Swords and Flames

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Photo Credit: nikst.deviantart.com

Photo Credit: nikst.deviantart.com

Rusty chains

encircled the dilapidated gate.

He could see the slow

rise just beyond

the worn wooden fence.

Thick air

sat, heavy, on the dead grass.

His eyes met

the tree line,

standing tall,

soldiers at attention,

marching into foggy battle.

Over the hill,

fires burned to the sky,

tendrils of smoke

twisting through the trees,

suffocating life

in its fiery fist.

A runner arrived,

clothes tattered from

the journey,

bearing a message

from the high command.

All was not yet lost.

With downcast eyes,

he read–

the six nations were headed

up from the south.

The soldier looked

towards the horizon,

waiting,

anticipating the imminent destruction

of his loyal brothers,

those men he had battled with,

who he sought to aid

in his quest for glory.

If they could hold out

for one more night,

their cargo would

be safe.

But the dawn

was a millennia away,

and he could see them

cresting the final hill,

only a few short miles

from the gate,

the rusty chain,

the dead and burning grass.

He could see the

firelight glinting off

their steely swords.

Snow clouds

banked the top of the ridge,

a backdrop for devastation.

The frigid air mixed

with the heat from

the flames that crept

closer and closer

to the battlefield.

The sky poured

a mix of icy mud

down the hill,

instantly freezing

to the horses’ feet,

the soldiers’ boots.

The battle was upon him.

He swung his sword,

slicing through

bone and flesh,

and he prayed to

survive the night.

 

Written in tandem with TheClocktowerSunset.

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Lavender and Rain

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Photo Credit: Erica, Daily Prompt

Photo Credit: Erica, Daily Prompt

The smell of lavender permeated the air, its swirling spicy scents mixing with the warm sensation of spring.  Mary closed her eyes and breathed deeply, letting the calming aroma envelope her in memory.

It had been years since she had really thought about him although he had been on her mind, in some way or another, every moment since they had parted.  It was only now, with the scent of lavender settling on her skin, that she could remember his voice, the wrinkles around his smile, the smell of his hair.  How long had it been?

She opened her eyes and felt the stinging threat of tears stab at the corners.  Mary blinked a few times and continued to walk, her feet sending up tiny droplets of rain in splatters around her.

Mary tried to push the lavender, and the curiosity of where it had come from, out of her mind.  She had walked to work this same way every day for at least two years, and never before had she smelled lavender.  What she did know was this–she had to get past him or she might not survive.

When Steve had left, she thought her world had ended.  Everything seemed dull, bland, inhuman, without his smile, his passion.  Her body felt broken, not just her heart.  They both had wanted different things although she couldn’t quite remember the differences now.  She hadn’t wanted to let go, but Steve had given her little choice.  He stepped onto that bus and left her behind.

As she splish-splashed through the rainy morning, Mary decided to bypass work and take a walk.  She needed to clear her head even if she had forgotten an umbrella.  But, things only became more confusing and aggravating as the morning wore on.

The receptionist at her office barely replied when Mary called in to let them know she wouldn’t be arriving until later that afternoon.  It was as if the woman hadn’t been listening.  At the coffee shop where Mary always bought her morning brew, the barista skipped her in line and Mary almost didn’t get served.

Aside from the obvious lack of customer service, Mary was enjoying the wet day.  The rain glinted off the sharp edges of the city, refracting light in marvelous rainbows painted on the pavement.  Mary put on her sunglasses and veered off the sidewalk and into the park.

She remembered strolling here right after she and Steve had begun dating. He used to twine his fingers with hers and gently pull her along the tree-lined paths and so they could sit near one of the bubbling streams that dotted the park.  He had always been a romantic.  That was one of the things she loved about him.  Mary had always thought romance was silly until she met Steve.  He had brought out her romantic side, and she longed for the days they spent together.

Mary picked up her pace thinking speed might stop the ache that had begun to wiggle into her chest.  All the could think of was his hands on her cheeks, his lips kissing hers, the constellations of freckles on his chest.  She missed him with all of her being, and she wondered why it had taken her so long to realize how much she needed him.

Mary could feel her feet pounding the earth, the rain soaking her ankles, but she couldn’t stop running.  She wanted to put the past two years behind her and run straight to Steve’s arms, but when she looked up, she was standing in the middle of Hilltop Cemetery.

Her stomach dropped as if she almost remembered why he had left her.

