Torn Pages

Torn Pages

Heavy tattered curtains smothered the living room window; a heavy gust slammed the screen door against the mountain cabin. Hiding from the lightning, a small boy huddled in the corner, wondering when the daylight would be taken by the storm. I’m not afraid of the lightning, he cried. He closed his eyes at the thunder and then faded into nothingness as his page was torn and thrown away.

A black, cold, iron wood stove stood in its corner; a small ash bucket and a spilled cradle of wood were gathered near the door. A young man watched the gathering storm from his stool, peering between the curtains with a rifle in his hand.

What will run here for shelter? He worried. He slid a round into the rifle’s chamber, turned, and then closed the bolt. As he waited for what was to come, lightning tore through the mountain top, sundering soul from body — a page torn in half; the clouds crumpled, and then he was gone.

A few framed oil paintings, among a dozen unfinished, hung on the cabin’s only interior wall which separated the bedroom from the kitchen. The doorway to the kitchen opened to small stacks of dishes, pots on plates and a few glass perched on top. An elderly man leaned over the stove and lifted the cast iron frying pan, for a moment surprised by its weight; grease spattered his forearm as lightning flashed through the kitchen window. He leaned over the sink and closed the curtains, shutting the storm away; the eggs slid into the bacon which had curled up along the side.

It will pass, he told himself. He shook his breakfast to the middle of the pan and set it down again, eyeing a wine glass perched perilously on top of a breakfast bowl, hidden inside of last night’s bean pan. He chose a coffee mug sitting on top of a chipped ceramic plate still covered with steak sauce and grease. Bacon popped, and eggs hardened under speckles of black pepper and salt. Lightening tore through the sky; thunder rolled over the mountain; dishes rattled in the wake. The screen door slammed against the now vacant home.

A man approached the cabin, seeking shelter from the storm. His orange poncho contrasted glaringly against the grey weather, and his hood pulled in the wind as he tried looking in the window; steam rose fogging the square fitted glass panes of the dull green mountain cabin. Black, freshly dropped shale stretched in a path around the cabin; the little rocks crunched and compressed beneath his bulky rubber boots. Two water pipes ran from the house; one pipe reached to a drain further downhill along the back of the cabin, the other along the shale path to the water pump. Electrical wiring had been laced and drooped from the water pump, to a tree, to a tall wooden post, to a small shed, and then to a collection of chained down batteries; several neatly wound chords were tacked to another post and drooped to the solar panels on the roof. Bursts of wind slung ropes of rain from the cedars; sheets of water poured down on heavily mulched lines of mint. For a moment, he turned his head towards the wind, his short graying beard and wild hair collecting mist into small beads of water.

At the doorsteps, he raised his large thickened knuckles to knock on the metal frame of the screen door — but the screen door bounced out, slamming against the hand rail. His hand caught the door, and he walked up the three small steps. Unsure why it was permitted, he opened the door. The smell of bacon and eggs turned him towards the kitchen where a cast iron pan popped softly; grease dotted around the pan as he took it off the burner.

Whose place is this? He wondered out loud. In a moment, his concern faded, and without any more hesitation, he began looking for a clean plate. Lightning flashed through the windows. I wonder if there is a storm cellar, he thought absently. He braced for the thunder and felt his form shift, his consciousness starting to dissolve.

I choose the storm. Don’t I have the right to live and overcome — even when your pleasure turns you somewhere else? He asked the hand he could not see. The woman moved a hand to her brow, blocking the sun glare reflecting from her desk; her left hand spun a pen between her fingers, a nervous trick as she flipped the corners of her journal. She sighed, tied the journal’s clasp over the pages, and pushed her chair away, rolling it away on the hardwood floor.

Sunlight from the beach poured through the tall white curtains blowing in the breeze. She stepped out onto the balcony and winced for a moment, a cool breeze, a solitary cloud punctuated by the afternoon sun. Her bare feet slapped against the smooth wooden deck until she set her journal on the wide wooden rail. Supporting her weight with the palms of her hands, she pushed herself onto the well worn rail. With her legs stretched out, she leaned back against a small white, round column. She tucked her felt tipped pen behind her ear, and ran her fingers through her tousled blond hair. Blue ocean waves charged against small crabs and sand castles, fortified against the waves and any storm to come.

Could you have a story, if I didn’t write it? She pondered.

Perhaps my desire is sufficient to conceive my story — the peace and the power of the mountains. He replied.

Then, this must be your cabin. She acknowledged.

But, this really isn’t my home or even my story if you write it? He retorted. If I make this cabin my home, will it be because it is what you have written, or because it is something that I have taken? Whose will is being fulfilled?

Why is it so necessary that your will must be separate from mine? She challenged. How could you ever know that you truly wrote your own story? Gazing at the storm, she considered his plea. She bit her lip, and hopped of the rail, unwinding the clasp of her journal:

The man reached into the pile of dishes and pulled out a white spotted, blue metal, bowl with chunks of chili hardened along the bottom, perhaps the cleanest in the pile. He flung the bits into the trash with a large wooden spoon and scooped the eggs and bacon into his bowl; he kept the wooden stirring spoon.

He carried his breakfast to the front room, the screen door still banging every so often. He set the bowl on a dresser, tied the screen door shut, and locked the front door closed. He lifted his wet poncho over his head and hung it on the door. Drops of water showered the wooden floor. Taking his breakfast, he sat on the bed. He picked up an entire fried egg with his spoon and bit it whole; hot orange egg yolk dripped onto his beard.

Whose story am I in now, and who is the author? He reached over to the bed-side table, and took a small paper pad and a stubby charcoal pencil. With his spoon in one hand, and the pencil stub in the other, he slowly chewed another egg while he stared at the first blank page that he could find. And then, he began to write:

A frail man listened from within his cell, under a barred and open window; the sounds of fishermen setting their nets were carried to him with the dawn, and the lake rippled gently along its banks.

Hurried hands slid sheaves of paper and a couple of pens under the cell’s heavy wooden door. The man turned at the noise and ran to the door, his trembling gnarled fingers grabbing in compulsion. With the new paper and pens in his hands, he sat with his back to the wall.

What edict could I challenge? What might incite the people to reject oppression, to rise and choose life, not death? A rat ran across the stone floor of the candlelit cell, and the morning air coolly washed his fatigue away. In candlelight, in the coolness of the morning, he wrote: a story of wealth, of presumption, the ease of the proud.

The sun had risen above the window of his cell, and his his hand was aching from writing; he looked to where the rat had fled under his cot. Frustrated, he tried running his fingers through his dark matted hair. He gazed at the pages on his lap and considered the images: the ocean, the storm, the presumption of wealth. He frowned, then tore the pages in half; two crumpled balls of paper danced off the cobbled floor and then into the darkness under the cot. In silence, he looked and considered a blank, new page. With a well practiced flourish, he picked up his pen and began to write once more:

The storm clouds had fled; a man in an orange poncho left the cabin before the dawn; a well worn, now familiar path led him through the mountain woods. As he straightened some stray tangles in his beard, he gazed at the early morning stars. Then, with a fish stringer hung from his waders, a fishing pole in his hand, and a few extra lures pinned into the brim of his cap, he turned and stepped into the stream.

e.s. kohen
ed.20180101.04 (Public Draft, Title Change)

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