by Eric DeLee
Another draft of a portion of the Novella I'm working on. The Rose Story
Little Eathquakes/For You I Loved
"So you don't know anythen' about the rose?" The old man searches his companion's face for recognition, just a slight twinge of remembrance. His knotted wrinkles loosen as he smiles. His teeth spotted with black flakes of chew wink at me as he spat to his side. Tobacco juice flies towards a spit bucket that once served as a coffee can for Maxwell House. Good to the last drop it gleefully promised. However in this context, Richard doesn't believe the rusted old can sitting on the warped floor board. He'd rather take his chances with the sweating can of Pabst that he was moving from one hand to the other. Just as before, the majority of the spit found its way into the coffee can. And just as before, Mr. Leathers never took his eyes off of him when he spat. The one thing about his eyes, was that they seemed to loosen up. Richard could see a barrier being chipped away, and this was a start. It was taking a long while, but it was a start. You had to give him that.
"Well, no sir. I don't suppos-"
"I ain't no SIR! But Gawdamn-it boy. I can't believe you haven't heard about the story of Henry and the rose." He pauses. The old man in front of Richard reaches up with a crooked hook of a finger and dives into his lip. He fishes out a moist wad of chewing tobacco and tosses it into the coffee can next to his chair. Richard exchanges the can of Pabst from his left hand in favor to his right. A light breeze is in the air. It ruffles a bit of the torn screen in front of Richard and gives him a moment to break his gaze from Old Man Leathers' stare. More or less, it gave him a reason to break away from that stare, however, he could feel Leathers' eyes looking him up and down in disbelief. And then Old Man Leathers bellowed out a hearty laugh. The laugh shook Richard, and Richard was in belief that it shook the very porch they were sitting on. He kept his eyes turned toward the gravel driveway that climbed and descended for at least a quarter of a mile before it ran into the main dirt road that people in this part of the country called Big Creek Road. Richard never saw a Big Creek anywhere, and he could barely call the trail he traveled on an actual road. In fact, he left his rental car about halfway up the driveway from here. One part of the road gave way to a mud hole that promised to eat small sedans. He figured he'd take his chances by leaving it there. Even if the shoebox was in the front seat.
"Shit, boy. I really can't believe that ya' don't have a thang written down in that book of yours' right there." Leathers points at a scrapbook Richard brought during his first visit to his home. During that first visit, he was starving for information. He wrote down everything the old man was willing to share. Everything. And yet it really did not help much after all and Leathers was sharp to point that out earlier. "You ain't writin' much down these days, " he had said. And it was the truth. This story Richard was after... this adventure had turned into something more than he could imagine. It was something much biger than him, and yet he had to keep going. This visit to Leathers wasn't about putting the last piece of the puzzle together to complete the picture, it was more about finding a safety net or a padded wall.
"Well. I've got to take a piss son. I'll be back and I'll tell you the story about the rose. It is nothing ol' spectacular or anything. Nothing of much to the sorts, but I think you'd find it interesting." With that Leathers rose to his feet. He used his hands to push at his legs and to push himself further up. His knees fired off like M16 shots, and his back crackled like rice paper. The boards under him moaned and creaked. They held for now, but for how many more seasons Richard would not dare venture to guess. He took the last drink of his Pabst, let out an approving belch and thudded the empty on the porch railing. Beads of the can's perspiration flew and instantly soaked into the worn wood. The screen door yelled as he opened it and it slammed to its doorframe with a thundering clap as he walked back into the house.
Richard mulled over the can of Pabst and took a sip of it. He cringed at the taste, yet followed with another. The sky was starting to bruise, and the wind was picking up from the east. With it, Richard could smell the remnants of an old campfire, or perhaps someone just burning their weekly trash. Melissa and Doug were weighing heavy on his mind. He felt he needed to be somewhere else, yet he felt as though the best place for him at this moment of time was right there on Old Man Leathers' porch sipping a nasty Pabst beer and hearing some story about a rose. He felt The Tunnels calling him as well. But more so, he felt the shoe box sitting halfway down this driveway in his locked rental Kia. Just when he had the urge to just leave Old Man Leathers to his stories within stories, the screen door yelled in agony and the old man appeared again backing his way out of his house. In his arms he had a fresh pack of chewing tobacco, and a full six-pack of iced Pabst beer. Dangling from one meaty arthritic hand he held a bucket full of ice. And lastly, from his pinky, hung the carcass of what was left of the first six-pack that we started that evening. Richard smiled warmly at this man he grew fond of over the past few years, and knew he wasn't going anywhere.
"You goin' to sit there like a fool and smile like a retard? Or are you going to give an old man a hand"
Mr. Leathers sure knew how to make a man smile. Richard tore off the pull tab of beer can and popped it in his mouth. He placed the can on the porch railing and laughed as Mr. Leathers gave him a look of disgust. His eyes gave him away though, as this old man was just happy to have someone here to listen to his stories.
Henry and the Rose.
