The Waterfall Series, #4

A complement to my ‘Field Files’ series, these short stories explain what occurred along the river past the field that meanders near the woods. I can assure you that everything told within these pages is true and factual, based on my own recollection and knowledge of events. There are those, I know, who will be skeptical and will easily dismiss these tales as pure hokum and folderol, but rest assured, they happened. Before making your own hasty decision, I want to tell you about it. Here is my story.

Mr. Bones

It was a brisk late April morning when Andi and I ventured once again toward the Falls. Having experienced a few bizarre excursions of late I wondered if perhaps the river and the Falls held some strange and otherworldly allure, a confluence of dimensions, a time and space continuum, allowing us to witness such unexpected and extraordinary things.

Or, perhaps, like most days, it would be the same; a stroll near fast-moving twinkling water, the slant of early morning sun glinting in the shallows, the soft rustle of young aspen leaves fidgeting from a cool breeze. But one never really knew.

Before the Falls, we descended a small hill that overlooked a baseball field. The park stretched far to the river and, in right field, there was a 12-foot chain-link fence separating the park from the stream. I suppose that after too many baseball prodigies powered balls the distance, the fence was erected to reduce the retrieval of river-soaked Rawlings.

Here, we shuffled past the fence to water’s edge where, being early spring, the water was full and quick, thrashing and tumbling over boulders seen and unseen, a powerful thrust of nature.

Beyond the river lay woods still in winter’s lingering grip, pockets of snow in crevices of trees, only a handful of hickory revealing budding foliage.

I played a game with Andi. He’d root around piles of dead leaves on the field, dried crumbling husks gathered against the chain-links, mere shadows of their past verdancy, sniffing and snorting around for the first signs of field mice or chipmunks. I would return to the river, behind the fence, separating myself from Andi. He’d look up and wonder how he could reach me, perplexed by the barrier.

And that was when he paused. I knew that look. Something profound had spooked him. He stood still, crouched, tail tucked, eyes wide, looking beyond my shoulder. A soft whimper escaped him.

It was then I sensed some thing behind me, hovering near. With Andi quavering like the aspens, I slowly turned to face what frightened my dog.

I peered into the hideous face of death itself. A skeleton held sway, its bony hand reaching up to my throat, thrusting me back against the fence. Andi, clearly agitated, whimpered and wondered whether to flee or fang the intruder.

Pressed against the chain-link fence I stared into the terrible visage of my attacker, its fingers frigid around my neck. But its eyes. Its eyes.

I stared into them and deep within its dark and ancient sockets a tiny flame flickered, a last gasp ember signaling mortal despair. I was mesmerized. The faint flicker of light was far away, recessed deep within the skull, like a Magic eye book illusion, the flame, a small distant iris laced with all human frailty.

It stared at me, moving its repellent head forward, opening its gleaming mandibles and emitted a foul breath, as though carrion long forgotten had suddenly erupted in a noisome and ghastly stench, odorous fumes that permeated the air, fetid noxious smells that crept upon my goose-fleshed skin. And then it spoke.

Be kind to your mother!” it decreed, and nothing more. Then, suddenly, it released me and, with a slight shudder, the skeleton fell backwards into the churning stream, collapsing into a pile of disassembled birch limbs quickly swept downstream, a single white branch catching on a twig of hickory before pinwheeling into the froth.

Be kind to your mother’, it had said as I stared at a wide-eyed Andi, rubbing my neck. What to make of that, I wondered. Have I not been there more to visit since my father died? What the hell did it all mean? Andi and I opted to return home—posthaste—negating our usual stroll to the Falls. We had had enough for the day.

Arriving home and after wiping Andi’s delicate paws, I paused and pondered at yet another chance encounter with…well, with a skeleton no less! Or was it a birch tree? Or, maybe, the bones of my father, telling me to dismiss Mum’s predilection for gossip amongst siblings, to simply indulge an old woman’s desire for family control.

