On Telling Your Story:

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

-Maya Angelou

Advertisements

Insurmountable

Wind like the whispers from the miles beneath him,

While the voices and the yelling and the memories are within,

With the battle to the summit and the others so driven,

Win the lesson and the title and the honor that’s with them.

Don’t fail, to climb through the rain and the hail,

Avoid the plummet from the summit and the freezing thin air,

Push ahead through the storm, don’t stray from the trail,

Can’t deny it, so try it, see the sky from up there.

Less from the start, some their willpower fades,

Leaving off from the climb, hanging back the glades,

Left the battle to the summit and the others more driven,

Lost the lesson and the title and the honor that’s with them.

Don’t fail, to climb through the rain and the hail,

Avoid the plummet from the summit and the freezing thin air,

Push ahead through the storm, don’t stray from the trail,

Can’t deny it, so try it, see the sky from up there.

Few left get to see all what others were forbidden,

From the glades of the forest all the summits are hidden,

Fought the battle to the summit, with the others so driven,

Found the lesson and the title, a few others were with him.

Won’t fail, to climb through the rain and the hail,

Missed the plummet, reached the summit and they’re breathing the air.

Push ahead through the storm, don’t stray from the trail,

Can’t deny it, so try it, see the sky from up there.

A.H.W.

Storm Salvage

The smell of ozone lingers in the air.

I sip my cup of coffee from the ancient wooden gliding chair on the screened-in porch, and look out at the water. The rolling cliffs leading down to the beach below are blanketed with grape vines; the light undersides of their leaves are exposed.

The weather stick – a novelty gift item my great grandfather had picked up in a Vermont country store – nailed to the wall next to me, pointed straight down.

These were the three surest signs of an impending storm I had; my family put more credence in them than any meteorologist. Our maritime radio, alongside a pair of high-powered binoculars, sits on the arm of the glider, within reach. The radio is on. Amid the static I hear bits of emergency broadcasts.

“Wind speed up to seven-tee-three knots. Seas ten to fifteen feet. Chance of showers, and thunn-der storms,” the robotic voice of the emergency broadcast warns.

I finish my coffee and step across the warped porch floor boards, damaged from years of exposure to the ocean just down the cliff. About a mile out on the water, I can see a wall of rain moving in. At the rain line, the water abruptly changes from glassy calm, to choppy and dark.

The leaves rustle, and I feel the first gusts of wind from the incoming storm make landfall. I know I don’t have long to prepare for the gale-force storm that’s about to hit.

I quickly zip up my light-weight rain jacket and matching pants, then grab the radio. I drape the binoculars around my neck, and take a long length of rope hanging from a fish scale next to the porch door, then head down to the beach.

The wind pelts the bluff with sand as I arrive at the top of the tall wooden bulkhead, so I shield my face with my hands. I stand at the edge of the wall and look down. Normally there’s about a ten foot drop to the beach, followed by a stretch of sand that slopes down to the ocean. But with the flood tide, the beach has all but disappeared, and the water is rising against the aged boards. Our stairs down to the beach have been carried up in preparation for the storm.

I take the length of rope and tie a quick clove-hitch around a tall post we use for hoisting up the rowboat. With the other end, I make a bowline around my waist. My rule for salvage is simple: stay on the line. The coming waves could easily crash over the bulkhead and sweep me out to sea if I’m careless.

But the risk is worth the thrill. In the past, I’ve found rowboats, an inflatable trampoline, even a small motor boat which I begrudgingly returned to its owner.

The sound of rain pelting the water shakes me from my reminiscing. I look up and watch, as the storm line dashes across the water and slams the beach. Chop springs up on the water, and a downpour beads off my Marmot rain shell.

The expanse of cottages clinging to the cliffsides quickly dissapears in a shroud of mist. All I can see is the edge of the bulkhead, and the swirling water below.

There is a thunderous crash as a huge wave broadsides the wall, spraying foam and mist. As the raindrops roll down my face I look up and down the beach, knowing not a soul is out doors for miles around.

But the lure of unknown keeps bringing me back to the edge – here.

A.H.W.

The Mountain’s Shadow

I slide the heavy plastic napkin dispenser – I swear I’d seen the exact same one a thousand times, like the entire country went and made a standard national napkin dispenser with the same dimensions, cut from the same half-opaque plastic, with the same little slot on the bottom that drops individually wrapped toothpicks – on top of the flimsy paper menu, looking to plan its escape and hitch a ride on a passing wind gust.

Leaning on the balcony railing, I stare past the empty chair across from me and look down at the park below where a few of my friends lay on their backs in the grass by the fountain. They’re looking up at the dark clouds hanging low overhead.

Opposite the fountain, near some paving stones and what looks like a tiny raised stage, a handful of burly, tanned men are struggling to dismantle a set of temporary bleachers. They throw the iron piping supports into a growling diesel flatbed that sputters exhaust in an impatient idle. They take their time, yet still are careless with their handling of the set pieces. The tubes clang together, punctuating the quiet afternoon.

