Another Kind of Heaven

Prompt: Passenger

field,-meadow,-sky,-cloud,-rainbow-145340

When he opened his eyes, the first thing he noticed was the smell. He smelled clean grass, and the pungent bark of trees, and he smelled the river. Yes, the scent of smooth rocks bathed by flowing water, the wet soil and sand of the river bank, and the roots of trees and the floating leaves and fish and frogs.

He coughed, and wiped something black from his lips, and remembered what he now did not smell: smoke, ash, gunpowder, blood, shit, fear, and decay.

Across from him, Sam sat awkwardly leaning up against a tree trunk, staring at his hands. Turning his hands over and examining the palms, and then the backs again, his fingernails lined in black like kohl on a whore. He was filthy, bloody, and thin.

“What happened, Sam?” he asked, his voice hoarse. “Where are we?”

Sam looked up. “I don’t know, Peter,” he said.

Wherever they were, Peter suspected Sam had got him there. He had a good idea of where they might be. Where they came from was hell. What could this be, but heaven?

“Can you hear the birds?” asked Sam.

Peter shook his head. The last thing he remembered was the thudding sound of artillery as he crested the ridge, bayonet in hand. Perhaps a shell had hit its mark. Perhaps he was blown to bits.

“Are there birds?”

“Yes, finches, meadowlarks,” said Sam. “There was a fat robin.”

“I can’t hear them.”

“Can you hear the river?”

“No, is it nearby? I can smell it.”

They were in a small copse of birch and poplar and pine, in a wide meadow of tall grass flanked by a forest, beyond which were hills, then mountains, then mountains dusted with snow.

His left calf was wrapped in strips of bloodied cotton sheeting. He wondered why he felt no pain. He did, suddenly, feel hungry.

Sam said, “I’ll get some water, and find something to eat, in a moment.” Then his head slowly nodded and his chin fell to his chest, his mouth partly open, snoring quietly. Both of them were intimate with exhaustion, and falling asleep instantly the minute it was quiet and safe was a survival strategy.

Peter was exhausted, but he wasn’t sleepy. He turned his head and felt the rough bark against his cheek. He pulled a handful of grass and weeds and brought it to his nose, inhaling deeply. He coughed again. He stared at Sam. He looked up at a cloudless sky.

Sam had brought him to this place, this heaven. Sam was a good man. The gates of heaven would be open to Sam.

Peter was a murderer, a thief, and a liar. How is it he was allowed to sit in the cool shade, breathing, alive?

He tried to get up, but collapsed against the tree again. He watched Sam, for an hour, or maybe two, until his own eyelids fluttered shut, and he was in another kind of heaven, the heaven of dreamless sleep.


Advertisements

In Case You Missed It: My Love

Prompt: Expectation

war-of-roses-2

In Case You Missed It:
February 14, 2016

My love is like a red, red rose
With velvet skin and thorny toes.
…Now that’s not true, his feet are heaven,
Soft, with toes of three and seven.
That’s ‘ten’ in case you cannot add,
That’s just how many toes he had.
And still does have, I’m trying to rhyme,
It’s tricky as I’m short of time.

But still, my love has silken eyes,
Whate’er that means, and when he sighs,
My heart leaps up—but that’s not so
‘Cause that can mean he’s doesn’t know
What’s in my head, and that frustrating
And not a state worth celebrating.
But when he sighs for love of me,
Then my heart plays a symphony.

My lord, this poem has gone astray,
But I’m not done, please let me say:
His hair is mostly there, and grey,
And when he laughs, I want to pray
And thank the gods for his accent
Which is of Lancashire descent.
For when I want to smash his face,
He’ll drop an H, and we’ll embrace.

My love is like a red, red rose
With velvet skin, and thorny toes.

Poem©Fluffy Pool

Retreat

Prompt: Retreat

patton-film-images-6aa011fa-34b2-4f7a-a74d-7be79f29afe

I was losing the battle. My hair follicles were retreating from the front of my head. All of my dedicated leadership, my fearless and sympathetic role as commander, and my denouncements of the enemy had no effect on my army. They marched backwards. I was at once furious and mystified.

I could call them cowards, but perhaps their view, their sacrifice could only be understood if one was on in the trenches with them, or in this case, on my scalp. Perhaps conditions had been too formidable, losses too heavy, morale too weak, to carry on with bayonets at the ready.

They left behind a no-man’s land: A barren wasteland dotted with skeletal, ashen, and fallen trees, the remnants of their comrades, wisps of gun smoke, and memories of courage, recklessness, and loss of hope.

I, as commander, had to face reality. I had decisions to make. Did I continue to allow the slow sacrifice of my loyal regiment, or did I concede defeat? Did I wave the white flag, or urge my soldiers to stand up, shoulder to shoulder, and fight another day?

A comb-over, or a total head shave?

What would Jesus do?

The Man Who Used to be Sam

Prompt: Bridge

moonlight

Sam had sometimes carried, sometimes dragged his friend Peter for almost two hours, in the damp coldness of early morning. He wanted to reach the bridge by sunrise. Once they crossed the bridge, everything would be all right.

He was done with the war, and was pretty sure Peter felt the same way. No, Sam was a pacifist now. He’d seen enough. He didn’t know the memory of a battlefield could sear itself in his mind like a photograph. He didn’t know that death smelled so terrifyingly sweet. He didn’t realize how an explosion could deafen him for hours, in a silent prison that provided no escape or comfort. He didn’t like that the enemy had no face at all.

Peter was surely deafened by the blast, as he remained unconscious, or slept, through the heavy thuds of artillery, the screaming, and later the screeching of night creatures as they made their way along the riverbank. The bridge couldn’t be much farther. Unless he had made a mistake, and followed the river upstream instead of downstream. In a moment of panic he eased Peter to the ground and knelt over the river. The moon was reflected on its still surface, rippling near the shore where the wide stream flowed among polished stones. Sam saw a man’s reflection, too, in the moonlight. It wasn’t Sam.

Sam was gone. In his place was a thin, mud-stained, bloodied (from Peter’s blood) mass of crumpled skin and filthy clothing. He stared out from the surface of the river. He said, “Keep going.”

They reached the bridge just as the moon set and a scarlet glow oozed from the horizon in the eastern sky.

Peter stirred when he was laid gently in the soft grass on the other side of the bridge. Birds lived near the bridge. Sparrows and finches and meadowlarks. Peter hadn’t heard them in years. “Where are we?” he asked. “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know,” said the man who used to be Sam. “I don’t know.”

 


  • Image: Nolan Nitschke