Rainy Cabin Night

45 readings

0 vote

Winner
Jury Selection

The Depoes make do with three rooms, arranged rectilinearly. Their cabin is small, but, with every wall and floorboard draped in the warm shades and deep scrawls of wood-grain, who would be so flippant as to desire mere space? Their furniture is also simple, but arranged invitingly, and in the largest room, at the center, a stone fireplace emits dense, yellow light that can placate the fiercest storm. Such a storm raged on this night.

Mr. Depoe was content. He had just finished dinner. Ambling into the parlor, he rested one hand on the mantel while tucking slender logs into the fireplace and nudging the flames back to life. A comforting glow suffused the room. He replaced the poker, strolled through his bedroom, and pressed his face against the outside window; it was cold. Other than a few vagrant patches of moonlight, the night was oppressively dark.
He squinted and looked left. There the world was naught; a curved plain of nothingness reached for the tree line. A lake, black and still even in day, was indulging itself that night. Only thick fog was discernable. He looked downward. The porch planks sat in their broad, regular row, languishing in the incessant rain. Small rivulets continuously fell from the overhang, looking like fuzz as they hit the boards. Looking further out, the yard was matted down and dotted with growing puddles; the road was mire.
Mr. Depoe stood for a while and thought. The gloomy night was no concern. The family’s cabin had been reconstructed on a platform in foresight of these exact conditions. Also, his wife had gone to visit friends earlier in the day, and had not returned for dinner; but she of course knew the road was impassable, and Depoe knew that she would remain for the night with whomever she had visited.
The armchair, with a red cushion, had been warming in the interim. Yes, Mr. Depoe was content. He restocked the fire. Flame danced up the flue. Soon he felt those hands of warmth that a large dinner and a fire will manifest. They passed along his forehead and his face; the rain humming a lull; his chin settled, and his eyes glazed over...

A knock on the kitchen door: “Ah! – What? How she...” he grumbled. Was she locked out? He composed his face to answer the door: “Hello, dear!”
“Alberrrt! There you are!”
He felt a surge. “Lilith?” he exclaimed. “Wow, you, uh, caught me nodding off...”
“No wonder, but...let me in? Or will you turn me out into the storm? Albert – “
“No, of course – of course not. Come in. Tea?”
Lilith stepped inside. She stood like a slightly bent tree, like one foot was always dragging slightly behind. She had a warm clumsiness, but was undeniably quite pretty.
Depoe put on a kettle as he searched for words. “The road must be impassable.”
“Quagmire!” she said, and shuffled to the living room.
The kettle whistled. Mr. Depoe didn’t pour himself tea. Had he stoked the fire too hot? He studied his chance visitor. His mind was drowsy; he could focus on Lilith as she took in the cozy interior of the cabin, but the chairs, the couch, the chimney all sighed.
“Alberrrt, I didn’t know you still played the piano.”
“I...I..have a piano...but it’s not even tuned.” A small piano, with dust showing on the black lacquer, was tucked in a corner.
“Play!” she exclaimed. “Play the songs you always used to play.” She dragged the bench out from beneath the keys.
Depoe sat reluctantly, still hazy, but he played from rote memory what songs he could remember. Not that he played well, exactly. There were very brief snippets of classic pieces, memorable, perhaps, for an interesting string of acrobatics, but that from the long lapse of years, would suddenly vanish from him. A blues song, which he could remember only if he played slow, without any rhythm, and finally a nocturne, played so slow and churningly, that neither noticed when the soft notes finally dissipated to nothingness mid-song. They sat for a few minutes in thought. Then recollections began to pour. They talked. It had been; what? Twelve years since they had spoken? At a colleague’s wedding, downtown?
Someone battered the door: “Alby, Alby, Alby,” whispered a gruff, singsong voice. Depoe opened it.
“What a place you got, Albert!” said the man outside. He was several inches taller than Mr. Depoe, wore a long coat, and smiled a giant, piratical grin.
“Come in, come in! Balchor! God, it’s been forever!” The man poured some tea, added a heap of sugar, and joined the others in the parlor. Lilith straightened up. “Lilith,” she said, as she stretched out her hand to the pirate.
“Yes – you are Lilith – “
“You remember Balchor?” interposed Depoe, “My old friend from”....
Balchor was not listening. He strolled about, examining the furniture and the shelf of trinkets.
“Old, indeed,” he grumbled. “Living large now, eh Alby?”
“No, nothing special,” Mr. Depoe suddenly flushed as he caught a glance of Lilith. She was slouching again.
“I mean your place, it’s stunning! What I would give for land up in the mountains,” he said.
“You built the house yourself, didn’t you?” asked Lilith.
“No, my father, but it’s a family project. Generational,” Depoe leaned proudly against the mantel. Old friends populated his living room and he was content.
“To every domicile, a man,” approved Balchor. Lilith laughed, graciously. Conversation began to sprout, passing from this to that; it ranged the space and time of their various lives. To any other observer their stories and their jokes would have been like grasping for a wire in the clouds. Mr. Depoe could barely keep up as forgotten memories regained their luster in the fire’s glow and were subjected to all sorts of fun contortions. Hours ticked by, more tea was served.
“So, now two of you have passed up our winding road. My wife and I must be cowards,” he laughed.
“Bah! Quagmire!” belted Balchor, with disgust, before erupting in raucous laughter that nearly put Depoe in convulsions.
“Have another whirl on the keys, Albert. You’re drawing an audience again.” Lilith’s eyes twinkled.
“It will be horrible to hear.”
“Play!” said Balchor, sitting his friend before the yellowed ivory.
Depoe played. Nobody cared that it was sloppy. Notes flowed from Albert Depoe’s fingers.


*****


Albert felt intoxicated when he answered the door again. Rapid, rolling little knocks had caught his ear as Balchor was about to deliver them a resounding punchline. Who knows how long that knocking had been going on? Depoe answered.
The knocker had shuffled back against the banister. He seemed to be clutching it for support. The fire’s glow did not reach the kitchen; Depoe could only make out a silhouette against the faint moon. It was a man, with a frame small and sagging, and a long beard. He was trembling. The old man doubled up from his tremors. He was trying to speak, for minutes, it seemed, but without success. He only managed small croaks and abrupt gurgles.
“You look frozen; come inside, friend,” said Depoe. The man kept fumbling for words; rain was pelting his back, surrounding him with mist. Depoe let go the door; he leaned his head out into the cold wind, trying to catch a word. At his approach the silhouette contracted to half its size and recoiled back again in an instant: “My house!” it screamed. “My house, the house Albert! Help your poor old man!” and greatest pain of all, the old man began shuddering with sobs.
It howled. Depoe threw his glance sidelong, to the right, across the porch, over the yard. Two long, black mounds crossed; mossy remains of the old family cabin, the last remnants of its collapse; what? Forty-five years ago?
“Be gone,” Mr. Depoe closed the door. Velvet blood coursed from his extremities, through his shuddering chest. The warm hands took him by the shoulder, and gently supported his back. It was Sleep. Still conscious, Sleep ushered Depoe to the red-cushion armchair. Sleep dropped his eyelids, and Depoe drifted into its umbra. The fire had died to smoldering coals.

CONTEST

Image of April Showers

0 VOTE

Few words for the author? Comment below.

Take a look at our advice on commenting here

To post comments, please