by Rick Mansfield
William Smith walked back to the old cabin he and his cousin had built years before, still trying to comprehend all he had been told earlier in the day. To say he was still un-nerved from being visited by what should have been a several-year-old corpse would have been an understatement. To have his business success attributed to a lack of engagement with humanity had been harsh; to hear his friend declare much of his life a mistake, worse.
As he thought about his life, and his legacy of “being close with a buck” he again grew weary. Close to sleep, he remembered a recent interaction with a local fundraising effort. Something about money for war orphans. “Let the losers take care of their own” had been his response.
He felt tired; sat down on what was left of the front porch of the old cabin. As he did so, he saw someone approaching. Called to what appeared to be a young person in a white robe; the wrinkleless face of youth framed in the white hair of someone much aged.
“Are you lost?” William asked, from his near slumber-like state.
“Not at all” the still hard to define body responded. “I have found whom I seek.”
“And you are” William continued.
“The past” was the pleasant reply. “Your past!” As these words were spoken, the image motioned toward the now moss-congested pond.
William thought back to when they had decided the stocked trout were big enough to fish for. Remembered the day he and Greg had brought the Conway girls out for a picnic. The trout they had caught and grilled. Sadly, his remark about what the fish had cost to stock. Neither girl ever came back.
The spirit, William considered the entity that for he still could not distinguish either age nor gender, asked if they could step inside. Without awaiting an answer, they were through the door. As an alabaster arm pointed towards the mantle and what hung above the plank of cedar on a wooden peg, William was asked “When last did thy breath through that discharge?”
Suddenly, William was standing by a small fire of mostly sassafras twigs. Hounds were running in the distance. Dawn was breaking in the east and he found himself raising the hunter’s horn to his lips. The sounds that flowed forth were long and mournful; the call urging the hounds to return. The hunt was over; the fox free to return to its den.
A cold air circled about him as he was once more in the cabin. The dust covered cow-horn still suspended above the mantle; the silver mouthpiece and the engraved image of a fox all still visible. The spirit was awaiting his response. He had none.
Next the spirit guided him towards a leather packet on one of the built-in shelves in the cabin walls. William remembered well what was inside. A Devoe Watercolor Painting book, along with several supplies his mother had given him on his sixteenth birthday. Faded pictures of blue-jays and cardinals he had drawn while sitting beside the very stream that supplied the little pond.
He had not drawn for decades. Hadn’t thought of his mother for years. The feeling of loss overwhelming; the sense of missed opportunity crushing in its darkness.
“Why do you do this?” William asked of the slight figure still standing near the hearth.
“I have done naught but remind you of what once was. The loss was the choosing of your own.” The voice was without judgement.
Next week we continue!