The rows of gravestones stood like skeleton’s teeth gnawing at the gray sky.  Mary walked between the crumbling stones attempting clarity of why this place seemed so familiar.  Before today, she never remembered setting foot inside the fences of this old cemetery, but it also seemed to pull at her, to urge her onward.

And, then the lavender came once more.  Mary’s nostrils filled with that spicy yet muted, warm yet cool scent and it drove her to her knees.  Hot tears sprung from her eyes and mingled with the cold raindrops splattering her cheeks.  In front of her sat a tombstone, one with a bunch of lavender obscuring the name.  A spider’s web wound its way through the buds, and the tiny silk threads caught the falling drops, sending sparkles over the purple flowers.

Mary gently pushed the flowers aside and read the name on the grave–Mary Elizabeth Downing: loving wife and best friend.  The memories flooded back to her, sending her sprawling onto the muddy ground.  Steve hadn’t left her after all; it had been she who had broken him.

Mary starred up into the dark sky and watched the raindrops fall.

This was written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge–Traces.  The picture was included with the prompt.

Night Sailing

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Photo Credit: mmorpg.com

Photo Credit: mmorpg.com

The sleek schooner sliced through water so black it could have been an oil slick.  Bright specks of starlight hung in the interminably dark sky, and silence filled up Frank’s ears making him feel as if he were listening to the world through a pile of cotton.  He looked around, hoping that he had been as invisible as he had felt when he left the dock only an hour ago.  Nerves could get the best of a person who wasn’t as strong as Frank, and he was lucky that he had been raised by nomadic biker parents who had brought him up to be fearless in the face of danger.  And, tonight Frank found himself in the middle of one huge shit storm.

Frank had bought the sailboat a little over a month ago, and he’d been taking lessons ever since.  He imagined what his rough and worn parents might say about his purchase, how they’d laugh at his large, meaty hands pulling on the ropes and ducking away from the boom, and how pissed they would be if they knew he had spent their money on a boat.  Frank had grown up on the road, on the back of a Harley.  He had lived his childhood through the lens of a helmet and his friends wore leathers and carried “old ladies” on their backs.  It wasn’t a surprise that Frank learned how to slug, steal, and swig with the best of them.  In fact, his biker past is what had brought him here tonight, sailing well beyond midnight to a marked place in the middle of the bay.

He tugged on the downhaul attempting to fix the problem that had suddenly developed in the sails.  Frank was new to sailing, and he swore at himself for choosing the middle of the night to learn.  However, tonight was a necessity, and Frank knew that if he didn’t reach his destination, it wouldn’t matter if he returned because Cain would catch him and deal him a worse fate than succumbing to the wanton waters of the deep blue sea.  He tried to trim the sails and right his course, but the wind was working against him.

After a few more attempts, swear words, and drops of sweat, Frank had corrected the sails and his direction just in time to see the buoy balanced at the edge of the harbor.  The marker bobbed up and down on the ever-ebbing waves, and Frank wondered if this was really a safe place to do what he had to do.  He imagined the Coast Guard boats patrolling the dark waters, and he stifled a chill that started to climb up his spine.  He could do this. He had to do this.  It was the girl or him.  He had no choice.

Frank turned to the hatch where she waited, tied like a dog to the railing below deck.  He hesitated, not wanting to fall this deep, to hit the final nail in the coffin of his outlaw future, but he didn’t want to die which meant she had to.  Frank didn’t even know her name.  He opened the hatch and slowly made his way down the steep stairs and over to the woman sprawled on the floor.  Her hands were cinched tightly above her head and her blonde hair fell in messy waves over her face.

When Cain called, he had said that the job was already on the boat and that Frank just had to finish the deed.  He had said a silent thank you that he hadn’t been the one to capture his soon to be victim.  Now, facing her, he wasn’t sure he could follow through with the sinister plot.  He was supposed to be tough, strong; he was a biker for God’s sake.  He was Cain’s second. He was the VP, the boss when the boss was gone.  Frank took a deep breath and fought off the insecurities and fears that tried to get the better of him.  He was a bad ass, a killer, and that’s what he was here to do.

He reached out and brushed the hair from the woman’s face.  As Frank’s eyes met the woman’s visage, a sharp scream attempted to loose from his throat.  In his mind, he saw her blue eyes looking back at him, her bright mouth curling up at the corners, her sultry voice dipping into his ear.  Frank scrambled backwards just as her lids fluttered open revealing the vision from his memory, only now a dark purple ring edged her left eye and blood crusted on the sides of her once happy smile.  She stared up at him, pleading for his mercy.

