Category Archives: Writing

The Autobiography of Cold Harbor Orphanage

Arrivals

Two large carriages ascended a narrow dirt road leading up a tall hill. Their drivers looked only half awake, each occasionally moving a hand just enough to keep the horses motivated to continue. The wheels creaked and snapped, the hooves clopped and clapped, and a light breeze shifted a thick knot of pines that surrounded the road. From the front carriage came the sounds of weeping and a soft shushing. A small and pudgy hand occasionally extended from the doorway of the second carriage, each time pointing at a tree or rock, after which a stream of giggles and high-pitched laughter followed.

At the top of the path stood a wide and tall house. It was two stories of cracked white paint and sun-bleached boards. Two enormous oak trees, one on each side of the central doorway, hid most of the windows facing the road. An aged man sat beneath one of the trees, fanning himself with an old brochure. He had trouble shifting his large bulk enough to bring himself to his feet as he noticed the approaching visitors. The air was cool and dry, yet the seat of his slacks and back of his thick linen shirt were dark with sweat. He waved and smiled, turning his face into a mass of wrinkles. One of the carriage drivers looked to the large man for a moment before turning back to the horses. The man stood and watched as the two transports were pulled under the shade of the oaks and stopped.

From the weeping carriage stepped a middle-aged woman. Her brown hair was pulled back tightly, tied into a knot just above her neck. She wore a flowing brown Sunday dress, its edges lines with tiny white frills. She glanced at the man before looking up at the building. The drivers hopped off of their perches and began unloading boxes from the back of the carriages.

“These are the last of them, straight off the train,” she said, then looked back to the large man, squinting. “You are to introduce them to the others. Give them each a bed. Three have a small bag of personal effects. Put the things in the back, with all the rest. Is Sarah left yet?” The man nodded, his attention on the small figures exiting the carriages.

“Very well,” the woman said. She turned around and watched as four children stepped barefooted into the shade of the oaks, each looking around with mouths slightly agape. One was a girl, no older than eleven, her eyes puffy and red. She pushed the palm of one hand across her lightly freckled cheeks as the other tried to tame strands of sandy-blonde hair. There was a boy near her, with a narrow chin, dark and sunken eyes, and two large front teeth that protruded slightly from beneath his upper lip. Near the other carriage were two much younger children, each close to six years old, both boys with rounded faces that looked the same. They clung to one another as they first stepped outside, peering around nervously before one puckered his lips, put a finger in his nose and shouted “big chicken.” They both laughed for some time.

“I must be going now,” the woman said. The drivers returned to their seats. “If you have anything more, send word in the morning.” She looked at the boxes that the drivers had unloaded. “These should last through the week. It’s all we could gather. It should be enough.”

“I getting more help? This is four more I can’t alway watch you know. I can do oh all right but I need more help most time.” The woman sighed.

“We have gone over this at the town meeting. Most stay busy tending to their own families, and we can’t compensate anyone who comes here. We do expect Mrs. Timmons and Ms. Landsmith to start coming to see to cooking and clothes twice a week. I will see what else can be done.”

“Just I don’t want them to be hurt, Miss Delila,” the man said, nodding to himself. He focused his light green eyes on the back of the woman’s head, though she didn’t turn around. “Some of them is real rascals you must know, but I do what I can with this.”

“Do what you can,” she said. “This is all they have now. These last four they gathered from up in Summersville. It’s very grim there, you should know. They need to be safe.” The four children made their way to the woman.

“This the place?” the girl said, sniffing.

“This is your home now,” Delila said. “You will have friends here, and people to watch over you. We may even have a teacher for you soon.” The woman made a smile with her mouth and set her hand on the young girl’s head. “You behave yourselves. I will visit occasionally. Mr. Walter here will show you in.” The children looked over the towering figure of the man. He nodded his head widely.

“I am pleased to meet you. You can call me Walter or James, whichever suits you more. I prefer Walter but some of the others do not.” The girl looked back up to Delila, but the woman was already making her way to a carriage. One of the twins pointed at Walter and exclaimed, “hello watermelon.” The other repeated the words, and again they laughed.

Change of Pace

I don’t particularly feel like drawing tonight. I do, however, feel like writing, as I have for the past week or so. I have started reading again, a fact which has contributed greatly to my newfound need to externalize some of the whisperings of my imagination with prose rather than ink. I think that the People I Know project lasted roughly a month and a half, and the Lines has gone on a bit less. And now onto something else that I’ve been kicking around for a while, though never quite had the courage or momentum to go through with.