Ensconced in relative comfort with Andi curled at my feet, I wondered what we had just seen. Was it really possible? Did we both see a skeleton rise from the depths of a stream? Did a cold boned specter really clasp my throat? Who’s to say? I simply know we returned safely. I thought whether to tell Julie my tale but I needed to ruminate. Was…was it somehow my dad commanding me to cut Mum some slack? I just didn’t know.

That evening, Julie and I ate dinner at the couch, watching some innocuous show. Occasionally, Andi peered up at me with his beautiful brown eyes, seeming to implore, “Can we walk somewhere else tomorrow?”

But I knew. The river still held more secrets. The Falls, tumbling and beguiling with ancient mysteries, beckoned.

Copyright, Paul Grignon – 2018 – All Rights Reserved.

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The Waterfall Series, #3…

The Waterfall Series, #3

A complement to my ‘Field Files’ series, these short stories explain what occurred along the river past the field that meanders near the woods. I can assure you that everything told within these pages is true and factual, based on my own recollection and knowledge of events. There are those, I know, who will be skeptical and will easily dismiss these tales as pure hokum and folderol, but rest assured, they happened. Before making your own hasty decision, I want to tell you about it. Here is my story.

The Gnome

I trailed Andi as we snaked along the path to the falls, Andi sniffing the ground for new smells, perhaps hoping to find a trove of truffles.

We climbed the small knoll to the old stone crest length and gazed out into the lagoon, where a flock of geese paddled languorously in the frigid waters. Sometimes, if you remain completely still, you can witness the arrival of a blue heron. What a magnificent creature!

But something else caught Andi’s attention, across the river. What would I do without his keen sense of smell and sharp vision?

I strained to see what Andi fixated on. Nothing but dead leaves, scrub, and deadfalls, brambles thick with prickers.

And then I saw it. There, blended in the bank, a small, gray naked creature, bent over, oblivious to our presence, busily working its clawed hands on something below, unseen. It seemed to be ripping something apart, bones and sinew shredded with tremendous force.

I’m not quite sure, but I think I saw a splatter of blood.

Suddenly the gray gargoyle turned, startled by our presence. It squatted on its haunches, its large gray wrinkled genitals exposed to us, its scrotum swinging in the winter air like some sort of otherworldly disturbing Newton’s Cradle.

It hissed at us from across the breach, exposing bloodied fangs. Andi quivered, unsure what to do. I stared, mesmerized by this foreign beast, by its nakedness, by its huge hoary bollocks.

Christ, what the hell was that thing?

The creature paused, eyeing both Andi and me, seemingly contemplating what action to take, it’s talons absently working and clawing the cool winter air.

Who the hell knew what to do?

I certainly didn’t. Heck, I’ve never seen a tiny naked grizzled beast staring back at me with fangs red, its huge silvery bat ears twitching in alarm.

I stared and stood along with Andi, quietly hushing him to be still, hoping he wouldn’t embark upon one of his patented whimpering bouts after witnessing something wholly foreign to his canine orbs.

The gargoyle seemed placated. It relaxed its raised talons, flexing them in the crisp winter air, bending them ever slightly, dipping its gray mass of a head down. Soon a crunching sound filled the air.

It was then I realized it was feasting upon the carcass of a fawn.

Slowly, Andi and I stepped back, careful not to snap a twig or rustle bone-dry leaves, and we edged down the trail, distancing ourselves from the ravenous gnome.

Well, Andi, there’s something you don’t see every day.” Andi looked up at me as we walked, his anxious eyes telling me that of late he hasn’t been fond of these strolls.

But, Andi,” I said, looking down at him,” it’s never a dull moment, is it?”

He looked up with worried eyes and then kept walking, yearning for the warmth and safety of the sofa. Who could blame him? Perhaps he thought he could have been that creature’s next meal.

We kept walking. Every once in a while I’d turn and look over my shoulder, making sure the small gray thing wasn’t loping behind us, dragging its knuckles along the path, itching to eviscerate us on the spot, a postprandial snack of sorts.

Nothing was there. Just the soft whisper of a gentle wind in the quavering aspens. I turned and kept pace with my distressed dog.

