Category Archives: fiction

It’s Time To Go Home

Standard

It’s Time to Go Home

By Ronald Douglas Drobeck

 

Yes, my favorite spot will take a little work!

A year ago, I would’ve had this tall grass stomped down to a straw mat. This flat spot was on an inside corner facing a wide spot at a bend in the creek. It was perfect for fishing, watching the clouds and thinking.

My dad would’ve been with me when he could find time from the farm work. Sometimes, he’d suddenly come over the hill, swishing through the grass, carrying his willow rod and a smile. So we’d fish, and soon we could hear mom swishing toward us, swinging a basket of food and a smile. This memory passed through my heart for the first time, and I felt a little empty as it lost hold and drifted away. I straightened myself and took a deep breath.

Today, I was up before the sun. I had my chores done by ten and then helped mom with the chickens, some harvesting from the garden, and picked some apples.

A consumption took my dad about a month ago. He coughed terribly for a couple of weeks, took to the bed for a couple of days and was gone. The traveling doctor arrived after he was buried. My mom and he talked for a while, and then he left in his buggy.

Almost everything was planted and growing on our little farm. Our two cows were healthy, and we had those chickens. My dad’s brother lived near, and they shared the work and the crops on both farms. I did what he told me, and we’ve got some extra help when harvest rolls around.

So today, I’ve got some emergency fishing to do. It’s the first time I’ve been able to go fishing since he passed on. It was a little strange and lonesome, but I’d fished before while he was doing the farming, so I just pretended he was out in the fields working.

I took my last year’s shoes off, put a worm on that hook I made from a nail, just like he taught me. Then I tied a little piece of stick on the line about two feet up from the hook and dropped the line in the water.

It was quiet. A ‘missing someone’ tear squeezed itself out of my eye. Just one! I snuffled and wiped it, then looked up at the clouds drifting. I ‘dreamed starred’ for a bit at the drifting, drifting clouds, and then I caught a couple of trout. More drifting clouds went by, and I caught another trout.

I leaned back on an old fallen tree to do some more of that cloud watching and fish catchin’ when suddenly I heard something or someone swishing through the tall grass. I thought it might be my mom, so I lifted up a little and turned my head. I could not see her, but I did see the top of an old wrinkled hat bouncing, barely visible over the three-foot tall grass.

I froze in place.

The bouncing hat was approaching from behind the log. It stopped for one moment, then through the air, and over the log flew a little man with a walking stick, and single strap bag slung over one shoulder.

I was startled but not scared. He was smiling too big for me to be scared. His broad rimmed hat was well worn and tipped to the one side a little. The top of the hat bent over proper, and there was a curved pheasant feather wiggling around the back. Everything from the bend at the top of that impressive hat to the bottom of his boots was wrinkled and earth colored.

“Good day to you!” he said.

I managed a nod, and I think made some sound. My surprise was turning to fascination.

“I’ve named myself ‘Onion’!” He said as if to answer a question I hadn’t asked yet.

“I try not to meet many of you, but when I do, I call myself ‘Onion’!” He exclaimed.

“I had to come up with a name for this side quickly one day, so I picked ‘Onion’ ‘cause I like ‘em,” He said, anticipating my asking, again. He was very quick!

While talking, he dropped down to a knee next to the tree stump from whence came the fallen log I was leaning on.

Without loss of motion, he pivoted on that knee and came to rest, as his wide bottom trousers landing at the base of the stump raised a poof of dust. It was a perfect pivot and sit down. His air expelled with an ‘oof’ sound as his rump hit, and the weight of those broad, traveled shoulders and massive head, was relieved from his wide leather tethered feet.

I sat and watched him in silence, ne’er missing a thing, thinking, “He is something quite familiar!”

His eyes sparkled as if lit by stars, and his suddenly rosy cheeks squeezed his eyes to slits in a smile of joy as he looked at me.

Still appearing to be in the middle of that long conversation with me, he exclaimed, “And now, after thousands of leagues, and many seasons of exploring under the ‘Sea of Stars,’ I go home!”

“Go home?” said I!

And, before my eyes, he began to settle back into the stump. I mean not just lean, but settle back into the stump as if it was a feather pillow. He casually lit his seasoned, stained, earthen, puffin’ pipe, which caused another pause in this one-sided conversation.

I blinked my eyes to make sure I saw what I thought I saw, and it happened again. His shoulders had receded into the stump another measure.

He saw and heard the surprise! I’m sure my eyes grew as big as a hoot owl’s eyes, and my mouth fell open as I did a startled inhale, quickly and four times as much as normal!

His belly laugh was the same as I’d heard the first time I saw him. I was remembering! It was Something that happened many years ago. While slapping one bent knee with his hand, he said, “Yes, I go home!” He said it as any traveler would sound if he’d been away for a long time.

“While you have gone home each night to your warm bed and kin, I explored and wandered, and made my bed wherever I happened to be when the sun arose. Now after all of these seasons, all of those moonlit beautiful and stormy nights of travel, I’m going home to be with my kin, in my own bed, and on the proper end of the trees.”

“This is the tree from where I came six summers ago (as he patted a root of the stump). Do you remember then, little ‘red-haired’ fisherman?” he said, eyeing me for my reaction.

“I do, I do!” I said in wonderment. “You are the reason my father thought that I am a dreamer. I ran to him that day, after you disappeared over the hill and told him that a little man with a walking stick and a bag on his back just stepped out of a tree!” I exclaimed.

