Steam climbed from the cup that sat upon the table as the sun rose from behind the mountain’s veil. Shuffling towards the chair, I became like the cup. My fingers extended and the warmth permeated the frost gifted from a night’s slumber beneath unfit cloth. Crest upon crest, upon peach kissed sky, the ragged range reached out until the end of time. Ah, still too hot.
By virtue of brass kettle and ancestral range we are given life, and by the same virtue we live. Wooden legs gently glide on beige stone as ceramic greets the table warmly. Warmth within grasp but time will temper it cool, as time always does. Seasons have been the greatest teachers, but no longer will these Seasons have ears to hear their song. When you gotta go, you gotta go.
The green grass upon the mountainside smiles at the wildflowers in the midmorning sun, and I am alone. They have all left, and all that is left is I. To the bedroom, to the pack that I will sling upon my back, to stuff it full of knick-knacks. Vibrant shadows left by the ghost of images upon the walls, where the sun hadn’t touched in years. The beige stone beneath has cracked, as it always has. This is how it is now.
It was a bittersweet reunion upon the table, upon the chair, alongside the window. The brass kettle sits half-empty upon the cold range. Clouds smothered the Sun unceremoniously, and I was powerless. But such desire to fight had long left my breast, blown to the far winds by nature herself. This plodding onward, ever forward, is the march of Mother’s Drum manifest. The beat goes on.
Upon the wooden rail of the window did land a small bird of bright plumage. Against the dismal sky he shone as the spirit does shine. Happily hopping in a carelessly careful manner and pecking at nothing brought him great joy, as it did I in observing. The windowsill bore the marks of many peckish visitors of flesh and feather alike. The edges of the table have become mere suggestions as comfortable elbows rounded them absentmindedly over generations. Finding a small seed, left by another of his kind, no doubt, the modest fellow went on his merry way, ascending back into the stratus. Easy come easy go.
By midweek this will no longer be. None of this which surrounds me will be. It may be, maybe, but it will not be anything to me but a distant memory. Tomorrow I will conduct my final once-over, and once that is done it will be over. Absent fingers extend again toward the warmth, but- alas- it has become cold.
Midmorning is ushered in by rainfall. Although my jacket is sufficient, trepidations begin to overflow into my mind: to unravel, to be unspooled, and to be cast into chaos. Bitter wind slashes and stampedes through my hall, not being halted by the shutters at all. Solemnly shuffling toward the threshold, I don my hat and grip my collar tightly closed. The locks stare, rusty mouths agape, as the door creaks and squeaks open and, subsequently, closed.
Jagged streets of beige stone run, rise, and fall in every which way. The stone archways pock the relinquished roadside, cloaking the stairwells to abandoned abodes. To each and every door, each and every window, each and every alley. Beautiful doors of sable wood carved by craftsmen leaning up against stone walls, if they are blessed enough to be leaned against anything at all. Windowpanes long since cleaned are caked in time and murk. Alleyway after alleyway dotted with forgotten toys marinating in mud and rainfall. It is still I, and only I. Not the butcher, not the baker, but only I.
To view the valley from atop our burg as the midafternoon sun breaks through the pallor of murky obscurity is to be wrapped in rhapsody itself. Golden claws rip through the deceptively supple surface of angry gray, bathing the entire mountain with radiance. I sat upon the highest wall, upon the highest building, and gazed breathlessly on. Raindrops that went astray drip from the rooftops; each echoing plop could be heard as the stray drops chance upon the stone beneath.
Ferns have begun to grow where feet used to go. Bold vines clutch onto walls, desperately trying to reach the sun. The sky glows amber as I make my way back home from the highest wall on the highest building for the last time. The locks clamor jealously as I close the door. Returning to where I have always returned to, the brass kettle again becomes full and the range again begins to blacken the kettle’s belly. Again the heavens weep, and again they cease their weeping. The brass kettle screams to life as steam rushes from its spout into the air.
Pouring the piping water into the cup, upon the leaves of my grandfather’s tea, I made a grave misjudgment. Enthusiasm begets wastefulness as the cup shattered upon the stone. Warm leaves steaming with promise sputtered out, scattering themselves among the ceramic shards. Wooden legs scuffed on beige stone. The opening of cupboards and the opening of drawers was to no avail. Moonlight cascaded in streaks onto the broken pile of regret.
