The Sound of Snow – A Short Story

tumblr_mpgsw2igru1qdrgo9o1_1280This is my seventh Pay It Forward offering. This story is for Rick! Enjoy!

*

When Rick opened the locker, his first thought was that it held hundreds of eyes. When he turned on the overhead light, he saw that the locker was filled with hundreds of televisions. They were all different sizes and shapes. There was one television near the front that was made out of yellow plastic while another towards the middle was made from a dark wood that shone on the light reflected off of its surface while another was housed in something that looked like teak wood.

Looking at all of the televisions, Ricks first thought was: What the fuck am I going to do with all those televisions? What he said was: “What the fuck am I going to do with all those televisions?” He wandered in a little ways amongst the TV’s and looked back at his husband Mike with wonder.

“Fucked if I know.” Mike said. “Go figure your uncle would leave you this in his will. I figured he’d leave you his teapot collection, but no, you get this massive collection of televisions. That’s so much better.” Mike tried to keep a note of sarcasm out of his voice but wasn’t entirely successful.

Rick scoffed and looked around at all the televisions. His eyes couldn’t take them all in. “There must be hundreds of them here.” He said. “Why would someone keep all of these? There must have been some reason.”

Mike shrugged. “Your uncle was an odd duck.”

Rick bristled. “He wasn’t an odd duck.”

“Yes he was. He had a whole collection of Raggedy Anne and Raggedy Andy toys and he even had the lunch boxes. He even had the old records.”

“They were antiques!” Rick said.

“Yeah, and the collection of Scooby Doo comic books? How about the original set of Star Wars figurines or the Teddy Ruxpin Dolls?”

Rick shrugged. “He had eccentric tastes.”

“And you’re surprised that he had a storage locker full of old televisions?” Mike asked, shaking his head. “I’m not surprised and he was your uncle.”

Mike came over to Rick and took Rick’s hands in his. “Listen, I know you loved him, but isn’t this a little much? What are you supposed to do with hundreds of televisions? It’s not like any of them work anymore and we certainly don’t have the space for them.”

Sighing, Rick looked at all the TV’s again. “I know, I know that. It’s just that this was my inheritance. I need to figure out why he left all of this to me. Why the televisions? Why not the Teddy Ruxpin dolls?”

“Truth be told, I always found Teddy Ruxpin kind of frightening.”

“You and me both.” Rick said. “Still, they were kind of cute in their own way.”

“Just like you,” Mike said, kissing Rick on the forehead.

“Hey, so I’m somewhat frightening but cute?” Rick let out a bark of laughter.

“You said it, not me. Listen, you take your time and look through this storage locker for as long as you want, okay? I’m going to go head into work. Did you need me to bring you anything?”

“Nah, I can go get lunch. I’ll be good.”

“Okay, call me if you need anything.” Mike kissed him softly. “Love you.”

“Love you too.”

Watching Mike leave the storage locker, Rick thought how different his life would be without Mike. How Mike had saved him, but they had saved each other in a way. There are all kinds of magic in the world, Rick thought, but love is the strongest one.

His uncle Louis had been the same way, believing that love could move mountains and accomplish actual magic. Louis had given days filled with stories and mystery, letting Rick read anything on his bookshelves. His uncle had given him the world. Looking around at the televisions, Rick wondered if Louis was trying to do the same thing with the televisions.

Rick walked towards one, a large teak box with a blank eye of a screen. He liked the honey colour of the wood and the detailing that had been done around the screen. Wondering if it could be used for a planter or something like that, Rick reached out to touch the screen.

The television flickered to life, first with a white dot in the centre of the screen. Rick watched the dot expand and as it did, he saw a world of colour appearing on the television screen. He was looking at one of the shows that he had loved as a child, Lost In Space. On the screen, Captain John Robinson was talking to his wife Maureen and their robot B-9 was in the background flailing its arms wildly.

He turned the knob for the channels and was astounded when he saw that the television was also playing Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lassie, Star Trek, Flipper and Gentle Ben. They were all the shows that he had watched as a child, all the shows that had brought him joy and they had been the first inkling of actual magic for Rick.