Almost home, Andi, almost home.”

 

Copyright, Paul Grignon – 2018 – All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

The Waterfall Series, #2…

The Waterfall Series, #2

A complement to my ‘Field Files’ series, these short stories explain what occurred along the river past the field that meanders near the woods. I can assure you that everything told within these pages is true and factual, based on my own recollection and knowledge of events. There are those, I know, who will be skeptical and will easily dismiss these tales as pure hokum and folderol, but rest assured, they happened. Before making your own hasty decision, I want to tell you about it. Here is my story.

The Yeti

Poised at the brink of the falls, I was mesmerized by the allure of water as it tumbled over the edge, as if beckoning me to follow its thundering journey downstream, into oblivion.

Andi, of course, was the first to smell something out of the ordinary.

“Andi! What is it?” He was staring past me, further along the river. He was perfectly still, wondering how to react to what he saw.

I whipped around and, nestled between a copse of birch, a Yeti sat hunched, staring at the same swirling water. He seemed sad.

I stepped off the edge and made my way toward the creature. I thought I’d have a chat with him. After all, how many opportunities does one have to talk to the abominable snowman?

I approached, thinking about an opening line.

“Say, not a bad day for February, is it?” Well, I didn’t know what to say! I mean, who does when confronting an enormous creature with thick white fur, looking dejected on the banks of a river far from his home.

He looked confused, lost, wondering where in hell he was.

“Um…you know you’re quite far from the Himalayas. In fact, you’re over 7,000 miles from Tibet.”

“Damn! Now what?” he uttered, his red-rimmed eyes peering at me through matted fur. “How am I going to get back?”

“Uh, well, listen,” I said. “I…I’m just trying take my dog for a walk. I had no idea I’d run into you.”

The Yeti just sat there, hopeless, slumped against a withered birch. He let out a giant-sized sigh.

“Hey, you know,” I offered, trying to cheer him up. “If you can hitch a ride east on the Pike and then to East Street in South Boston, you can probably catch a freighter at the Conley Terminal.” It was all I had on the spur.

The Yeti seemed to ponder my words, and a glint of excitement lit up his tear-stained, snotty face, his eyes suddenly wide with possibility.

He heaved himself skyward, towering over Andi and me and breathed in the mild winter air. (Andi had no idea what to do; he stood rigid, gazing up, astonished at this gigantic creature.)

The beast looked down at me and extended a shaggy, leathered black hand, rimmed with wet fur. I shook it and he simply said, “Thank you.” And then it crashed through the trees, in the general direction of Route 90.

“Shall we go home, Andi? Get you a snackie?”

Andi, still stunned, peered over my shoulder to where the Yeti had disappeared into the darkled woods. He didn’t know what to make of the encounter. Neither did I.

“Goodbye and good luck!” I said into the void, wishing my enormous white-furred clad friend safe travels.

 

Copyright, Paul Grignon – 2018 – All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

The Waterfall Series, #1…

 

The Waterfall Series, #1

A complement to my ‘Field Files’ series, these short stories explain what occurred along the river past the field that meanders near the woods. I can assure you that everything told within these pages is true and factual, based on my own recollection and knowledge of events. There are those, I know, who will be skeptical and will easily dismiss these tales as pure hokum and folderol, but rest assured, they happened. Before making your own hasty decision, I want to tell you about it. Here is my story.

The Beaver

We descended the small hill near the soaked playing field, where Andi proceeded to scatter a raucous flock of Canadian geese into the pallid grey winter sky.

It was our usual haunt, not far from home. From the hill one can hear the rush of water from the river and the cacophony of the falls.

There are many locations along the river where we pause and take in the grandeur of nature. I was peering deep into the woods across the bank, when I heard a sudden thud to my left.

I turned, looked down, and saw a beaver hefting a hatchet, chopping away at a hickory along the bank. He wore doll-sized OshKosk overalls, and a John Deere baseball cap sideways at a rakish angle. Shavings of bark and pulp lay strewn at the base of the poor tree. He was sweating profusely.

