Foghorn

Jack stood on the edge of the cliff, his hands clasped firmly around the thin metal rails that were all that separated him from the fifty foot fall down a hard rocky edge into the raging iron-gray sea below. He gazed out, refusing to look down at the turmoil of waves, spray and jagged rock beneath him. In the distance, a small off-white spot was most likely a cruise ship. Jack watched its slow progress along the horizon and wondered what was happening on the massive hotel-boat, if indeed it was a cruise. He thought enviously of the warmed dining rooms with tables spread in white and set with silver, the sumptuous smells that rose from platters of roasted duck, tureens of gravy and baskets of freshly baked bread. He pictured the heated pool on the seventh floor where children would swim, bouncing a beach ball between them, giggling and watching the storm raging outside the porthole set underwater for their enjoyment. Most of all, he yearned for one of the comfy cots piled with blankets in cabins warmed by central heating and pillows changed and plumped once a day by pretty maids.

The knuckles of his hands were white with pressure when he finally looked down at them. He focused solely on them, ignoring the flashes of dark blue and gray beneath that were blurry and inviting at the edges of his eyes. Slowly, deliberately, he forced his palms to loosen their grip. It took a full minute to pry them loose, but when he did, he turned the usually-white palms towards him and saw that the itching he’d been feeling was due to the rusting flecks that came loose from the rail. It’s rusty, it’s no good, it’s not even a real rail, not really, he thought, words tumbling themselves into a panic so that it seemed as if neon lights lit up his mind with NO GOOD and RUSTY and NOT REAL.

As if the sea were a magnet and his eyes were metallic orbs; as if the sea was a hypnotist and Jack a willing supplicant; as if the sea was a naked woman and Jack was fourteen again, he had to look. He fought the urge and closed his eyes, but they snapped open again, and he watched, mouth stretched wide in a silent scream. The water looked like a violent creature, surging and jumping to reach him but never succeeding. The distance between Jack and his nemesis grew and shrank, his eyes playing tricks on him so that one moment the cliff seemed to rise into the clouds and the next sank like Atlantis into the beckoning ocean.

Pressure fell on Jack’s shoulders. A body, warmer and less wet than his, clung to him. “Come inside, Jack,” a voice murmured. “Stop torturing yourself and come inside. The foghorn’s been going all morning and soon you won’t be able to see your way home.” Jack nodded mutely, his eyes still fixed. A finger turned his chin away, until finally his eyes, strain as they would, couldn’t find the water. He realized suddenly how very drenched and cold he was, how foggy his surroundings were. He realized that the rain was pounding him less because a bent umbrella was being held over his head by a woman. Her eyes crinkled in a smile that was impossible to see because her face was wrapped almost entirely in a hand-knitted scarf.

Jack took a deep, shaky breath and bravely smiled back. He allowed her to take his hand and lead him away from the edge of the cliff.

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…

… and the wind was blowing against the windows, making them shudder and rattle. It was almost impossible to see anything outside unless all the lights were off. Even then, the only thing that Patricia Nicole Baker could see was a blurry outline of the pine trees and their branches weighed down and tired from the barrage of water being dumped from the sky. It was a moonless night, and Pat knew what that meant. She shuddered, turned away from the window, and lit up every light in her small house.

It looked snug with the warm glow of half a dozen small lamps. There was the familiar lumpy couch, faded from red to pink over the years. There was the armchair, contrasting horribly with the couch, still a too-bright, too-light green. She’d picked both up at yard sales in town, years ago, along with the three rickety bookcases that stood side by side at the wall. Then there were the kitchen table and chairs, the familiar cupboards with little designs she’d painted on them. Pat walked to the bedroom, reassured again – the heavy wooden dresser, the floor lamp casting a blue glow through its shade, the double bed with crisp white sheets – she’d changed them just today – and the minuscule desk, just big enough for a laptop, a cup with pens in it, and a coaster for her drinks. The printer had to sit on the floor.

Normal, all was normal. Pat avoided the windows and puttered around, taking comfort in little tasks. She washed the dishes she’d used to eat her dinner off of, put the kettle on the stove, waited for it to boil and made herself instant coffee. Opening her mini-fridge, she drew out the bottle of fresh milk that she still got delivered to her – one of the perks of living isolated as she did was the rapport she’d built up with the farm-owners. Adding a dollop of milk and a spoonful of sugar, she picked up the mug and held it between her hands, enjoying the warmth it gave her clammy, cold hands. Striding to the bookcases, she looked through and found what she wanted. It was at the top of the right hand one, in the corner.

The children’s book she brought to the couch was well-worn. The spine was frayed and the front cover had some stains on it. The inside, though, was still beautiful. The images of the soft pastel colors washed over her, the familiar words forming in her mind without needing to read them. Sipping her coffee, she put it down on the floor beside her feet, took a deep breath and glanced at the old-fashioned clock on the wall. It was 9:45. Two more minutes, then, she thought. It was always at the exact time that it happened.

