Tuesday, June 7, 2011

FICTION: Winter in The Valley by Adam Ingram

In the start of October children catch the scent of Halloween. Warm air trading presence with cold rain also has October written in it. The sea brings scents of gargled-salt-diffused spray to the locals and tourists alike. Gray sky grieves over sun dried inland, and gives stolen moisture back, guilted by the dry riverbed’s craggy face. Each year this has been so, and so it would remain. It was October.

I had noticed the moisture and I was happy. My family noticed too.

My father cluttered the hearth with wood. Warmth filled my house. The comfort crackled in our bones.

Outside a pile of oak-wood sat soggy and still beyond the front porch. It looked lovely. I would often go out and feel it’s slimy ridges of bark and smell the earthy-brew. My brother Ally did the same. He often did the same.

A match struck. My father lit his pipe. I turned from the window to whiff. Mmm, Hazelnut. The smell tricked the nose. My brother and I woke beguiled daily. Was it Mom’s “He’s a nut” cookies, (“Hesanut” of course, the pseudo-cookie-name belched from my one-year-old mouth in my first bent-necked attempt at “more hazelnut cookies please.”) or was it Dad’s smoking-tobacco? You could bet it was the tobacco on most mornings, but Mom being mom, you could bet a hug would get you some “He’s a nut” cookies, almost every time.

The sound of my fathers match struck my brother aware. Alley stood up from the fireplace, walked across the room to our Mother, and gave her butt a big hug.

“Oh Ally... What?” she said.

Ally looked up, and resting his chin on her right buttock smiled in a very “You know....” way.

“Alright I’ll bake up some cookies,” Mom said turning to me “but it’s a perfect boy day today. It’s all muddy and wet out. Go play.”

“Yay,” said Ally, “You here that Jack?” (My dad named me Jack. There is no special story behind the name. My Dad just said it and it stuck I guess. He thinks he’s clever sometimes and calls me “The Jack of All Trades” or “The Jackhammer.” Neither one suits me.) “We get to play, and then we get to have cookies!” Said Ally, jumping on my leg and wrapping tight.

“I know it’s great!” I said, overreacting.

“Watch your brother Jack,” said my Dad, “He’s little and perfect mountain lion food.”

Ally’s eyes grew large and he slid from the trunk of my leg to my foot.

“Yah I know I’ll watch him, don’t worry,” I said, “I’m only going to let the mountain lions eat his legs!” I clamped and squeezed his thighs.

“Ahhhh! Stop it Jacky!” Alley said.

Mom and Dad laughed.

“Also Jack while your out grab some tortillas from the village. I’m making burritos tonight,” said Mom.

“Grab your coats and get out of here.” said Dad.

We grabbed our coats and went to Ally’s room for some “supplies.”

“Ok. We will need stuff for the forest,” said Ally, “I’ll get this sleeping bag and--”

“We won’t need a sleeping bag Ally,” I said, “Put that back. Here how ‘bout this?” I held up a popped tennis ball. “We can play catch on the way to the village.”

Ally looked at me sympathetically. “Well I don’t really want to play catch if that’s Ok.” he said. So polite. He bent down and grabbed a fistful of broken crayons; there seemed to be three different colors cracked and mixed into twelve mini-crayons.

“How ‘bout we draw with nature stuff?” he said. I didn’t quite understand the question.

“What,” I said, “What’s nature stuff?”

Ally sighed. “Nature stuff like trees, and barks, and fences, and rocks, and roads,” he said, “Stuff like that.”

I frowned and spit out a giggle. “Ok. Now that I understand nature stuff, how do we draw with it? Like draw pictures of trees on paper?” I said.

“Nooohoho,” he said, “We draw on the trees, and everything!”

“Oh Ok, well fine,” I said, “Put the crayons in your pocket and lets go.” He stuffed the crayons in his pockets then looked at me quite rowdily.

Outside the lawn was profligately covered with dew-drops and dandelions. The deck was steaming, and birds were chirping. The pile of oak-wood sat still and shiny. Our lawn ended at the newly paved road. We had no fence, but a thin wooden boarder rising an inch above the grass. It was a perilous highway, separating our lawn and the black paved road, which snails braved in single file, balanced on the cusp of darkness and dandelions. On the other side of the road was a kid-made trail that snuck through the trees for a about a mile. It led to the village.

Ally and I looked both ways then raced across the road.

“I win’d,” said Ally.

“Yes you did,” I said, “your getting super fast!”

“I know,” said Ally, “I’m faster than you.”

“Yep,” I said, and guided him onto the trail.

Ally and I walked for about five minutes before I began to hear him giggle. I turned around. “What are you laughing about?” Ally looked down at the path and turned around slowly. “Oh my gosh!” He had apparently picked up some hitchhikers along the way. There were at least ten snails stuck, clinging to the back of Ally’s neck. “Heh hehe,” giggled Ally. “Take those off of your neck and put them in the bushes right now,” I said. Ally reluctantly peeled each one off. “Now put them in that bush,” I said pointing off the trail. Ally did so and returned to my side. “No more goofing around,” I said. “I need you to be a good boy, or I can’t take you out like this anymore.” He nodded, and we continued walking.

As we walked some more I began to slip into a trance like state. The scent of nostalgia was pungent. The trees above began to blur, and the sensation of walking was dull and dependable. Ally’s footsteps petered behind me and finally became a buzz. I felt warmth and moisture in the air. The sky was golden. The leaves beneath my feet danced in broken silhouettes. A rush of peace came over me, and I though how perfect the day was. I loved being with Ally. I loved the chores my parents set out for us. I loved myself. Winter brought this out in me, and has done so forever. “What a day for this valley,” I said. “What a day for us all.” “What,” said Ally. I turned, bent down, and gave him a hug. Ally began to giggle, and as I looked over his shoulder could see a trail of broken crayons, stretching back the length of the visible path. “It’s so we can find our way home,” said Ally. “We are home,” I said. “What?” said Ally.

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