He sat entranced for a few minutes before he realized something. Looking at the back of the television, Rick realized what he should have when it first turned itself on: it was not plugged in. Going back to the front of the TV, he turned it off and waited a few seconds. Then he clicked it on again and it was still working, this time playing Lassie and showing Timmy and the collie sharing a lovely moment on screen.

Turning the television off, he went to look at the others. Stopping in front of a small one made out of a dark wood that had speakers built into the wood on either side of the television screen, Rick reached out to touch the screen again. It happened again, only this time it was a little different. While the white dot began to grow in the middle of the screen and the sound was filled with the snow of static, a voice whispered clearly from within the snow. “Allan…” Rick jumped back a little, unsure of whether or not he had heard correctly, or whether he had just imagined it. As if hearing his thoughts, the television spoke again: “Allan…Allan…”

Okay, clearly, he wasn’t imagining things. The only Allan that Rick knew was neighbour that lived on his street. He was a chef that cooked like a dream. They had been over to each other’s houses and Rick and Mike had gotten to know him well over the past few years.

Rick waited for the picture tubes to warm up and for the picture to become clearer. An episode of Ren and Stimpy came on and the hot tempered chihuahua and socially awkward cat that were always getting into mischief. Rick smiled and changed the channels. He found Looney Tunes and Animaniacs, showing an episode with Pinky and the Brain.

Following a hunch, Rick turned down the volume on the television and took out his cell phone and dialed Allan’s number. Allan picked up after the third ring.

“Hey man, what can I do for you?”

“This might seem like an odd question, but I’m writing a story about television shows.”

“Oh man, I loved the story you wrote for last Halloween, The Legend of Frogmore Lodge? That was gorgeous! You’re totally gifted.”

“Thanks Allan.” Rick let the joy run through him. He always experienced joy when others found joy from his writing. It filled him with such a sense of pride and accomplishment that he was able to touch people’s hearts that way.

“Don’t mention it. You wanted to know about the television shows I liked as a kid? Well, now don’t laugh, but I loved Looney Tunes, the Animaniacs, my favourites on that show were Pinky and the Brain. I also loved Ren and Stimpy.”

“I remember all of those.” Rick said.

“So, then I’m in good company. I know they’re pretty silly.” Allan said, sounding bashful.

“Hey now,” Rick said. “Entertainment that good can’t be silly. You love what you love. Thanks for the info Allan. This will be a great help.”

“My pleasure! You say hello to Mike for me, okay?”

“Will do.” Rick said, trying to keep his voice cheerful. He hung up and put his phone back in his pocked and turned around to look at the televisions. “I wonder who you all belong to?” He asked out loud. He looked at each of them and it was as if he was looking at a sea of eyes.

He approached the TV’s feeling as if he were approaching a classroom full of children. Now, Rick believed in miracles. He believed in things that had no rational explanation. Rick knew that the world held magic and there were things that could not be explained. He had spent time in a seminary before deciding that that kind of life wasn’t for him. During his time there, he had seen many wonderous events that defied description. Rick had a feeling that this was one of those things.

Looking at the television’s, each of them staring at him like an eye, Rick had an idea. He would need some help though. He took out his phone and called Mike. “Hey, can you come and help me with something? Oh, and bring post it notes and a pen, okay?”

*

When Rick told Mike what he wanted to do, Mike gave him a sardonic look. “You can’t be fucking serious.”

“I am serious.” Rick said. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Babe, look. I know that losing your uncle has been hard on you, but this is just too much. So, you’re like a television whisperer?” Mike snorted and tried to cover it up as a cough but wasn’t entirely successful.

“Look, I know what I heard and what I saw. I can hear who the tv is for, Mike.”

“Babe, come on.”

“No, you come on. You’re always so grounded in the here and now.”

“And your head is always in the clouds. It’s what makes us so good for each other.”

“Well, this time I need you to come up to the clouds with me, okay?”

Mike shook his head. “I know you’re grieving and so am I. Uncle Louis is still with us, his spirit at any rate. I know it will take time to grieve properly, but just give it time, Rick.”

Rick sighed. “Okay, I’ll prove it to you. Watch.”