Sometimes in this strange world of ours, you don't realize what you have until it is already gone. Even if it is that one thing you have to have, you don't realize its importance until it has already disappeared or is snatched from you by some inconceivable fate of someone's god or idol. What you tend to realize is the fact that its no longer yours to call your own. That is when you tend to miss it even more. Never mind the fact that it could be the best thing to ever happen to Henry in his ripened years. Never mind the fact that Ada no longer being a part of his life
...but I am Henry, dear, forever a thorn
is actually a mercy upon his heart; the pain is still there. At times the pain is nothing more than missing a certain meal she once cooked. The equivulant of a splinter in your thumb so-to-speak. At other times... well... Henry likes to think of it as an earthquake. Perhaps early in the mornings you'll fell the momentary slips of the earth's plates and maybe the china in the buffet will tinkle a little bit. However, usually when those days start of with the china singing a redention of Jingle Bells, by the afternoon that pain would build up to a point where its an explosive force that would not just topple a few china plates from their decorative perches but actually knock over the entire fucking buffet.
Henry had a feeling today would be an earthquake day. His neck, stiff as starched linen, hurt as he tried to raise his hand over the heap of pillows to crunch a few of them down in order to see what time it was. He made a second attempt and then simply gave up. He knew it was no later than 7 am, so it didn't really matter what time it was. Besides, he had the same routine regardless if it was only 4 am or if it truly was 7 am. Hell it could be 2:53 am, he'd still go to the kitchen to push the start button on his coffee maker. Once Henry wakes up from his dreams, he knew he would never get back to sleep.
When stretching and untangling himself from the sheets on the lonely queen sized bed (sheets she had picked out to match the shams and the curtains he reminded himself with a cringe) he noticed that his bones ached a little more and his muscles felt every bit of their sixty-four years. He pulled himself up to a sitting position with a few laborious grunts. His feet left foreign against the cold wooden floor. Wiping the sleep from his eyes he looked across the room towards the mirror on the old wash
The wash basin had been hers prior to the marriage. Something her mother's mother had handed down through the generations. The mirror was spotted with age in numerous places. The bottom left portion of the mirror was entirely black and unusable. Its reflection lost in time.
"That dark spot there grows each time its passed down from the heartless women in your family," he had once jokingly told Ada. Now, while sitting across the room in his piss-stained boxers and staring at the useless portion of the mirror he wished to God and everything he stood for that he hadn't said that. It was a though that area of the mirror was watching him.
forever a thorn...
HIs body went through a wave of goosebumps. To his left, on his nightstand, the red numerals of his alarm clock showed 6:24 am. Turning back towards the mirror, purposely avoiding the black void, he watched as an old man focused in on him.
That man looked thinly at the end of his line.
Boy, he thought, the trembles are starting early this morning. I better go pack the china.
Before all of this happened with Ada, he had considered himself a fairly young looking sixty-something year old man. But looking at the man staring back at him in the mirror brought a fear to him like no other. He knew that death was more or less on the coat tails of this haggard man and was quickly closing in for the final strike. The folds of skin beneath his eyes were slack and dark. Like meaty pendulums. The folds were plum purple and yet looked as rotten as the flesh of the plums in the dumpster thrown out behind the supermarket when a new batch would come in on the truck. He raised his hand to touch the bags under his eyes but stopped short from doing so. He feared to touch them, afraid as though his fingers would go right through the skin and he'd touch nothing but the bone (or worse yet, the bottom of his eye). Another bout of shivers went through him. Refocusing on the sick looking man staring at him, he began to notice other things as well. His hair was a messy mop the color of gray speckled with strands of his youthful brown. His eyes (his attention kept going back to them) were distant and glossy. They were
gray with a dash of blue for taste. Ada had always told him that the color of his eyes would change with the different moods. Grayish for the times he was sad or stressed and brilliant blue for when he was happy.
But the problem Henry, dear, is that I've forgotten what color of blue that was since it's been so long since you've shown it.
And at that she was right. It had been a long time since he had shown that hue of blue. Furthermore, it had also been a long time since he was able to look into her own eyes and see a trusting love he once knew. He broke his gaze from that harsh reflection and rested his head on his hands. His elbows were firmly planted onto his thighs and when he removed them, there'd surely be a momentary white spot from the pressure.
Yep. This is routine. Same shit just happening on a different day. Except it wasn't routine. The white rose petal lying in front of the wash baisn on the floor proved it to be anything but. Henry rubbed his temples and tried to wipe the sleep from his eyes again. The rose petal remained where it was, and he would be damned if he didn't hear the china tinkering in the dining room.
Well, I just posted 4 or 5 things today. Some of it is older stuff, and some is revised newer stuff. I've been out of practice a bit, and I guess I need a bit of a 'push-me-in-the-right-direction' type of thing here. Let me know what you all thing of this and my other stuff. If you see glaring mistakes, please point them out. Let me know what you like, hate, love, can't stand. Let me know what I'm doing right... and what I'm doing wrong!
Thank you my friends!