Tentatively, I ambled over and inquired about the hatchet. The beaver turned and showed me his mouth.

See these? Do you have any idea how hard it is to cut down a hickory with them?”

His front teeth were nothing more than stumps, stunted from far too many forays munching trees.

I…um…I’m sorry to hear that,” I replied. “I suppose that’s why you’re wielding that tool.” I then pondered as to how in hell he managed to procure his present attire. And an axe.

Damn straight,” he said. “I’ve given up using my chompers. Heck, I can’t believe I never thought to use this damn thing sooner!”

I watched as he spat into his paws, hoisted the tool, and whacked the tree again. And then I wondered how it was possible I was even conversing with a beaver.

Andi, oblivious to the exchange, peed for the third time and then we ventured home, accompanied by the dwindling sounds of both hatchet and the falls.

 

Copyright, Paul Grignon – 2018 – All Rights Reserved.

 

The Field Files/Episode 2…

A complement to my ‘Waterfall’ series, these short stories explain what occurred in the field along the path that meanders through the woods. I can assure you that everything told within these pages is true and factual, based on my own recollection and knowledge of events. There are those, I know, who will be skeptical and will easily dismiss these tales as pure hokum and folderol, but rest assured, they happened. Before making your own hasty decision, I want to tell you about it. Here is my story.

Canis Lupus

Sitting at my perch, watching the play of slanting afternoon sunlight on snow, the trees above buffeted by brumal winds, I saw something move in the distance. Beyond the copse of birch, deep above the incline, dark figures descending the snow-mottled slope. I could not discern what they were. Neighborhood dogs? Coyotes? They were simply too far away.

Only upon their loping approach along the frozen snow-covered fallow field did I realize it was something much larger: wolves. I had no idea they existed in these latitudes.

Alarmed? No. I stood my ground. What right did they have to infiltrate my space, I thought, my little patch of land, my blue seat among the dazzling reflections of sunlight on snow.

They advanced, slowly, seemingly bewildered that I had not already fled, perplexed by this human’s reaction to their monstrous approach. I continued to gaze out beyond the field, to the far reaches of the forest, to the hills and the brilliant blue sky that would soon yield to indigo, then pink and gray, relinquishing its wondrous hold in the heavens to darkled bruised skies of night.

I sat still and watched the slow movements of the wolves, their stealthy approach with mouths agape, tongues lolling, eyes dilated, sizing up easy prey.

Taking a deep breath I gazed upward, at the slow, sensuous sway of slim limbs in a soft cold breeze, branches extending upward as though beseeching unseen realms, thinking ‘Is this the way I’m to exit this beautiful blue orb?’

Returning my focus to the wolves, I sat and took a long pull on my beer. They were settled now, just beyond the stone wall, a circle of dark fur and long glistening fangs, watching my every move.

What did they know of humans? Perhaps too much. They sat still on their haunches, eyeing me, wondering why this particular piece of prey opted to stay, immobile, as they had advanced and now halted, mere feet away.

I could not care less. It was my domain, after all. They had encroached. What right did they have to invade my property and set up shop? What was their intent? I suppose that was obvious; to rip me asunder, to fill their bellies, to partake in human flesh and be done and move on to more fertile ground.

I was not having any of that. I reached down into the cooler, withdrew another ice cold beer and, cracking the cap, startled the wolves.

Who was this creature that did not readily bow to their advance, to their presence, to their dripping incisors, this human who sat resolutely supreme upon a chair.

I gazed beyond their hackles, to the field and trees, to the horizon and night now upon all, a sliver of moon holding court in the heavens, its dim golden visage presiding over an apparent stalemate.

What were they to do, I wondered? Lunge and attack? Howl at the malformed moon? They seemed stymied by my singular indifference.

The alpha male suddenly rose and approached. Standing not six feet away, the wolf fixed its magnificent eyes on mine. And then…it spoke.