He went to the first television near him. It was a small yellow plastic television. When Rick turned it on. Listening to the musical snow, he smiled. “This one is for Remington.” They watched the television come to life, the small eye in the centre slowly filling the whole screen. Turning the channels, they saw snippets of Mr. Dress up, Mr. Rogers and Sherry Lewis and Lamb Chop.

He went to another television, a handsome dark wood one with speakers on either side. When the snow came this time, Rick listened. This one is for Marie-Claude.” They watched as the eye opened and Rick clicked the knob to go through the channels. They watched little bits of My Little Pony, Care Bears and a shot called Astro.

“What is all this?” Mike asked. “Marie-Claude and Remington live down the street from us. And you said you talked to Allan. There must be a television here for everyone that lives in our neighbourhood.” Mike walked around the televisions and stopped at one that was set into wood that had been stained blue. “Who’s this one for?” Mike clicked it on.

Rick listened to the snow and before the eye inside the television opened, he said “It’s for Bruce.” They waited for the picture to clear and they watched part of the Flintstones, the Jetsons, Superfriends and Spiderman.

“Fine!” Mike was growing afraid now. He clicked on another television and said “Who’s this one for?” He tried to keep the fear out of his voice.

Listening to the crackle and snap and hiss of the snow, Rick motioned at the television. “That one’s for Jackie.” They watched episodes of I Dream of Jeanie, Bewitched, Gilligan’s Island and Get Smart.

“What is all this?” Mike asked again. “Are you like a psychic medium or something?”

Rick shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

“Then what is this all about?” Mike asked.

Rick remembered something that Louis had once told him. “Life can be cruel, Ricky. When you’re young, the whole world stretches out before you with possibilities. Then, as you get older, all you are left with is your memories. Then, when you get older still, life takes those memories from you.” He had looked down at him with a sage look. “Hold on to your memories for as long as you can, Rick. In the end, they are all you have.”

Turning around to look at all of the televisions. They all looked at him and he wondered what wonders they held. “These are memories.” Rick said.

Mike snorted. “These things play old television shows. That’s odd, but they are hardly memories.”

“Okay, what was your favourite television show as a kid?”

“It was either Forest Rangers or the Flinstones.” Mike said. “I love those shows.”

“And how did you feel when you watched those shows? Do you remember sitting in front of your television and the wonder you felt seeing the images move across the screen?”

Mike looked at Rick, a growing look of wonder on his face. “Yeah.” He said simply. “Yeah, I do.”

“These televisions are from a moment in time when life was happy for whoever the television belongs to.” He paused before continuing. “And we have to deliver all of these memories to our neighbours.”

Mike looked at all the TV’s with horror. “You have to be fucking kidding me.”

*

“Have I told you lately how much I love you?” Rick whispered.

Mike gave him a look in the darkness that could have burned through metal. “Yeah, you’ve mentioned it several times already.” He replied in his own fierce whisper. Mike hefted another television onto a dolly. They had rented a U-Haul truck to take all of the televisions around to the different houses. Mike had written the name of each person on a Post-It note and taped it to the TV.

He started rolling it as quietly as possible to their neighbour Jen’s house. Apparently, she had loved Gargoyles, Murder She Wrote and Lois and Clark. They had dropped off televisions for Michael who had loved Howdy Doody, Maggie Muggins and Romper Room and they had left televisions for Alaina who had loved Star Trek, The ED Sullivan show and Bugs Bunny as well as a television for Dawn who had loved The Muppet Show.

Together, they had delivered all of the televisions, one to each house in their neighbourhood, Mike swearing in whispers throughout most of the journey. “Fuck that one was heavy.” He said as Rick quietly placed the last one. All the televisions had been left on the front steps of each house so that they would find them in the morning.

“Do you really think this will be worth it?” Mike asked.

Rick looked up the street, the TV’s looking even more like eyes in the dark as the streetlamps reflected off the glass. The ones with metal casings looked as if they were sparkling and he wondered if they were filled with magic or miracles.

“I don’t know.” Rick responded. “I guess we will find out in the morning.”

Mike pushed the dolly back to the truck. “Come on, miracle man. Let’s go home.”