Frank didn’t know what to do.  He closed his eyes and pictured what Cain would do if he came back as a failure.  He imagined his brothers beating him to a raw mess of meat, blood, and bone.  He could feel the dust in his mouth and lungs as his family showered dirt down upon his open grave.  He could picture the weight of the decision, the soil, the failure pressing on him, forcing him to make a choice.  Should he save his wife or should he save himself?

The Streetlight

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The following story was written in 2007 during a class I took on teaching writing.  My professor used the class and her teaching to model the methods to create a writing workshop for students.  As such, we were required to write in the various modes: expository, persuasive, and narrative.  The first two modes were easy since I’d been writing essays since high school, but we were supposed to write a creative narrative.  I hadn’t written a narrative since high school (1998), and I hadn’t written imaginatively since…well, I couldn’t remember the last time I had written a story. What follows is a very embellished version of a night I spent with some awesome people.

Streetlight

“We have to get rid of that light!” Jess yelled, her eyes blazing.

“I know, I know. But first we need a plan.  I mean…it’s not gonna be easy.  It’s so high,” I said.  Four hours ago, Jess and I had been driving around trying to figure out what to do, and now we were the ringleaders of a crazy plot to shoot out a street light in the middle of the night.

“I think Ian’s got a sling shot,” Tyler beamed at Jess, through the chunky strands of hair hanging in his hopeful eyes.  All the boys wanted her.  Her model-length legs alone could make men weak, but add in her blonde hair, trim body, and blue eyes, and she became every guy’s dream.  Tyler loved her more than the rest (potentially even more than I did), so he had made it his mission to solve our street light issue.

“Well, go get it!” I roared, rolling my eyes.  Most of the time, I had little patience for Jess’s suitors.  I guess I should have gone easier on Tyler.  He couldn’t help his admiration.  No one could.  Scowling, Tyler turned and headed for the house, his enormous shoulders hunched in defeat.

Ian was the only one of us who lived free from parental control, so spending time at his house always made us feel older.  We thought of it as a real test for adulthood without actually committing.  His house wasn’t a house but a trailer, with light brown metal siding and dark brown metal trim.  The door was a sliding version that barely slid.  But, the front porch was awesome.  Benches encompassed the walled-in wooden deck that opened to the surrounding wilderness.  A slightly peaked roof covered the entire structure that Ian had furnished like a living room with a worn out green and orange couch that looked like it belonged in the 1970’s.

Jess and I watched as Tyler lumbered up the steps to find Ian in the tiny trailer that was filled to capacity with about twenty of our closest friends.  Ian’s parties were epic because, without parents, the possibilities were vast and thrilling and always unpredictable.

“What now?” Jess asked as she stared up at the silver street light.

“We wait for Tyler.  If he can’t find the sling shot, we’ll come up with plan B,” I said.

“What’s plan B?” she asked.  Sometimes Jess was too full of ridiculous questions despite our best-friend status.

“I don’t know. I can’t really think straight.  Why are we doing this anyway?”  Now it was my turn for questions.  We had been drinking since we had arrived, and I suddenly couldn’t remember the why of our plan.

“Ugh, it was your idea,” Jess grumbled.  “It was too bright on the porch, and we decided to get rid of that light!” she said pointing up at the glowing bulb.

“Oh, yeah,” I exclaimed, a grin spreading across my lips.  We all wanted to sleep on the porch, so Ian had pulled a mattress out on the deck.  It was the middle of summer and the setting of the sun did little to cool the air.  Plus, Ian’s trailer was a metal box void of air conditioning, so it sucked to spend more than five minutes inside.

“Where the hell is Tyler?” I said, my eyes surveying the trailer.  We had been standing there for at least five minutes in the middle of the road that ran alongside the house.  I could hear the music pulsating from Ian’s speakers and the voices of jubilant partygoers, but I couldn’t see Tyler.  “Let’s go inside, Jess.”

“Alright.” She turned, and we linked arms, ready to stagger up the inclined drive toward the gathering.  Despite the haze of alcohol, or maybe because of it, I felt safe and happy standing there in the night air with Jess.  I was proud that she was my friend, (even with all the annoyance of her admirers, her way-too-obvious questions, her aggravatingly super-star beauty), because she was simply great to be around.  I guess I was an admirer too.