“Pardon me. Terribly sorry for the intrusion, but we’re running a little low on beer. We just devoured a doe and, well, if you wouldn’t mind, we’d like to chase it with a few cold ones.”

I looked at him and then to his fellow hunters, mulling over his request. Briefly I pondered how wolves became proficient at human speech. And English, no less. I replied, “Yeah, hell, why not. I heard IPA pairs nicely with venison.” I reached down into the cooler, removed four bottles of Sierra Nevada, and carefully placed them in an old Stop & Shop plastic bag. “Here you go.”

The alpha male signaled to the omega and the wolf jumped the wall, snatching the bag in its jaws. “Much obliged,” the alpha said and turned. He gestured to the others and they followed suit, retracing their steps across the field, the alpha looking back once with a nod of thanks.

I drained the last of my bottle, eyeing the wolves as they disappeared into the woods, now only slim dark shadows against the pale moonlight filtering through barren trees.

I bent down, opened the cooler, and fetched another beer. It was a fine evening to drink. After all, it’s not every night you thwart your own demise from the clutches of such carnivorous creatures.

And, heck, all it took was a few bottles of beer. Who knew?

 

Copyright, Paul Grignon – 2018 – All Rights Reserved.

The Field Files…

The Field Files

A complement to my ‘Waterfall’ series, these short stories explain what occurred in the field along the path that meanders through the woods. I can assure you that everything told within these pages is true and factual, based on my own recollection and knowledge of events. There are those, I know, who will be skeptical and will easily dismiss these tales as pure hokum and folderol, but rest assured, they happened. Before making your own hasty decision, I want to tell you about it. Here is my story.

The Craft

It was late winter, a warm spell in February, when the temperatures warranted only a light jacket, and where snow melt provided a thick cover of fog over field and forest alike.

It was eerie walking along the trail, with my two dogs Andi and Sasha ahead, keeping my eyes glued to the path, where swirls of mist hid roots and rocks that threatened every footfall.

Two hundred yards out, I found my perch, a simple blue chair nestled on a pile of pallets, a rustic lookout into the fields and beyond, to the edge of woods barely visible through the dense whorl of fog, faint birch trees ghost-like in the failing light.

This early morning, the sun lingered below the horizon before emitting a hint of light along the crest of pine. The trees, ragged and wraith-like, punctured low clouds, like broken timbers of a shipwreck long abandoned along the shore.

I sat while the dogs rooted about, sniffing patches of snow, moving silently in the midst like spectral canines patrolling for sinners along the perimeter of Purgatory.

Besides the haunting refrain from an unseen mourning dove, all was quiet. But then, a distant hum, with a deep base resonance. I couldn’t quite place its origin.

Where I expected the feeble sun to shine through crenelated pines, instead there was a circle of lights, like pulsating lights on a carousel, blinking and reflecting different colors in the dense fog. Slowly it emerged, descending through the mist, a circular metal craft that wobbled as it sank lower, finally resting in the middle of the field.

The dogs were rigid and barkless, wondering just what in Buddha’s name had just landed a mere fifty yards away. I, too, was spellbound by the spectacle, not sure if I was actually witnessing this at 8:30 on a Thursday morning or if it was merely a lack of caffeine. (Or too much JD the night before.)

All was silent. Nothing moved in the fog. Even the doves relinquished their song of lament. The lights of the craft suddenly faded, like a car battery’s last gasp of dimming light on the dashboard, and then it went dark.

Only through the shifting mist was the metal ship visible, a glimpse here and there of its circular frame. It was about thirty yards in diameter and roughly twenty feet high. All those past ancient alien shows suddenly came to mind, of how extraterrestrial craft should look like. They were right.

The dogs began to whimper, unsure of what just landed mere yards away, their animal sixth sense in high gear, wanting to stay with their master but wishing to high-tail it out of there, back to the warm confines of the house and the wood stove.

Out of the fog a shaft of light slowly emerged, gathering strength like a cellar door slowly opening, allowing a soft muted glow to appear. The mist parted and there, in a doorway, stood two small slender figures. One reached to the side of the door and a set of metallic stairs slowly descended to the ground.

