I originally posted this many years ago. However, this was lost in time when I took this site down for five years. I’m republishing it now as example of my short fiction work. I hope you enjoy!
It has been a very long time since I sat down and tried to write much in the way of fiction, other than the occasional poem. Today, the mood struck me to give a shot at it. So, without further adieu, I give you An Autumn Day.
There is a hint of decomposing leaves and burning oak in the air. There are very few birds singing their song now. Most have taken flight for a warmer climate. The crisp sound of leaves and twigs cracking and breaking resonates around us as our eight legs make contact with the ground. We are surrounded with a beautiful tapestry of color. Vibrant reds, warm yellows, and faded browns fill every nook and cranny of the ground. Hardly a bare spot exists.
Just as I pause for a respite and to take in the beauty of my surroundings, Jarvis whispers quietly, “Uncle James, look over there.” There on the horizon stands a four point buck. He is noticeably nervous as it is now deer season and his only refuge is this small nature park just outside town. With ribs pressing through his coat and breathing heavily, I suspect he has been on the run for some time and is not a part of a larger group.
Knowing just enough about animals to understand that you do not approach them when they are frightened, I advise Jarvis to stand still and watch from a safe distance. Jarvis complies, but Lucy starts to growl and lunge violently. In an instant, the deer snorts and darts over the hillside. Well, at least we had a moment to admire him, I said as we resumed our walk. Jarvis just quietly said, “Yeah. I wish we wouldn’t have brought her.”
Lucy, still keeping the leash taught, has not given up her quarry and persists in trying to break free to give chase. Fortunately, she is still young and is unable to break free of the tightly woven nylon leash. Eventually she succumbs to my urgings to move forward and once again, returns to trotting between me and Jarvis.
As we wonder through the woods, my mind drifts off recalling the events of the past year. I ponder those months of being lost in my own wilderness. How the rays of light shinning through the trees in the wood we are now walking are rather symbolic of the light that God shined on my journey. Still feeling the twinge of pain in my heart for the pain I caused my family, I gently reach out and caress Jarvis’s head and tell him I love him. He reciprocates the sentiment without breaking stride or even so much as looking back. Still, I know he loves me, that is just his way.
The next twenty minutes or are quiet with the exception of the sounds of nature, our breaths and Lucy occasionally warning whatever animal she sees in the distance with a growl or bark. As we walk, I wonder what is going on in his head. Normally he is quite chatty, even during our nature walks together. Finally, I give in to my curiosity and ask what is bothering him. He replies in a subdued voice, “nothing.” I pressed the issue no more.
We reached the car right as the sun fell below the tree line. The air is getting bitter now and the wind has picked up. This is a perfect day for some hot cocoa, I said to Jarvis as we buckled our seat-belts. He replied with enthusiasm, “Yay, hot chocolate!” Hot chocolate it is then, I replied with a smile.
As we pulled out of the nature park, I asked the boy if he would like some music on the way home. He replied no, which is for the best as Lucy is normally quite nervous on car rides. This is unusual for any dog I’ve ever seen, but nervous she is, so I drive slowly towards home.
The silence continued throughout the car ride home, which was no surprise. I could tell he was preoccupied by something, but I wasn’t sure what. Occasionally, I glanced back in the rear view mirror to see if he was awake. He was and he looked sad. It was then I realized what his “nothing” meant. He was thinking of her again and how she abandoned him. This sent a shot of pain through my heart. How could my sister, or any woman for that matter, turn her back on such a beautiful child? This is something I’ll never understand. However, I do understand his pain and I know him well enough to let him be when he does not wish to talk. I simply said, I love you Bubby, and let it go at that.
Upon arriving home, we were greeted with the wonderful scent of potato soup and homemade crusty bread. Mmmmmm… I said to Jarvis as we approached the door. Smells like Amy has cooked us up some good stuff. He replied, “Yummie!” while clapping his hands and jumping with excitement. We then make our entrance into our warm, cozy apartment where Amy greets us with a “Hello!”
She is standing their in her usual school teacher attire with my old green Ponderosa apron on to protect her clothes. Warmth fills my heart as I think of how much I love her. For the next few minutes, we engage in exchanging the usual pleasantries’ and inquiring about each other’s day. There is nothing particularly exciting about the conversation to an outside observer, but it is close to heaven on earth for this man who once was homeless and destitute. I just thought to myself, I’m a lucky man!
Dinner time arrives and we gather at our small, oval kitchen table. The dog takes her usual place on the floor, at my right side, ready to beg for any morsel she can. Never mind that her food dish is full! We all join hands as Jarvis leads us in grace, as he usually does. The steam from the potato soup has a hint of pepper and the crusty bread is warm and thickly sliced, just like I like it.
The remainder of the evening follows the status quo. Jarvis gets his bath after some play time. Amy reads Jarvis a book or two to help settle him down. I sit and go through the evening email and comment queue. After all the usual routines are completed, we join together in Jarvis’s room and kneel together in prayer. Once the boy is comfortably tucked in and Amy is singing him his song for the night, I gather the dog and take her out for her final walk of the day.
I walk out into the front yard and connect Lucy to the leash that is tied to the tree. As she takes care of nature, I light up a cigarette and gaze into the stars. Still feeling a bit depressed from everything that has happened in the last year, I turn to the only power I know that can help. With a smoke filled exhale, I simply utter, God help me.