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Rated: E · Short Story · Community · #2256338
Two friends on their way home. A pen picture.
When, at midnight, the church bell tolls, each chime rings clear, across frost hard fields of sparse, low winter grass. Every blade, etched in sharp white relief, is a statement of winter. Narrow hedges of hawthorn and beech, are hunched miserably between the fields. Each has been brutally and mechanically hacked low, and are scarcely any boundary at all. Their splintered twigs are bearded with the hoar. By gates, heavy and biting, bitter to the touch, there are deep ruts, filled with dark, muddy ice. The moon is waning, but still swollen. Though low on the horizon, it adds chill illumination and long shadows to the landscape.

Weaving, gently swaying, down the lane, two men, arms across shoulders. A four legged beast, born of comradeship and drink. The result of several pleasant hours spent in the bar of the Dog and Pheasant public house. Considerate of their neighbours, they alternate between loud bursts of song, and almost as loud bursts of shushing and entreatments for quiet. Their repertoire drifts from maudlin sorrow to obscenely comedic, and all ports between. There is much good natured correcting of lyrics.

John is a small wiry man. His ruddy face is lined and pitted with years of careful living. John has always been careful to live life to its fullest. In his youth his passion was almost equally shared between sport and women. Now, in his middle age, he coaches a youth team, regularly hill walks and is devoted to Rochelle, the one woman who has for him, always stood out above all the rest.

Clive his companion is romantic. A would be poet. Physically Clive is nondescript. Of average height, with regular features and mousey brown hair. In his own mind he sees himself as a great lover. Reality has tried and failed many times to disabuse him of this idea. He works packing biscuits in a local factory, and has conceived an unhealthy dislike of the custard cream.

An owl, startled by the sudden and startling assault of 'Danny Boy', flees across the fields. A dormouse, oblivious to its narrow escape, scurries into its hole. But the cows, lying in the field, endure the song patiently, restarts, corrections and all. They are waiting the morning, and the farmer's delivery of hay. Their steaming breath issues in sweet smelling clouds. Mildly bewildered, they chew the cud as they watch the two men's passing.

A cottage is reached, home for John. Parting from his friend and drinking companion is drawn out and marked with many an expression of the expectation to see him again soon. Eventually after one final, cheerful, “See you”, John stumbles quietly into his house. With the exaggerated carefulness of inebriation he creeps upstairs, so as not to wake his beloved wife. Meanwhile upstairs she waits, reading and smiling to herself. She knows her husband well, and shares his predilection for a 'little something' before sleep. He greets her with a grin, and Rochelle puts down her book and sits naked and alluring as he hurries to join her.

Clive meanwhile swaggers the quarter mile to his own home. Lets himself in to his chilly house, greets his hungry cat, Miles. Turning on the gas fire, the kettle and the television, he kicks off his shoes, makes tea, and flops onto his sofa. He watches with the greatest interest, whatever passes before his eyes. Till sleep closes them.

Outside the moon has set. The owl flies, a silent wraith across the deep frost of the fields.

All else is still.

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