The dogs were agitated, whimpering loudly now. I told them to go, and they took off down the path. I stood there, watching the scene unfold. The two figures moved downward, as if in slow motion, and stepped onto the snow-patched ground. One turned and looked directly at me. With one of its three long fingers, it beckoned me to come forward.

What was I to do? Who knew who they were or their intentions? It’s not every day you witness an alien craft materialize out of the morning mist and have its occupants want you to join them.

I stepped off my perch, over the low stone wall, and walked to them. I towered over their tiny bodies, even though I’m only 5’ 9. One pointed to the bottom of the craft, at some mechanical box attached to the undercarriage. The creature motioned me to go forward, to look at the structure.

There were a few hex bolts loose. The two creatures peered at me with their enormous almond eyes, looking at me and wondering, I suppose, if I could fix their craft. Luckily I had an Allen wrench set on me, and one actually fit the slot to their alien bolts.

This is called an Allen wrench,” I said to them, wondering if they spoke English from their neck of the universe. “I’m going to tighten these with it, okay?” They looked at each other, then nodded.

I crept under the craft, careful not to bang my head on the light fixtures, and fixed the problem. I crawled back out and told them, “All set. Nice and tight. That should get you going.”

One alien looked up at me and said, in a wonderful Stephen Hawking impersonation, “Thank you, Allen.”

No, uh, it’s actually Paul. The wrench is…ah, forget it. You’re welcome.”

The two creatures nodded again and ascended the stairs in their slow-motion way. At the top they turned and bowed to me. The stairs began to collapse on itself as it was withdrawn into the craft.

The door slowly shut, extinguishing all light, and then I was alone, at the base of an alien craft, in a field with patches of snow.

I returned to my perch and watched the craft begin to rotate. The lights came on again, and slowly the ship rose into the air, disappearing into the blanket of fog.

I sat there, wondering just what the hell happened. I got up, returned down the path, went inside, stoked the fire, and began to write down my tale.

That’s my story. And if the dogs could speak, why, they would certainly vouch for me.

Isn’t that right, Andi and Sasha?”

Copyright, Paul Grignon – 2018 – All Rights Reserved.

Memories of Pops…Part 2

I should probably preface this post by stating that the meal I cooked for my father on the 10th in no way contributed to his demise. I thought I should clarify that.

My Dad left our place after a few hours and he went on home. For some reason that nobody knows, the very next day he decided to travel up to Maine, to Bailey Island, to surprise my Mum and whoever else was up there. Mind you, my father has not been up there since the late 1970’s. It was always just Mum and various siblings making the long trek north. My Dad, as he said, “…had to work.”

So it was rather strange for him to have gone up there. Did he know? Somehow? Did he know that he was on the verge of death? He stayed until Friday morning and drove back home. Mum had pleaded with him to stay up there, to drive back together on Saturday when she had to check out of the rented cottage.

Early afternoon on Saturday my Mum returned, lugging in packages and bags, unloading the cooler, and only then did she find him lying on the living room floor, his legs up on a chair as though he was doing some form of sit-ups. Knowing my father (he had always tried to stay fit) he exerted himself too much.

Maybe.

Since there was no autopsy (“Too expensive!”) the EMT fellow said he ‘probably’ died of a massive heart attack. No autopsy, no report from a bonafide doctor or coroner. No, he simply had a heart attack and that was that. Sounds rather odd to me.

He was whisked away to the funeral home, still in the clothes he wore when he died; khaki shorts, polo shirt, and Nike sneakers. A couple of days later I called the funeral home. I wanted to see him one last time, to give him a second kiss on his stubbly cheek. I gave him the first one when I was seven years old, the only time I ever recalled kissing my father.

A woman answered and, after listening to my wish to see him, told me, “I’m sorry, honey. He’s on the way to the crematorium.” Still in his golf shirt, baggy shorts, and Nikes.

I did not have the chance to kiss him goodbye.

 
Copyright, Paul Grignon, 2018 – all rights reserved.