It’s a series of short stories that I may or may not have mentioned to a number of people on a number of occasions. The name of the collection is “The Autobiography of Cold Harbor Orphanage.” The premise is somewhat simplistic, though not worth ruining in this introduction to the work. I’ll try to make them worth reading. My writing is somewhat under-developed due to neglect, so most of them–like the Lines pieces–will be practice and experimentation.

They may be posted less frequently than a nightly drawing. Maybe every other night. I’ll promise nothing and see how it goes.

Take my hand some other day

The roaring receded to little more than a whisper. A few of the survivors cautiously took their hands away from their ears and peered about into the darkness. After nothing followed for a time almost all took up their tools and rekindled sources of light. A few gathered and risked using what little remained in their flasks to clean the mud and ash from their faces; among them one was given distance out of respect. A voice from somewhere, delicate and careful, addressed the solitary figure, though its source remained outside of torch light.
“Master, what of the children?”
“Let the children flee,” the figure replied without looking up.
“But surely they must go accompanied to the vista.”
“We old ones are tired. It’s too rainy for a midnight walk.”
“There are some that would go.”
“They simply pine for an empty sky.”
“This entire day went without a sound. And now there is so much undone. Think you nothing of the land that dawn will reveal?”
“Such is the vicious nature of preservation.”
The voice did not respond. The solitary figure stood, his feet sinking into the waterlogged earth, his thumbnail digging into the moist helve of his hammer. He labored forward until wet soil gave way to vegetation, and he found himself standing in a ring of kempt grass. “Tell them,” he began to say, though the roaring returned before he could finish.

Samuel Visits the Sea – Part 1

On a Saturday during the middle of Summer a young man decided to take a coastal path home in order to avoid his tormentors. He recalled having luck with back roads previously, and he felt that the added amount of time was a fair exchange for the cost of cheap analgesic. The path itself followed a line of high cliffs that overlooked the ocean, weaving between tangled patches of grass and underbrush.

The path began to ascend, and up ahead sat an old man slumped in a wheelchair. The young man looked around and, not spotting anyone else, called out to the aged figure.

“Hello,” he said. The old man did not look up. “Hello? Hello hello? You alive?”

“Yes,” came a somewhat muted, gravelly voice. Despite responding the old man did not move. His head was tilted back slightly, resting mostly on his left shoulder, and his gaze remained on the waters. His hair was matted and gray, twisted into a mass of stray strands by the winds. He had a thin white beard and deep lines under his eyes and above his brow.

“Are you OK?”

“Yes.”

“Someone leave you here?”

“This is my Saturday.” The old man’s mouth only slightly moved with his words, and his eyes did not waver.

“Can you move?” The sound of the waves crashing upon rocks far below the two filled the air for several moments.

“No, I can’t.”

“Then how’d you get here?”

“Back…back there is a small home for the broken and worthless. Twice each week someone brings me all the way here so I can spend some time close to the sea.”

“Were you a sailor or something?”

“No.”

“You just like the sea?”

“I can’t stand it. It smells and the wind never stops.”

“So why they bring you here?”

“Because they think I enjoy it and that it’ll do some good for me. They have these remedies for everyone at the home.”

“Sounds like they just want you out the way. You give them problems old man?”

“Ah they don’t mind me. Who are you anyway? Come over here where I can see you.”

“Name’s John. I don’t wanna walk out by the edge there. You?”

“Samuel Osborn.”

“Look Sam I gotta get home now. I have something important I have to do before tonight. When they gonna wheel you out here again?”

“Again? Probably Wednesday. That’s the usual.”

“All right, then. I kind of like this way home so maybe I’ll see you around.”

“If you come this way you will.” Samuel heard footsteps behind him trail off to the right. He took a deep breath and released it.

The Last Song of Trenton Fairweather

“I got this for us,” he said proudly, holding up a brown plastic bag tightly wrapped around a square form.
“They were on special. Two for $4.” He marched into the kitchen, sighting her vacant gaze settle on the package. She sat sprawled in the corner, still wearing her black sleeveless shirt and a pair of torn shorts.
Finding her eyes after a moment, he smiled. The lights buzzed. The fridge, empty, hummed distantly. Outside two people’s voices slid by in the darkness, caressing one another with giggles and indiscernible whispers.