And then, on the moonless, stormy night, Pat lifted her eyes and saw a small figure standing in the middle of the room. He was dressed in a small, cheap gown with pictures of sheep on it. His hair was shaved off completely, though Pat remembered its original dirty-blond color. She knew that if he turned around, there would be a line of stitches at the back, looking fresh and congealed with some blackened blood. She’d asked for that – asked to see him without all the bandages wrapping his head. The doctors had allowed it, knowing there was no hope anymore.

Seth looked at her, his blue eyes shiny with tears.

“Mommy!”

Pat caught him in her arms, sobbing with him, hugging him so close she could suffocate him. Only she couldn’t, of course.

“Mommy, why?”

It was the question kids asked the most, especially very young ones. Pat had read all about it, about how you should give honest answers and admit it when you didn’t know. So she said, quietly, “I don’t know, darling. I don’t know, Seth-boy.”

Once they’d settled together, Pat opened the book, and started reading it to him in a bright voice. He stared hungrily at the pictures, laughed uproariously at the giraffe who got tangled up with his neck in a tree, pointed at the cute monkeys like he always did. Pat read slowly, trying to savor every page, but Seth was a little boy and he always wanted to know, even though he’d read it a hundred times before, what the next page held.

Once she would finish reading, she knew that Seth would fall asleep in her lap while she stroked his forehead. She always fell asleep, too. She knew that once she’d wake, he’d be gone, and she would wait for the next night with no moon, half fearful of his coming and breaking her heart all over again, and half fearful that he wouldn’t show up this time.

An Excerpt

I have a few different stories that I’m working on. I always seem to have a few stories that I’m working on, and I never seem to continue writing enough of them. This, however, is part of a story I began thinking of a few months ago. I have a general plot laid out and a beginning scene. This, though, is a scene that I thought of in the middle of the night a few weeks ago. It came vividly into my mind and I fell asleep thinking about it. When I woke up in the morning, I wrote it down.

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The first time my mother lied to me, I was sitting at the window-seat in our large sitting room. My governess had caught a bad cold, and she was confined to bed. I didn’t know this at the time, but her confinement was probably more to do with the risk of her infecting me than with any goodwill towards her. Nevertheless, I’m sure she was grateful for the rest, for I was quite a difficult child at the age of five.
I was sitting in the window seat that day while my mother sat by the fireside. She was doing some fine needlework, embroidering a kerchief of my father’s with her own special design; a rose, its petals not yet fully open. She’d given me a cotton kerchief of my own, and a needle and thread as well, and bade me sit by the window quietly and try to embroider something. I had stuck the needle in the cloth a few times, but seeing that I didn’t get any pretty designs, I had given up and started watching the dismal outdoors. It was raining heavily, and every few moments lightning would flash. I would count, then, along with my heartbeats, and see how long it took the thunder to clap loudly after the lightning. My count grew shorter and shorter as I stared, transfixed, at the raging torrent outside.
I knew I was safe on this side of the glass window. I wondered if anyone could be outside in a downpour like that and live.
“Mama,” I said once the count between the lightning and the thunder was only one heartbeat. “Is anyone outside now?”
“No, Miyara, no one is outside,” she said serenely.
“But Mama, what if Pirima wasn’t sick? We would’ve gone out to play in the garden. It was sunny this morning. We would’ve. We would’ve been out there now.”
“No, darling, I’m sure Pirima would have seen the clouds and wouldn’t have taken you outdoors. No one is out there in the rain. Who would be silly enough to wander outside in weather like this?” She didn’t even look up from her sewing as she spoke. Anger flared in my five-year old self. She didn’t understand! I could easily have been out there with my governess in that frightful rain! It would have hurt us!
“But what if I was outside?” I demanded fiercely. I stood up, letting the cloth, needle and thread fall off me and roll to the ground. My hands were balled up in fists, and I could feel my lip beginning to pout in that way that signaled I was going to start crying. My mother gave me a stern look and finally rose. She placed her sewing things on the dainty table beside her chair, and came to me.
“Firstly, Miyara, get off that window-seat this instant. You are a lady, not some bar-maid to go standing on chairs and making a fuss,” her voice was mild, but then, my mother was always at her most mild when she was angry with me. Later in life, I understood it like this – it was as if I were a simpleton and she thought that if she only spoke clearly enough and rationally enough, I would go along with what she said and stop angering her. Mostly it worked. “Second,” she continued once she’d sat me down and settled herself beside me. “You will never need to be outside in a time like this. You are, as I said, a lady. You will always be able to be safe inside, by the fireplace, as is proper. If you’re on a journey, you will be settled comfortably in an inn. I promise you, you will never need to find yourself out in the rain. There,” she patted my hand with satisfaction. “Does that make you feel better?”
It did. It did, then. But that was the first lie my mother told me, for ten years after or so, I found myself outside. In the rain. All alone.

It Should Have Been Raining

In the books she read and the movies she watched, the weather always matched the mood of the main character. The sunny days, with breezes coming from the sea and whipping the hero’s hair around, were the good days. Those were supposed to be the days of love and laughter, high spirits and fun. The rainy days meant trouble, danger, sadness and despair – the thought that all was lost and would never be recovered.