When they got home, Rick went into their study and looked at the television that had played his shows. Mike had let him keep it, though Rick didn’t give him much of a chance to disagree. Clicking it on, Rick watched the television’s eye open wide, the sound of snow momentarily loud in the quiet room. When the picture cleared and the snow fell away, he watched Maureen and their robot B-9 from Lost in Space talking on the screen.

A smile lit his face, and something bloomed within him. He thought he knew what the feeling was: hope.

Mike came into the room and sat down on the couch beside him. “What do you think will happen?”

“I don’t know.” Rick replied. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

They watched Lost in Space for a little longer until the stars began to fill the sky.

*

In the morning, Rick was brushing his teeth when Mike ran into the bathroom. “Babe, you gotta come and see this!”

“What?” He said thickly, his mouth full of toothpaste. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothings wrong. Come and see!”

Rick rinsed out his mouth and wen to find Mike. He didn’t have to look far. He found Mike standing in front of the television in their bedroom. The volume was up loud so that they could both hear it.

On screen, a reporter was speaking over grainy black and white video of two men leaving televisions on the doorsteps of houses. Rick knew that that was the two of them and was thankful that they had chosen to do the drop off in the dark. Mike nudged him and motioned at the television, so Rick tuned in to what the reporter was saying.

“…people in this small suburban neighbouhood are all curious about who left the televisions on their doorsteps. Even more so, how they got the televisions to work without electricity.”

It cut to Jackie and she was smiling so brightly, her eyes filled with light. “I just want to thank whoever left me my television. To think I can watch all my old favourites! It just reminded me of being a child again!”

Jen came on screen next. “It’s really amazing.” He said. “I feel like a kid again. I remember the joy I felt, running to the TV and seeing what my friends were up to.”

The camera switched to Michael. “I just can’t understand it. I mean, how does it stay on without electricity? It’s like magic!” He smiled for the camera. “Either way, I get to be a kid again. I haven’t watched any of those shows in years!”

The reporter came on screen. “The people living here haven’t been able to find out who the two men are. The video we showed you earlier came from a doorbell camera and is the only visual we’ve been able to find. The people of this town would like to thank whoever these two mystery men are. Thank you for the magic.”

“Do you really think that’s what it is? Magic?” Mike asked.

“What else could it be?” Rick said.

He turned off the television and, just for a moment, the room was filled with the sound of snow.

The Whispering of the Trees – Creative Non-Fiction

Shadow ForstI entered this in the CBC Non Fiction Prize. While I didn’t place in the long list, that’s all good as I can now share it with all of you.

*

The world had fallen around me.

The dark forest had sprung up around almost without noticing. Everywhere I looked, I saw the shadows of the trees along the walls. I could see the shadows of crows as they flew from tree to tree.

It had been like this since the diagnosis. I had thought I was okay. I was not. I had gone so far into myself that I don’t know where I ended or where the multiple sclerosis began. I had no idea who I was anymore. My body was completely unknown to me and every action felt foreign, as if someone else was operating my body. I didn’t know how far the forest went within me. I checked my pockets for bread crumbs and hoped the birds were on a gluten free diet.

I wanted to distract myself from the whisper of the trees. It was becoming too alluring to walk amongst its branches and trees that never bore fruit. I was starting to look forward to the shadows of the leaves. They felt like a caress of a lover, someone that understood what I was when I could not.

Max Shadow sat watching me, a bemused expression on his face. “What do you think you’re trying to do?” He said, his voice dripping in derision. He was the embodiment of the MS within me. As a writer, I had mistakenly thought that if something had a name, I could fight it, that I had power over it. I could beat it. I had pulled him out of my imagination, but he was more powerful than me. He was the worst thing to come out of the forest. “You don’t think you can just walk away, do you?” He let out a little laugh. “We almost had you, Jamieson. Almost. If only you had taken the pills.” He sighed. “Just think, all it would have taken is that handful of pills and you would have experienced sweet oblivion.”

Though he sat in shadows, the dark forest whispering around him, I could see his teeth flashing in the dark. “Don’t worry.” He said. “There’s still time. We’ll have you yet. We both know that broken men belong in the forest.”

The truth of it was that I almost believed him.