“There’s Tyler!” Jess’s voice jolted me from my thoughts. She had stopped walking and was now pointing at the front door donning her flawless smile.  Tyler ran out the door, sling shot in hand, and he wasn’t alone.  I could see my oldest friend Noah’s lanky silhouette in the doorway behind Tyler.  But my mouth dropped a little when I saw Ian’s tan face completing the trio.  I understood Noah’s interest because, despite his quiet, unsuspecting appearance, his schemes were unforgettable.  But, I couldn’t believe Ian was in on it.  I had only known him for a year, and I was new to his reactions.  I thought he would have objected to our decision to break the light so near his house because he would probably be the one to face any repercussions that resulted from our little plan.

“Ian, are you coming? Did Tyler…um…tell you what we’re doing?” I stammered, afraid he would blow the plan.

“Hell yeah! Let’s do it!” He bounded down the stairs two at a time.  Noah and Tyler followed, and we all walked down to the road.  I smiled, excited to know that Ian could be as joyously reckless as the rest of us.  Half stumbling towards our luminous enemy, I had never felt more like myself.  I felt close to these people who I had chosen, who mattered for my reasons alone.  I was finally a part of something beyond a conspiracy to destroy public property.  Maybe we were all a little crazy–just look at our plan–but I guess that’s what brought us together.

“Ok, what’s our ammo?” Noah asked Tyler.  They both turned to me for the answer.  After all, it was my plan.  I looked around and bent down to pick up a sizable hunk of rock from the gravel driveway.  I examined my find and handed it to Ian.

“Your shot,” I said as he took the rock from my hand, accepting the challenge.  Ian rolled the “bullet” around in his palm, and its tiny mineral specks glimmered in the street light’s glow.  Tyler handed him the sling shot, and Ian loaded the shiny black metal weapon.  It fit over his wrist in order to stabilize the shot, and the band was thick, yellow, and ultra-stretchy.  Ian fit the rock securely in the center of the band and raised his arm toward the light.  He closed one eye and stuck his tongue out the corner of his tightened lips.  A lock of his black hair fell to his forehead as Ian tilted his head, pulled back on the band, and took aim.

Time slowed as we watched in silence.  The rock floated through the air in a perfect arc, and smashed the center of the bulb.  It was the perfect shot.  The lamp flickered a few times and sparked a few more, but the light slowly faded, plunging the five of us into the full meaning of night.

“That was awesome,” Jess whispered through the darkness.

“Wow! That was crazy,” came another voice, but I had ceased listening.  The world had suddenly stopped, and the moment became a memory.  Standing in the road, together with my best friends, under a sky overflowing with faraway stars, I burned their faces into my mind.  I couldn’t actually see them through the moonless night, but I didn’t really need to.

I imagined Jess’s eyes flashing with delight, and her golden hair dancing in the slight breeze, forcing goose flesh to break out over her exposed shoulders.  I saw Tyler’s wide body standing too close to her.  Maybe she was starting to give in.  His thick arms hung at his sides almost touching Jess’s bare skin, and he watched her instead of the street light, his gray eyes locked on her fuzzy outline, a smile curling the corners of his mouth.

And Ian, finally a full member of our odd little group, triumphantly held his arms above his head like a winning prize fighter, his perfect smile and sea blue eyes begging for reward.  Noah stood stoic, silent, relishing the destruction.  I can picture him with his arms crossed, staring at the shattered light with a sly smile, wishing it had been his idea.

We slowly walked back toward the house together, up the steep grave drive and the steps of the perfect porch.  Jess and I collapsed onto the mattress, exhausted in our accomplishment.  The party had died down, and soft music filtered out through the open windows.  The boys crumpled somewhere nearby–Tyler was never far from Jess–and I curled up under Ian’s white down comforter.  I sank into the serene darkness of the evening as sleep washed over me.  That night, I slept soundly dreaming of the distant stars and the closeness of my friends.

P.S.

I have changed nothing except adding a few commas.  The English teacher in me can’t let that slide.

The Water Tower

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Photo Credit: commercialappeal.com

Photo Credit: commercialappeal.com

Drip,

drip,

drip.

The dark clouds moved across the sky, bringing the sweet aroma of raindrops.  Charlie could feel it coming, the old crick in his knee flaring and sending spasms up through his ancient leg.  When he was eighteen, Charlie had climbed the old water tower in town on a dare.  The bad joint and the infamy of falling from the tower was all that remained of his youth.  Sometimes, Charlie would stand below that old water tower and imagine climbing it once again.  He remembered the fear winding its way through his body as his foot hit the first rung of the rickety ladder.