The leaves are to go directly into the brass kettle now, I suppose. I will drink directly from its spout, I suppose. In a few days’ time I will not care, as there may be- should be- cups where I am going. I will say my final goodbyes tomorrow and depart the following day.
The afternoon sun hung indifferently above my home. The wind was uninterested and the air was aloof. The brass kettle’s handle radiated faintly as I tipped the spout into my waiting maw. Careful to not soak my solemn uniform, I set the brass kettle down upon the table. The hazy glow of the range was neigh invisible in the sunlight. Upon a rooftop in view of the window, a hawk feasted upon a bird with bright plumage.
Shuffling toward the garden behind the house, I began to pick wildflowers. The palette of the earth is unmatched in fairness and grace, engorged with bliss. With Larkspur, Solidago, Snapdragon, and Queen Anne’s Lace held fast in hand, I made my way to the rearmost corner. Warm winds drifted through the newly tamed bouquet as I knelt down upon the soil. I cast my eyes downward, closing them for what could have, may have, and should have been an eternity.
The names upon the headstones serenaded me softly in this silence. Some names I never knew, some I knew well, and others I had created myself. The remains of clustered blossoms line the feet of the gravestones, left by those who themselves left this place. To bring reverence, to bring devoutness, to bring love, to bring oneself to prostration, to leave this place and never come back is the way it must be, and it must be this way because it is the way it must be. I threw my gaze skyward and was met a smile from the celestial sphere itself. Rising to my feet and dusting off my solemn uniform, I shuffled back into my home.
I placed my pack next to the door, beneath the leering locks. The brass kettle has gone cold, but I paid it no mind. The larder held but one slice of bread. Wooden legs scrape roughly against the beige stone. Upon the crust of the bread was a speck of mold, a blotch of blight. By fingers pinched and blemish discarded, the bread could be eaten with no hesitation. Returning to its citadel beneath the mountainous horizon, the sun heralded the coming of the moon. The night air began to bite, stalwart in its rawness.
Rumbles of hunger may attempt to disturb this rest, but never has there been a more meaningful slumber in all my life. Dreams flecked with inevitability will promenade past my sleeping eyes. Nightmares tainted with hope will be sure to follow. And somewhere between will be the emptiness of falling endlessly in a realm with no features. In the dominion of sleep, the mind will become as it always wanted to be: unshackled.
I will be reunited with blood and brood in due time. Tomorrow I will leave this place.
I awoke to a chorus of songbirds outside of my window. Shuffling toward the sound, something caught my eye. Upon my table sat a single sweet potato, next to which lay a single brightly colored feather. The sweet potato had rich auburn skin that was completely clean of earthly filth. Above the rooftop in view of my window, a flock of multicolored birds careen elegantly in unison. Placing the sweet potato into the range and the brass kettle atop, I patiently waited in anticipation.
Wooden legs drift across the top of the smooth beige stone. The sweet potato’s aroma filled the entire home with comforting mirth. The Brass Kettle gently whistled its tune. The warm morning daylight embraced me. Setting both kettle and sweet potato upon the table, I respired thankfully. The feather, not much longer than my little finger, calmly wobbled with each light gust. The sweet potato dissolved like sugar on the tongue and the kettle was perfectly tepid.
After quietly watching the flock while I ate, I took the small feather from atop the table. I ran my forefinger down the length of the side with the grain, then up the opposite. The delicate rachis in the center of the feather seemed to reflect the light streaming through the window. I shuffled over to my pack and dug around. Producing my journal, I lightly placed the small feather between the cover and the first page, closing the journal and returning it to its place.
I hoisted the pack onto my back. I opened the door for the last time; I closed the door for the last time. I looked up into the sky at the bird jamboree and felt compelled to speak.
“I suppose this is all yours again, huh?” I asked, not waiting for a response as I started down the road. Behind me now is all stone; ahead of me is evergreen.
–Brendan C. Bush, Co-Creator and Contributor at Heck Media