Here on a bluff of The Cumberland Plateau the weather can change quickly and often. For the most part, no matter the weather, it is beautiful here among the hardwood trees, a portrait outside the big great room windows of the different shades of seasons. This day, I’m watching the frenzied swirl of big snowflakes hide my view of another bluff across the canyon.
For a spell I allow my mind to wander and consider the multiple scenarios that could develop in this near white-out. So I pause from the writing of my twelfth book, save what I’ve written, and go to Microsoft Word to take the dictation of my mind at this particular moment… This short piece of fiction is my post offering for the week. Those who read it can ponder the mind that came up with this theme…
If you like the writing style here, it is my hope you will try one of my full-length novels of mystery, suspense, romance, and, a couple of memoirs – the links follow this story. Please review them.
Snow, Solitude, and Sadness
The snow came with desperate urgency as though it must bury everything in its path… It was beautiful to watch but a bit scary with thoughts of being bound by its depth and awesome whiteness. There was warmth inside my heavy flannel shirt and thick pants with the thermostat set at seventy-four and a good blaze going in the fireplace. That being the case I was still a spring and summer guy, a sun worshiper – all two hundred pounds of me – and I loved the pretty girls at the beach in their bikinis…well, maybe I loved them a tad too much.
A loud constant rapping at the front door startled me… The doorbell was either not working or the rapper had not noticed it. There came a quick concern that I was all alone in the big house. Ellen was attending a birth event of one of our kids. Another concern was that we were isolated on a wooded five acres, and I could not imagine any of our friends or neighbors being outside in this weather.
Warily I placed my laptop on the table next to my recliner and went to the door. Snow, aided by the wind, had drifted onto the porch and made the door more difficult to open. When I did manage to get the heavy door opened, I looked down into the face of a young boy who looked to be in his early teens. He was scantily dressed for this weather and he was involuntarily shaking. It was his face that got and held my attention. Amid the snowflakes and wetness, there was hard scabby blood from a gash under a swollen eye, and I could see bruising and other swollen spots. His face otherwise held a stern expression, his eyes a menacing almost stoic stare. He was a stranger to me, no one I could remember ever seeing.
“Hi, kid,” I said with some honest show of emotion and haste, “come in out of the snow and get warm. You could catch pneumonia out here…” I placed my hand softly on his shoulder to guide him in, and he flinched. “It’s okay, kid, you’re safe here. We can talk inside and no one can hurt you. I promise.” At this point the kid had not uttered a sound.
Inside the house I settled the kid on a chair in front of the fireplace, made him some hot chocolate with little white marshmallows, but he was reluctant to take the mug from my hands. I gave him a soft smile, “Hey, it won’t be as good as Ellen would make it, but it’s hot… Ellen’s my wife, away visiting one of our kids. Come on, take it, drink it, and you’ll feel better, I’m betting.”
He took the cup and wrapped both of his tiny hands around it. His expression was still harsh and indifferent, but his eyes seemed to soften slightly.
“You want to talk about this, son?” He flinched again at my word, ‘son.’ “It’s just an expression we older folks use with a person as young as you appear. Can you tell me your name?”
He brought with both hands his mug of hot chocolate to his lips, hesitated, gave me an upward glance, and sipped.
“Can you tell me who did this to you?”
Silence, but he sipped his hot chocolate.
“Can you tell me where you live? I haven’t seen you around here.”
Silence, but he continued to sip his hot chocolate. I took that as a good sign.
A thought struck me. “Are you maybe a runaway maybe, from that ‘Manor School for Boys’ over near Braxton?” It was a school for the mentally ill kids.
I hit a nerve. The kid flinched, stopped sipping, and put his mug on the hearth. His eyes got all watery, spilled over into tears, and I felt my heart beginning to break. I went to him, gently forced him into my arms and tenderly held him in an embrace, careful to avoid touching his bloody and bruised face. “Aw, kid, I’m so sorry you’re hurting, but I promise you…”
He broke from me and ran toward the front door.
“No, kid, please, stay here where it’s warm.” I rushed after him. “I’ll make it all better for you, kid, I promise. Whatever I have to do, I’ll make it better for you. Don’t leave. Don’t run away from help.” He was opening the front door. “Please, kid, give me a chance to help you! If the school is abusing you, I’ll stop them. Don’t run away! Please!”
Then he was gone, slamming the door, just missing my hand that was reaching out to him, gone into that blinding whiteness that was the snow.
I grabbed my parka, putting it on as I rushed out the door in pursuit.
I roamed the woods, the road 1/8th mile up my driveway, and never saw him in the swirling madness of snow. After two hours, I returned to the house, called 911, reported all that had happened, and told the operator about the ‘Manor School for Boys’ and what I thought might have happened. She promised she would have someone get back to me.
It took three days and more calls from me to get the news. They found the kid in a snow bank near an on-ramp to the freeway, dead from exposure.
They told me the kid was Jerry Cantor, a deaf boy from the Manor School for Boys. They told me an investigation was on-going about the school because there were other complaints about abuse.
They told me that Jerry was in the home for murdering his father and mother with a shotgun.
The world sometimes is not a fun place to be. The bright sunshine outside could not erase the sadness within my heart and soul. I cried as I remembered a little kid who never uttered a word, who sat in front of my fireplace and sipped a mug of hot chocolate, who shed some tears, who in such a short span of time stole a piece of my heart.
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