Charlie sighed, pushing the old memory from his withered mind, and continued towards his truck.  As he climbed into the cab of a truck that was almost as old as he was, Charlie said a silent prayer that Bill would have what he needed.  Charlie wasn’t the farmer he used to be and had sold off many of his acres over time because he could no longer work the land like before.  His father had left him the farm on his passing, but Charlie had never made time for a family so he ran it alone.  Alone and with the help of a few farm hands here and there.  What was left of the 200 acre plot was only a little over five acres, and Charlie mourned the passing of those precious miles every time he drove past them.

Bill’s place was a long twenty minutes away, and Charlie drove as fast as the old truck could handle.  He wound his way through town, stopping at intersections for kids riding bikes in the last hours of summer vacation.  Charlie cruised by the old drive-in where he had once taken Anne Marie Jenkins after one of those silly school dances.  She had been wearing a light pink dress that puffed out at the waist.  He had matched the shade of her corsage perfectly, and he had driven his dad’s Mustang to pick her up.  The drive-in was later as well as his first real kiss.

As Charlie drove and reminisced, fat drops of rain began to fall, splattering the rusty roof of the old pickup and dribbling down the cracked windshield.  The old wipers creaked like Charlie’s leg as he flipped them on.  “And, it begins,” Charlie muttered.  He had hoped to get home before the rain.  He needed to trade the pulley system to get things going again on the farm, and a storm would put a significant dent in his schedule, and his paycheck.

Charlie pushed the truck a little faster, its belts squealing in defiance, towards Bill’s which sat a few miles beyond the water tower.  Charlie did the best he could to push away those old memories that seemed to come more frequently since his last doctor’s visit.  Old Doc Benson had taken a listen to Charlie’s heart and pronounced him not long for this world.  Of course, Charlie had resisted believing the modern medicine diagnosis even though Doc was as old as they come.  However, Charlie couldn’t deny the fatigue and chest pains that came and went.

Faced with his certain destruction, regrets began to sneak up on him.  Why hadn’t he gotten married? Had some kids?  Why did his life feel like it lacked purpose and importance when the end was so near?  Charlie shook the thoughts from his head trying to focus on the road.  The rain had taken on a sheeting quality, slamming water onto the front of Charlie’s truck, and the ancient wipers couldn’t keep up.

Charlie depressed the brake pedal, attempting to compensate for the lakes of rain that had migrated to the surface of the road, when a form appeared in front of him.  The figure flailed and lunged toward the truck, its black hair streaming and flying in the wind.  Charlie’s gentle decrease in speed morphed into a brake-slamming, tire-screeching attempt to not hit the person head on.  Charlie gripped the wheel as the back of the truck began to fishtail on the slick street, but his tires finally found purchase on the asphalt and Charlie shot forward as the truck came to a jerking halt.

Trying to catch his breath, Charlie fumbled for the door handle of the truck, swung the door, and stumbled into the pouring rain.  The person had collapsed in the middle of the road, but Charlie could tell it was a woman, more like a girl.  He ran to her, his knee screaming from the combination of the accident, the weather, and his age.  He rolled her on her back, noticing that she didn’t seem to be bleeding or to have any broken bones, and her eyes fluttered open.

“He’s still up there,” she bellowed, trying to sit up.  Her clothes were saturated with rain, and water ran from the dark ropes of her hair.

“Shh,” Charlie soothed.  “Who is up there?” He asked, looking around for help, but the road was empty.  People must have taken refuge inside from the storm because no one with any sense would have braved these torrential drops and beating winds.

“Tommy!” she screamed, pushing herself to her feet and dragging Charlie towards the field.  Charlie stumbled and struggled to keep up with the crying girl when he looked up and realized where he was.  The storm had obscured the hulking tower from his view by the road.  Charlie’s feet suddenly planted and he ripped his old hand from the girl’s young one.

“Where is Tommy?” Charlie asked, his words coming slowly and measured.  His eyes stayed glued to the tower and fear started to unfurl in his stomach.

“He’s stuck inside the tower.  We went up there on a dare, and he fell in.  I can’t get him out by myself.  Help me!” She cried and began her dash towards the immense structure.

Charlie felt frozen from the memories of his fall from the outside walkway that skirted the tower.  He had never been foolish enough to climb to the very top.  He didn’t want to climb it, but what else could he do? By the time he contacted the police and fire department, the boy, Tommy, could be hurt or dead.  Charlie looked down at his wrinkled hands and stretched his aching fingers.  His right hand went to his heart, and Charlie turned around and jogged back to his truck.

He climbed into the bed and wrapped the rope and pulley around his arm.  He deftly jumped from the rig and raced towards the water tower.