Still beyond the park, are a myriad of tourist-y shops crowding with gawkers. One is built to look like an authentic teepee, complete with sour-cane and palm leaf roofing that the indigenous Bri-Bri Indians would use. Along the short stretch of the park, directly opposite the street the restaurant sits on, is a whitewashed Cathedral whose steeple towers over the rest of the town. It ought to have been attached to a different church though: it was much too big for the tiny house of worship it was part of.

Ornate streetlamps flicker to life out of sync as the mountain grumbles beyond the church and the foothills, bringing early nightfall. The breeze reaches out from the mountain, billowing passed the hills and the church, zigzagging between the out-of-towners in their khakis and “I love Costa Rica” paraphernalia, slinging cameras and snapping pictures of the most commonplace things. It crosses the park, politely sidestepping the construction workers, stopping briefly to mix with the exhaust from their truck. It cuts through the ring of teenagers by the fountain, scales the storefront below, and blows over the balcony.

The breeze is flavored now with mild smoke and cinders, reminiscent of a July-evening barbeque cooked over a proper charcoal grill with just a hint of mesquite that your father swears makes the meat taste momentously better. The smell sits somewhere in the back of my nose until I cough over the sulfur that came along with it. I almost don’t notice when my companion steps back out onto the balcony. She stands over me, next to the table, opening her mouth to speak, but the growing wind gathers up all of her auburn hair and rudely casts it in her face.

“Ah!”

“Ready to go?” I ask.

She wrangles her hair with a Scrunchie lasso before replying, “Yes,” with a giggle.

I toss a few thousand Colones – local currency, I honestly can’t be bothered to explain the exchange rate – onto the table, think about it, then move it beneath the safety of a salt shaker, before rising.

“Come on, we want to get to the falls before dark,” one of her curls has gotten loose and absolutely refuses to behave.

I take one last look at the town before descending to the streets below.

A.H.W.

Husked

“It’s just me,” Bobby whispers, “nobody else but me.” He looks down at the street forty stories below. The Husks – those who had been overcome by the mind-melting radiation from last summer’s solar flare – stared dumbly up at him. Their expressionless, dead eyes were wide as always.

Unblinking.

They were harmless, not like the cliché brain-hungry TV/movie monstrosities. These things just shuffled around aimlessly, bumping into one another.

Bobby almost wished they were dangerous. The challenge of survival would have at least taken his mind off the soul crushing loneliness. Ever since he climbed out of the MRI tube last summer, which he’d guessed shielded him from the jolt, he hadn’t spoken to anyone.

He spent the last eight months roaming the country, looking for anyone who still had their wits. Bobby couldn’t live alone. He had almost forgotten the sound of his friends’ voices.

The Husks were always silent. They didn’t moan or growl; the only sound they made what when they bumped into one another, or knocked something over.

“I can’t do this anymore,” Bobby says to an empty world. He simply steps out the open window.

He’s only in free-fall for a split second, plummeting toward the pavement below, before he hears something: a phone ringing. By the sound of it, it’s coming from one of the lower floors in the building.

Bobby crashes onto the hood of a rusted Volkswagen, parked curbside. The impact shatters every bone in his body, but doesn’t kill him right away. Even over the sound of the car alarm, he can pick out the distant ringing. In the lonely reaches of his mind, Bobby gets the feeling that this isn’t a robo-call. Someone real is on the other end of that line.

Somewhere in the world, there was a person as desperate as he was, maybe reaching out one last time in a desperate attempt to make contact with family or a friend – perhaps at an old phone number. As a warm darkness sweeps over him, he has a final thought.

I’m not the last person, Bobby thinks. They are.

A.H.W.

The Tree that Decided

They came to the forest, checked another man’s snares,

And then took what they found though it clear was not theirs,

Burned bark from a tree, and their fire it flared,

They’d woken the tree – and its cold judging stare.

The tree that decided the fate of the lot,

It watched and it judged them from its lonely spot,

It looked from the eye in its gnarled old knot,

And it watched and decided ‘til that tree did rot.

So they cooked up the meat that they‘d gone off and stole,

Then got out their tents, and they pitched them with poles.

Their fire was dying: only left was spent coal;

So they doused it with water, and went to bed cold.

The tree that decided the fate of the lot,

It watched and it judged them from its lonely spot,

It looked from the eye in its gnarled old knot,

And it watched and decided ‘til that tree did rot.

The wild wind woke them in a late night storm gale,

The ashes were flying, and the tree branches flailed,

In horror and anger the trespassers wailed.

The tree that decided, break them and prevail!

The tree that decided the fate of the lot,

It watched and it judged them from its lonely spot,

It looked from the eye in its gnarled old knot,

And it watched and decided ‘til that tree did rot.

Into the forest, came a man with an axe,

And toppled the thing in a single swift act.

Broke straight through bark – left the eye un-intact;

The tree that decided, dragged away to a stack.

Now the tree that decided the fate of the lot,

Was ripped from the earth of its lonely old spot.

Punished justly for doing what it knew it should not;

It had watched and decided until it did rot.

Deceivers not punished by what’s brought to a mill,

In life they can steal, and pilfer their fill,

The trees can’t affect them, stuck bound in the till,

But they would if they could, as the most of us will.

The tree that decided the fate of the lot,

It watched and it judged them from its lonely spot,

It looked from the eye in its gnarled old knot,

T’was punished far more severely than those who did not.

A.H.W.