Real life wasn’t like that, she knew, as she looked out the small window in the room belonging to her and her room-mate. There were bars on the window, of course. It wouldn’t do for the troubled patients to sneak out into the gardens at night. She wondered if the windows were small because so many of the patients were small enough to fit through slightly larger ones.

The night, she noticed, was warm. Warmer than it should be for the time of year. Perhaps, though, it was only she who was warm – she who had spent the last hour and a half sobbing into her pillow again. Her room-mate had been so annoyed by the noise that she’d tutted, gotten out of bed, picked up her pack of cigarettes, and gone out, presumably to the enclosed patio where she could smoke.

Looking out the window, she wanted to have a stern chat with Mother Nature. If movies and books were based on real life, then it should have been raining. It should have been raining.

A Wintery Visit

Winter decided to pop in for a visit this year. Finally. After months of almost no rain, of warm-for-the-season weather, of sunshine and t-shirts and bare legs, the winter decided to show itself once more.
It lashed out in full force with winds and hale and rain that pounded on the roofs of cars and buildings. Its fury seemed to know no bounds as the temperatures dropped by the hour and as reports came over the radio that the only ski resort was going to be closed for the next couple of days due to too much snow.
The winter finally decided to show us its face again, and I couldn’t be happier. The nights just seem more perfect, more cozy, more comfortable and more reviving when the raindrops are splashing against the windows and the lighting creeps through the closed slats and the thunder booms through the floors and into your very beating heart.
The winter may be gone by tomorrow morning again, but while it is here, I’m going to feel better. The winter and I are often very much in sync with our feelings, and I welcome every chance I get to see some of my emotions embodied in the violence of the weather.

Storm

The wind has been building up for hours – howling and moaning and shaking the trees free of their leaves. A mass of grey clouds, impossible to see in the dark night sky, sits above everything, threatening to release more than the drizzle that has been making the world outside a wet, slippery place.

Then, suddenly, there is that flash. So bright, so sudden, like an enormous camera from up above taking a picture of this glorious, wild scene of winter. The lightning flashes quickly, piercing through eyelids and warning the sleepers in their warm beds and toasty homes of what is to come. The lightning is so quick that no-one’s really sure if it was really lightning or perhaps just a strange light coming from something else outside.

But there is no mistaking what the bright, almost audible crack of light was when the thunder roles in. At first, it rolls in softly, like the tires of a car crunching on a gravelly driveway. Next time the lighting comes though, the rumble of the thunder sounds closer, more threatening. Finally, as the storm reaches its peek, the thunder cracks loudly, as if something were whipping the storm into a wild frenzy, the wind stronger than ever and the rain and hail pounding down on any unlucky souls who happen to be outside.

The sleepers in their warm blankets roll over and smile at the loud noises, feeling secure and peaceful in their beds. Or sometimes they quake with fear, even knowing that they are perfectly safe. The storm outside doesn’t care though for what the people think of it – it will rage and billow and cover the world with wet until it calms, seemingly of its own accord, and goes to sleep itself.

Winter Romance

Rain patters down on the plastic roof outside the window. The breeze comes through the slats, fresh and delicious, bearing with it a smell of clean, sweet moisture. The sounds of the street are slightly muted, everything growing hushed in the soft rain. Even buses, with their monstrous thundering and their creaking halts, sound soft and polite as the drops come down lightly from the wispy gray clouds.

As the drizzle grows into a rain, the light seems brighter, more cheery. The small comforts of home – the sweatshirt flung on the back of the chair, the cat curled up in a ball on the couch – become more cozy and endearing by far. Even as the rain turns into a respectable downpour, the home becomes the perfect nest, wonderfully familiar, all of it softer around the edges somehow.

If only the rain could go on all night, it would accompany the soft light of the reading lamp and the soft rustle of pages as they are lovingly turned in their spine. A rain of this sort can only herald the sweetest and most comfortable of sleeps. If only it would go on all night.

But alas, all good things come to an end, and quickly, all too quickly, the autumn rain disappears, leaving behind it a comforting memory, a slight shiver of joy and a disappointed girl, who wanted to stay up all night reading with the rain.

Good Ole’ Fashioned Genuine, Corny Joy

The wind picked up, stirring loose hairs and chilling bare arms. The merest trace of a forgotten scent was in the air, blowing up and around and through the streets. The light of the half moon dwindled as clouds settled in the night sky. Dark and ominous they were, and yet still the harbingers of joy.

The first drop was dismissed as anything but rain. For rain it couldn’t yet be, not at the end of September. Fall could not have come so quickly to the hot and stifling cities. The second drop, and then the third, fourth and fifth were sweet, for they could not be ignored, could not be mere spray from some unknown spout.

The clouds seemed to groan and sigh with relief as they let themselves break open and spray the dry streets with rain, the first rain. They did not relent and disappear quickly, but stayed for an hour or more, sending small and icy drops down onto the unwary people.

The wonderful moist, wet scent brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. Winter is coming, I told myself. Winter is coming.