Welcome back to Member Monday. In case you missed it in our May newsletter, it’s my delight to introduce you to the second recipient of the Writers Forum Scholarship. Rudi Yniguez is a recent graduate of Shasta High School. Please be sure to take a moment to leave a comment or two for this up and coming writer after reading the winning piece.
Le Bon Hiver
By Rudi Yniguez
Adam locked himself in his father’s cabin for seven months because that was the only thing that made sense. It was a dense winter, a long thick couple of months that seeped under doors and through cracks in the windowsills, but he never seemed to mind. He’d come to make music. Armed with a guitar and keyboard he fought the silence with notes and words. He battled his inner demons because he was too scared to face the world around him. That’s what Emma said. That he was using the music to hide behind, to escape from a normal life. I assume she was right, but never asked.
Each Wednesday I set out across the snowy wasteland to bring him food and supplies. As far as I know this was the only human contact he had that year, if you can call it that. He never spoke, seemed anxious to return to his hermit’s cave and forget that he depended on us, on me. Wisconsin made it easy to forget. The frozen lake outside his window was the only thing visible for miles except white expanses of nothing. Sometimes, walking to his cabin even, I forgot that I wasn’t alone in this world. I imagined my knocks would seem futile on the cracked wooden door, a plea for company that would go unanswered because there was no one to answer it, until his padded footsteps crescendoed towards me and a ink-splotched hand extended itself towards my basket. He hesitated to open the door enough to let me see past his skeletal frame and unkempt beard into the room behind him. I imagined it was messy, him not allowing Emma to tidy up as she was being paid to do, but I never made an attempt to prove this. Old age had gleaned any curiosity I had left from my bones, and left me content to simply be, and allow others to do the same. If only it had done the same for Emma.
“There’s something wrong with that boy, not wanting a tidy room and clean sheets to live in. ” she said one night as we slipped beneath our faded quilt.
“Maybe he just wants his privacy.” I said, knowing that it she was right, but still feeling the need to protect him.
“To do what? He’s writing songs, not saving the world.”
“Maybe they’re the same thing.” I turned out the lights.
One day I arrived to find him on the porch, smoking a cigarette. He looked so out of place outside of the cabin, and yet so much more comfortable. He protected the cigarette with calloused hands stained blue, red, and green.
“A project I’m working on,” He said when he saw me looking.
“Ah. How’s it coming along?”
“It’s coming. At least it’s coming.”
I followed the gaze of his Sinatra blue eyes to the frozen lake. They hadn’t left its hazy surface since I’d arrived, seemingly entranced with its quiet mystery, its expanse of cloudy blue.
“Do you think the fish know they’re trapped under there?” He asked.
“You mean by the ice? I suppose they know it’s there, but what difference would it make? They wouldn’t go up to the surface either way.”
“They probably wish they could, now that they know they can’t. I bet its awful down there, that they all feel like prisoners, waiting for it to thaw.”
“Maybe. I guess we’ll never know.”
The cigarette fell from his hands and he crushed the sparks with the heel of his boot. Taking the basket from me, he turned and walked inside, humming a melody that reminded me of a Celtic hymnal with all the religion missing.
The next week I returned, carrying a basket of salami, bread, cheese, and apples, the only things he ever requested. My knock resounded empty on the door, left for the first time unanswered. I waited patiently for a couple minutes, feeling the cold festering in my worn boots and the wind wearing on my exposed face. I thought about leaving the basket on the stoop, then realized that its contents would freeze in these conditions. The door wielded to my fingertips, as if yearning to be opened and yet having been too shy to ask in the past. The quiet dark of the one room cabin was a relief from the blinding white outside. Everything looked clean and normal until I turned on the lights. It was then that I noticed the walls. Every surface in the cabin had been painted on, written on, glorified. Murals of angels, demons, gardens, and skies, quotes in calligraphy, and what could have been entire symphonies filled every once open space with vibrant color and music. Ceiling, walls, and floor were not spared. I couldn’t decide if it was genius or insanity, but the beauty of the spectacle stopped me from passing judgment. I stood in awe for what must have been ten minutes before realizing that Adam wasn’t there. As I set down the basket on the table, his note made itself apparent. “Check the Lake.”
Some say he did it to escape his father’s disappointment. Others said he must have slipped along the icy banks. I don’t know who to believe, and I’m not sure I have to believe anyone. It took them three days to find his frozen body, the ice groaning protests beneath the bow of the search boats as they scanned the floor with nets. It took his father two more days to hear the news and arrive to collect his belongings.
“Who found him missing?”
“I did, sir.”
“Has the cabin been thoroughly cleaned?”
“Emma washed the sheets and windows before you came, but we tried to leave
things as they were …. ”
“I’d like to see it now.”
Initially he refused to walk, complaining of asthma until I told him there was no other way there in this weather. There was no sound except the crunching of our boots and his heavy breathing. I let him walk in first, out of respect, and hesitated to follow, not wanting his presence to alter my feelings about the cabin. He scanned the room quickly, I assumed taking in the murals and notes, the final remnants of his only son. Finally he turned to me, a look of impassiveness and loathing streaking his features.
“Throw out his belongings and paint the walls. I’ll be expecting visitors in April, and they cannot see it like this.”
It took me three days to gather the courage to do as he asked. Emma came with me; opened the windows and door to rid it of the musty smell pervading and of any trace left of the musician. She stood next to me as she took in the paradise he had created within these walls, the beauty he had summoned to scare away the darkness. Squeezing my hand, she walked towards the bed and began emptying the drawers. I turned towards the first wall, dipped my brush into the white lacquer, and began to paint.
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