When he reached that same rickety ladder, the dark haired girl had already begun to climb.  “Hey, be careful!” He yelled as he hefted the rope over his shoulder and stepped onto the first rung.   Water splattered his face and rolled into his eyes as he looked up and climbed.  Drops smacked against the ladder, slicking the surface with their wet bodies, and Charlie climbed.  The rope almost fell once during his ascent, but he managed to cling to it as well as the ladder.

“What are we gonna do?” the dark haired girl pleaded as Charlie struggled to pull himself onto the platform and catch his breath.

“I suppose, I’m gonna climb that ladder there, and set this pulley here up to rescue your friend.” Charlie was a matter-of-fact kind of guy, so after he had rested, he stepped onto the next ladder. “You climb down and go get real help,” he called down to the dark haired girl whose eyes had grown to two times their normal size.

“Are you sure, mister?” she asked.  He could see she was waiting for permission, so she stopped his ascent and turned to nod at her.  She turned and he watched as her head dipped below the platform.  Charlie looked up at the ladder and continued his climb.

Although winded, the climb wasn’t nearly as bad as Charlie had expected.  Besides the inconvenience and danger of the incessant rain, Charlie felt fine, like he could make it and make a difference.  That was until he reached the point where the sides of the giant tower met the roof.  Charlie had to inch his way on his belly along the ladder in order to reach the center hole where Tommy had most likely entered the giant metal container.

“Tommy!” Charlie shouted as he neared the opening.  “Are you alright, boy?” he shouted and strained his ears against the rain and towards the hole hoping to catch a note or two of the boy’s cries.

Charlie reached the opening and peered down into the dark.  “Tommy, are you in there?” He could hear his voice echoing off of the walls of the tower, but he also heard the small words that seemed to float out of the black water about 50 feet down.  “Listen, kid, I’m gonna lower down a rope.  You need to tie it to yourself and hold on.  I’ll pull you up.” Charlie couldn’t hear what the kid said, but he was pretty sure Tommy had responded.

Charlie set to work fashioning the pulley around the metal bars that capped the gaping entry into the treacherous tower.  The bars were supposed to protect people, but right now he was lucky they were there to aid in the rescue of the boy.  Charlie lowered the rope as far as the length would allow.  He felt a tug on the end of the rope and took a glance back down the hole.

“Do you have it? When you’ve tied it on, give the rope two sharp tugs, and I’ll start pullin’,” Charlie said, and he waited.  Despite the rain stinging his face, Charlie looked up into the dull sky.  His eyes scanned the horizon and the green rolling fields that stretched from here to the end of the county and beyond.  He loved this country, its simple living and simple folks, and here he was rescuing one.  He could picture to boy’s mother hugging him and baking him a pie in gratitude.  He felt satisfied with risking his old life for this young boy’s, and he smiled into the rain.  Charlie felt two tugs on the rope, so he left his reverie and began to pull.

The muscles on his biceps strained and pulled.  Charlie found leverage against the rungs of the ladder and pulled.  Hand over hand, Charlie’s fingers began to bleed but he continued to yank on the rope, pulling until he thought his fingers would break.  The rain continued to fall, drenching the rope and turning Charlie’s arthritic hands to ice.  Yet, he continued to pull, to heave despite the rain, the pain in his damaged knee, the dull throb in his chest.  Just as he thought he could pull no more, the line went slack and Tommy was pulling himself out of the hole and onto the top of the tower.

The boy looked up with his young eyes and into Charlie’s ancient ones, and smiled. “Thanks, mister! You saved my ass,” Tommy said, his cheeks barely containing his glee at being alive, at having a future,

“No problem, kid,” Charlie chuckled between gulps of air.  Suddenly, his right hand shot to his chest where his heart had started to pound erratically.  “Hey, kid, do you think you could do me a favor? Could you save mine?” Charlie croaked.  He blinked and saw the kid move towards him. He blinked again thinking that the rain water had finally soaked his eyeballs as well.  It felt as if he were seeing through a blurry window on a rainy day, and then Charlie’s head hit the roof of the tower.

The obituary was short but Charlie would have wanted it that way.  It talked about his farm and how he loved this county and his country.  But, the lines Charlie would have loved most talked of his heroism.  “Charlie Miller always wanted to be important and to be remembered.  His life was given to save another’s and there is no greater importance than self-sacrifice.”

The day of Charlie’s funeral, the storm moved on and the sun came out, extending the summer for another few days, and the kids played the way Charlie remembered them.