
Back in Ketchy, Missouri, Annie's hometown, we had buried her beneath the willow tree. In Kingsfield, where I sometimes felt alone, even surrounded by the neighbours, I imagined Annie's spirit lived on in that there willow tree. She laughed at me for feeling alone, she bent towards the flowers I had planted, and she stood there, solemnly, her arms stretched out to the sides and her eyes to the skies for all of time.
"Annie, my dear, what do you see?"