I wanted to do something, anything to distract myself and to quiet his voice. I tried cleaning my apartment. This should have been easy. Before the MS, I loved to clean. I would think through plot lines of the novel I was working on while I cleaned while listening to loud music. Now everything was a battle. I couldn’t walk without a cane and when I wasn’t using it, I had to balance myself with my hands against the walls or risk falling over. This was my life. Everything was a battle and now I was fighting a war against myself. I didn’t care, I needed the distraction, needed to find a way outside of myself.

The wind from the dark forest increased, wrapping me in a soft breeze. I could hear the chatter of the crows and the almost rhythmic beat of the forest that matched the beating of my heart. I began cleaning, haphazardly, just to shut everything up, to keep the crows from shrieking at me, to stop Max Shadow’s soft laughter. I picked things up and moved them, I tried to wipe surfaces, but even that was difficult what with having to keep my balance. I wasn’t cleaning very well, and I could feel myself about to break.

“You really are rubbish at everything you do, aren’t you Jamieson?” Max said.

Trying to ignore him, I turned away from him and tried to clean the fridge. I could see fingerprints on the fridge door and there was a thin layer of dust over the whole thing. I grabbed a rag and wet it, turning back to the fridge.

“That’s it, Jamieson. Clean off the dust, but that’s all your body is full of, isn’t it? No wonder no one wants you. Who would want a broken man?”

I made a rough swipe with the cloth, a guttural sound coming out of my mouth, and I knocked a bunch of magnets off the fridge door. I looked at them, lying on the floor so colourful but somehow so far away. I had to pick them up one at a time, afraid of losing my balance and falling over.

One magnet drew my eyes, however. It was a little yellow magnet that my mother had given to me quite a few years ago; I hadn’t looked at it in some time but out of all of the magnets, this one drew my gaze.

I bent down slowly to pick it up, making sure that I was propped against the fridge and holding on to the door. I picked it up and held it in the palm of my hand. I looked at it, so sunny and yellow and bright. There were six words written in black. They said: My life is up to me.

I held that magnet and thought about what my life had become: I had almost taken my own life. My love life was non-existent because I was too afraid of rejection, too afraid of what people would see when they looked at me. I was so afraid that I let a man who loved me hurt me as it seemed better than being alone with the wasteland that was my body.

More than that, I had to love myself, even just a tiny bit, before I could love someone else. Or at the very least, I had to make peace with what I had become.

I was in danger of losing my job. I was terribly depressed and still in the depths of the forest. I could hear the trees whispering to me during the day. Even when I couldn’t see them, they were there, and I could feel the tree branches scratching me on the inside of my skin.

“The trees have tasted your fears, Jamieson.” Max said. “You’ve always carried them within you, but you’ve finally let them free. They want to welcome you. Just one bottle of pills, Jamieson. That’s all it would take.”

I had cut out all of my friends, people that had been my family. That was my choice as I believed that no one should have to put up with me, let alone myself. I had no social life. Instead, I went to work, barely made it through the day and then I would come home and hide inside my apartment. My world was the walls of the place that I called home and it was here that I could hear the leaves of the trees the strongest.

“And isn’t that how it should be?” Max taunted. “Who would even want to bother with a broken man like you? You’re so weak.”

In a way, I had died, even though I was still living and breathing. I had let the disease take everything from me, had given it every part of myself to try and appease it, though it did no good. I pretended I was okay, but the truth was, I was a ghost of my true self.

“You were always a ghost, Jamieson, though you didn’t know it. Who would notice someone so insignificant and broken?” I believed him. Dear God, I believed him.

Looking down at the floor, I saw not magnets but pieces of glass that had been my chalice, the vessel that I carried within myself that held me together, that held everything that I was, my spirit and my joy. It lay in pieces on the floor, glittering at me in the dim light.

I looked down at the little yellow magnet again. The words stared back at me: My life is up to me. I worked at shaping my mouth to form the words: “My life is up to me.” I whispered. I tried again, a little louder: “My life is up to me!

Max laughed. “You think so? Your life has already been decided for you. You don’t have one. If the Multiple Sclerosis has taken everything else, if you’ve given all that you have to me, why not give me this one final thing? There’s a bottle of pills in your bag, Jamieson. It would be so simple.” He smiled. “They would taste like candy.”

