Characters, Vol. III

17 December 2009 § 3 Comments

The treacherous sun glares into the city’s eye, threatening to burn it alive, from the ground up to the rooftops. Reflections beaming from anatomical glass structures back into the sky bear features of survival in that their sarcasm doesn’t cease until the request for it tires, or weakens. If the winding callouses show defiance, one of the millions may be held accountable and if in their floundering innocence, they admit responsibility, the circus will be after them, and the light will splatter in all directions, as a bucket of paint would react if dropped on a tile floor.

Accidentally, the plot is made clearer at the sight of the farmhand tending to the horse near the stable. They have just returned from a long ride over the moors and the young man brushes a bit slower than usual, but with the same meticulous care that they, the farmer and his ailing brother, have come to appreciate, but not expect. For it was not the boy’s choice to be here when he arrived, lost and in a panic, carrying a satchel full of school books and cigarettes. He was from the city, they could tell – for out in this country, one’s place in the world so far emanates from him as if the morning sun were sneaking up from behind with a secret to tell. Yes, he was from the city but did not speak of it.

In fact, he was loath to speak at all, and was quite brash for a number of days after his arrival, but the farmers knew that he did not wish to return to wherever he came from and could not help him financially if he did. So they took him in and asked a few chores of him to make his way, and these and more he did with a silent contentment that, when the day’s work was done, made them wonder further about his origins, his story.

But it would come in time. Like most men, he would hide it deep within himself and busy his surface being with useful things that occupy his mind until it would appear from his lips as if the old barn door had slipped its hinges again and his saying it out loud would be a plaintive comment about how he’d fixed it, and that it shouldn’t slip again because he took the good hinges off the carriage out back and put those on with new nails.

He returns the saddle to the small room on the left side of the stable and checks the shoes to make sure he’d gotten all the muck out of them. Today has been particularly wet, the summer rains returning after three years of relative drought, and the moors could serve as well as swimming pools in places. Supper will be ready soon. The farmer’s brother, despite his illness, can cook a meal better than his mother ever did, and for this the boy smiles in thanks to the man when they sit down to eat.

He does not walk inside. Instead, glancing up at the cloudy sky and seeing the darkest shades of grey overlapping each other with slow motion explosions reserves more often for films, or the witnessing of some awful catastrophe. They say that time slows down in these moments, and the memories are more vivid.

The young man considers time. Even if it paced itself at the speed of electricity or sound or light, the clouds would still move as slowly as they do now, colliding into new forms that cannot be imagined but by those whom have paid substantial amounts of their attention to these movements. The mountains lurk in the distance to the west, as if crawling amongst the hills so as to not be detected. Their confidence betrays them, and the young man knows that what appears to be blue on a clear day is actually a deep and unrelenting green that covers the land – mother nature’s baby blanket, pulled from the chest where hope was left.

It was not her hope that remained, however. Hers was that she would not have to pull this one out, for it was her last treasure, her souvenir that would mark her final gift, and she, like any mother whose child is coming of age, does not want to bestow it quite yet. There must be a greater signal than mere numbers, and she will wait for it – her child is strong, and left to his own devices, will create entire worlds with his mind that prosper and advance through ages as chapters through books. This is her fear, and it consumes her.

The scratching notes from the violin dilute the air, making it thinner, polluted. the wind carries the sound between the buildings and north, which is rare but goes unnoticed. Soon, the old gentleman with scarred and herculean hands will discover his soul and with a single breath, they might come to understand the frailty of the instrument they hold, which is not like what they are accustomed to. Shovels and plows can be thrown about and used to manipulate the strength of the earth and so must be strong themselves. But the violin is light and delicate and used properly, can manipulate the emotions of those listening, even in passing, and can decimate burden, tension, and hatred – and that kind of strength cannot be found in a shovel, or even a tractor.

Until then, the notes will be unpleasant and coarse, fighting their way through the air with stunted determination, and may succumb to any barrier polite enough to stand in their way. And they will earn the boy’s respect, or at least his curiosity before they die, because it is not often one finds an old farmer playing a violin out in this country. Though, it is rarer still to find cityfolk out here, and the boy is from the city, he is sure, even if he doesn’t speak of it.

Just as well, for he has adapted quickly and works hard even when there is only light work to be done. Besides, it is nice to have the spirit of a young person about – the lives of everyone around shine a little brighter, and he could swear the his brother has been feeling better these past few months. It would be too much to run the farm alone anymore – otherwise, he’d have to sell and move to the city, and frequent grocery stores and shopping malls. The farmer chuckles at the though and then inhales a deep breath, lifts the violin to his chin, and plays.

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§ 3 Responses to Characters, Vol. III

  • Mark William Jackson says:

    Excellent description of rural hardship, paints a clear picture for someone like me, from the city. I like the personification of mother nature which adds a realism to the earthy tone, and, as I wrote before, helps a city boy understand the land. I also got a feeling of Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’, not sure if this comes from the setting or the mysteriousness of the city boy’s back story.

  • Katie Bird says:

    I really enjoyed the ending. It was pleasantly optimistic. I hope that’s a good sign coming from you 🙂

  • Mark, thanks. I don’t think I’ve ever been subject to such a comparison, but its kind of a fuzzy feeling. I am neither from the city nor the country, or at least neither lifestyle is deeply embedded within me, but hopefully I can do something similar with the boy’s story, if and when it comes.

    Katie, I’m an optimistic person, honest. 🙂

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