Soul, Sand, and Sky

Stephen Page has a flash ficiton story published in “Soul, Sand & Sky: Stories and Poems of the Great Outdoors.” @SmpageSteve tiene una historia de ficción en flash publicada. Available here on Amazon: https://amazon.com/dp/1736012525/ Disponible aquí en Amazon: https://amazon.com/dp/1736012525/

Here is the Story:

Crossing Over

By Stephen Page

            Once there was a thin, widowed, retired man named Jonathan who lived in a small cabin in the middle of a large patch of woods.  Jonathan was sixty-two, but he was in excellent health.  He had vibrant cheeks that beamed from under his clear blue eyes and shiny silver locks that hung low upon his forehead.  

            One fine summer day, Jonathan decided it was time he went on an adventure.  He thought and remembered there was a beach some fifty miles east, one with yellow sand and a periwinkle sea. He used to take his wife there.  Now, somehow, that the place seemed like a dream, like someone else’s memory, a parallel universe. Maybe it never existed. He had to go there to see if it were real.  But, he had no vehicle—no car, no pickup, no motorcycle, not even a bicycle. Many years ago, he decided he would not need one. He would have to walk. That would be no problem for Jonathan, he had been walking daily to the grocer’s for years.    After all, the grocer’s was only a two-hour jaunt, and he really did not want to go anywhere else since his wife died.  He spent most of his time alone, reading in his cabin, or sitting on his porch admiring the diversity of trees and listening to the multifarious song birds.  

            Books were Jonathan’s favorite amusement.  He loved to read.  He always had.  Some of his first memories were of reading books.  Now, more than any other time in his life, since he missed his wife’s companionship, he read incessantly.  He read at breakfast, he read at noon, he read at night.  Books were his life.  

            Realizing that he had not journeyed out of his cabin except to the grocer’s for years, Jonathan decided it was undeniably time he went on an adventure.  It would be a notable adventure, one that would be worthy of writing about. One that would someday become a book. One last great journey. 

            He opened his leather backpack and set it on the kitchen table. He would pack what he needed for a long trip.  He opened his cupboards and fridge, studied the canned soups, the coffee, the bread, meat, cheese, fruit, soda cans, and bottles brimming with water.  He shook his head.  He removed from his bookshelf The Odyssey, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Don Quixote, The Canterbury Tales, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Call of the Wild, Into the Wild, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Tao: The Watercourse Way, The Underground Railroad, and The Trail of Tears.  He neatly stacked them sideways inside the pack so that the largest one would be flat against his back and the corners would not dig into his skin.  He left his beloved copy of Moby Dick on his study desk, only because the pack was now full, swung the pack onto his back, and slipped his arms into the straps.  The pack weighed heavy upon his shoulders.  He went to the front door, took his walking stick, and stepped outside.  

            He nimbly trod the path that led from his porch to the edge of the woods then opened to the dirt road that ran by the woods.  He lightly stepped and skipped along the dirt road heading east, kept to the road it as it ran through an expanse of cultivated wheat, then passed through a ridgeline of mountains. 

            He had not walked even half a mile past the ridgeline into a field of wild grasses when he felt an internal change beginning to take place.  There was tightness in his jaw and in the upper part of his cheeks, a tingling sensation in his scalp, a clearing of his lungs, and a feeling that he was returning home.  His original home. 

After he had plodded along the dirt road for quite some time, his only companions a light plume of trailing dust and his short shadow, he heard a woman laughing.  He stopped.  The laughter continued.  It was a trilling laughter accentuated in short, loud bursts that came from the other side of a hill in front of him.  A Model-A Ford appeared over the hill. The raucous rattle of the engine muffled the woman’s laughter.  A Model-A Ford! Model-As hadn’t been made in over a hundred years. The car bore down upon the spot where Jonathan was standing like he wasn’t even there.  The man in the driver’s seat strained forward, wearing aviator goggles, a leather cap, and leather gloves.  He had both hands firmly gripped on top of the steering wheel.  The laughing woman in the passenger side wore a green dress and a floral scarf and with one hand held down a wide-brimmed hat upon her head.  Jonathan leapt to the side of the road.

            Neither the man nor the woman glanced in his direction as they barreled past, and Jonathan stepped back onto the road and stood in their dust cloud and studied them as they traveled in the direction from which he came.  The woman’s scarf fluttered behind her in the wind.  The car became smaller and smaller as it distanced itself from Jonathan, and long after the sound of the engine faded, Jonathan could still hear the woman laughing—but, that too eventually abated, and the car became a speck then vanished.  He turned and continued on his great adventure.

            After trudging and dragging his feet for a number of uneventful hours, he came to a crossroad. It was a small two-lane paved road with a thin white center line and no shoulders.  He checked traffic in both directions and saw no cars.  Neither were there any houses near the road, only small green hills and fields of waxy lemon trees on the other side of the road.  He strode across the road and halted on the other side.

            The dirt road did not continue.  He looked left and right, then behind him at the distant ridgeline.  Everything was a bit hazy and out of focus.  He studied the dust on his shoes then searched the ground.  His shadow, now having lengthened, was stretching east.  It made him look much taller than he was.  He smiled.  He watched his shadow and moved his arms up and down.   Then he gripped his walking stick by the top handle, pointed it out in front of him, sliced the air with quick slashing strokes, parried with his shadow, stabbed it, chased it, then slipped the stick into a make-shift scabbard he created by forming the fingers and thumb of his left hand into an O-ring against his left hip.  

            He looked west.  The sun was a scoop of orange sherbet melting upon the mountains, the light was diminishing, and the air was beginning to chill.  Mosquitoes rose and the smell of lemons carried upon the dampening air.   

            Jonathan drew the sword from its scabbard in a sweeping motion, then lifted it above him and pointed it toward the crepuscular sky.  He shouted triumphantly.  An echo came back to him from the green hills.  

            The books felt good pressed against his back.   

*This story published in the anthology Soul Sand, and Sky.

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