In that moment, despite the allure that Max had laced his words with, I made a decision that would change the direction of my life. I was not broken. I deserved more than this, more than the forest would offer me. If I didn’t like something, I had to change it. The only thing was I had no idea where to begin, where to start looking for help or how to put the chalice back together again.

It didn’t matter. I had made the decision. I would change the road I was on and choose to walk along another.

Max looked at me with a face filled with horror, knowing that something had shifted inside of me. “What are you doing?” He hissed at me.

“What I should have done a long time ago.” I whispered.

I imagined the branches of the dark forest reaching out to grab hold of him, of that piece of myself. The branches pulled him back into the shadows with a loud cry that shook the walls and reverberated inside of me. All that was left was the whispering of the trees. The forest would remain for a while, it would take time for it to disappear and maybe the dark forest would never go away completely. Max Shadow would be back, too. He was part of me as were the trees of the dark forest. It didn’t matter. Contrary to what Max had thought, I was not broken. I was worth more than this and I had a choice to make.

I would choose to live.

In Awe of You – A Poem

I am in awe of you.heart

Your love heals the cracks in me,

those fissures and fault lines

that run along my body

though they are unseen to the human eye.

Those lines were caused

by trauma and bits of my spirit

that were torn away from me,

or given to someone

as a peace offering that had no effect.

You’ve managed to find

those missing pieces,

even ones that I assumed

were lost to me forever.

During our time together,

you’ve presented me

with each piece of myself,

your hands outstretched,

the small shards or slivers

held within your palm.

They glow softly

and there is a slight humming

that comes from them.

Gently, you’ve taken each piece

and found the part of me

that they belong to:

along the sore muscles of my legs,

trying to soothe the pain held within.

Along the cheekbones of my face

where I’ve taken the blows when

I’ve turned the other cheek.

Within each of my hands,

raw from being cruel to myself

or along the curves of my shoulders

that have had to carry such heavy loads.

You’ve even found the one piece

that belonged in the small space above my heart

which was lost to me

when I could not love myself.

You gave that to me when we were married,

except now I wear it on my finger.

I am patched up and whole

because of you and the love you give me.

I am in awe of you

and the light we create

together.

The Silent Symphony – A Poem

Musical notesMy body is a symphony of silence.

It makes it own music,

though I can’t hear it.

I can only feel the silence

as it makes its way through me.

The fatigue that takes my energy?

Those are the wind instruments.

that fly through me like the air,

taking what energy I have.

The spasms that wreak havoc and cause pain?

Those are the percussion instruments,

bright flashes that flare and pop

within my body.

The brain fog that descends without warning?

They are the drums and cymbals,

rolling through my brain like dark clouds

that take away my capability of thought and speech.

When I lose my balance or my footing?

Those are the string instruments,

the moments where my brain argues

with my body and what

it wants the body to do.

Though all of this is playing within me,

the instruments make no sound

and only I can hear them.

The music is different day,

filling my body with so many notes

that at times if feels like

I will be able to float away,

carried aloft by the silent symphony

that lives within me.

Sometimes, I look skyward

and I imagine what that would be like.

Flying towards the sun and free of pain,

riding along on the notes left behind me

in the sky.

 

 

Rage Cloud – A Poem

I can feel it under my skin.rage cloud

It tries to come to the surface

and burns through me,

as if I am made of fire instead of flesh.

The blackness is like tar beneath my skin;

I can feel it itching as it starts

to seep through at unexpected moments,

almost sighing in relief

when it is able to feel the air

upon its surface.

When it does this,

I cease being myself.

Instead, I am a black monster

filled with rage.

I am blind as all I can see

is a red cloud in front of me

that throbs and pluses with the

blackness that runs throughout me.

In that moment,

I cease to be

and there is just emotion:

anger, rage, hate.

I scream to try and release

what I am feeling

and the sound frightens me

being guttural and primal

and unlike any sound

I am capable of.

That release soothes the monster

who resides within my skin,

and the black layer reveals itself

to be skin that has burnt away,

flaking off and falling to the floor.

The red cloud still pulses in front of me

and I can ignore it for a time.

I can pretend that it doesn’t exist,

until it gets beneath my skin once more

and starts to turn black

from lack of air.

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