I said he said, “Hello little red haired fisherman, I’d be finding my way beneath the ‘Sea of Stars!’ And, then you winked, turned and began to walk in the direction of yesterday!”

“And I have seen many tomorrows and learned about this side, the ‘Sea of Stars,’ the creatures on this side, and you! And, now I’m going home.” He said.

“I don’t have to go home through this tree, but it helps to go back where you came in or out! It’s also good luck to have the witness that was there when you came and when you left!”

And, as I watched, listened and blinked my eyes, he settled back farther into the stump up to his ears. The smoked from his pipe was rising as the steam from one of those new trains. Puff, puff, puff, puff, it went up with a little pfft, pfft, pfft, pfft sound as he tongued the hole to make it draw right. That sound he made from the pipe caused me wonder whether or not he was allowed to take that long-stemmed, puffin’ pipe with him to puff on the other side!

Was he was working to get the last out of it?

By now he’d been absorbed by the stump up to the wrinkles of his eyes.

“Will I see you again?” I managed to squeeze out during this sudden intake of sights, sounds, and swirling feelings.

The puffin’ stopped. There was no pfft. He leaned forward out of the stump, his eyes looking straight into my eyes.

With glee he said, “As you are my witness, I’ll be no more than two feet from you if you wish and should ever need me!

We are now joined at the ground. You being here now as I leave means this was meant to be! I’ll just be, to you, upside down.

I’ll put each of my feet on the bottom of each of your feet when I feel you need me. You will have the courage of the other side coursing through you when you need it. I’ll shake the roots of the trees, and the leaves will wave, and their breeze will assure you. The breeze will move you along so that you may run swiftly; I can charge you with the energies of nature to give you sharp eyes and clear thought. As long as you need me, I’ll be near.”

With that, he did his wink again, that same wink I saw six years ago. I could hear the pfft of the pipe, but there was no puff of smoke. It was done, and the pipe was gone too!

Within the next blink, I heard a joyful chuckle. As my eyes opened from the blink, the last of his foot trappings disappeared into the stump.

There were goose bumps and the hair stood straight up on the tops of my short-sleeved arms. A rustle of the leaves startled me straight in the fading light.

My fishing pole in hand, my twig bobber was nowhere in sight, so I lifted the willow pole up straight away and found a country creek Brownie attached to my line. Up out of the water he came in one motion to be added to the other three.

The leaves waved as if applauding! A little breeze from the leaves brushed the hair from my eyes to remind me that the light was changing.

It was late, and I needed to get these fish home for supper. I’m the man of the house now, and my mom will be pleased, I thought with a smile. It’s time to go home.

I tied the shoelaces of my old weathered shoes together and threw them over my shoulder. With my willow pole, my trout, my shoes, and my dreams, I effortlessly trotted up the path toward my house and my bed.

The ‘Sea of Stars’ at my back had just begun to twinkle from the direction of yesterday when I heard a rustling sound.

The leaves rustled as if applauding again so their breeze at my back could push me toward tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

The End

Advertisements

News Flash……June Oh Thirteen

Standard

thFrom the news desk of Flash Drobeck

I’m going to take this opportunity to defend fiction writers around the universe.

I’ve recently heard that a few disgruntled novelists and non-fiction reporters from other networks are insinuating we fiction writers are just a bunch of liars that prey on the imagination of the less rigid and undisciplined minds.

I can assure you, my universe traveling companion, E.R. Burroughs and I spare no expense researching and checking our sources before we report any news for The Inter-Galactic Inquirer.

A case in point: The daring, in the field, reporting of the wars on Barsoom, the years of often near death, Spartan living conditions that tax even the heartiest of us fiction journalists, are proof of our integrity and dedication.

The search to interview John Carter alone was a feat no novelist would dare pursue! These people are driven by the almighty Galaxio, and what it can get them.

Trust me when I say, our income buys little prestige. We dig to the bottom of our own pockets to first report these righteous stories we ferret out for YOU, our treasured readers.

Even now, our recently released feature, “The Pluton Tax Revolt” is in question by the non-fiction purists.

Our colleague on Pluto has verified that the Plutons are taxed by the total number of thumbs on their middle hand.

Called “The Thumb Tax”, you are assessed more if you have one to two thumbs, and less if you have three to five thumbs. It’s the government’s contention, that if you have three to five thumbs you need to have a managerial or authoritarian position because you are not capable of skilled labor, and require exceptional financial protocols. (All Thumbs Law)

How could anyone not believe that?

We thank you for your support!

The Song of the Haberdasher (Short Story)

Standard

The Song of the Haberdasher

by ronald drobeck

“I share this last memory from my little view of the world, as I dream from my childhood window for the last time.” Ruth

It’s dark outside, and I sit by the window staring across the way. A single, fat candle flickers from the breezethCAUV5DMZ that escapes through the leaded glass panes and into my small room. The draft makes me shiver although, I dress to sit here.

My view of the world is from this small third story window. My room is an attic really.  An afterthought room added for a child. I have long outgrown it and have to walk hunched over to get around. I do have an elementary writing table, my candle, and a cot in which to sleep, bent. To have this room, I am grateful for it costs but a few bits a week.

The windows on the other side of the street are all curtained. Each narrow building housed a business of some sort on the bottom floor. The second floor is an apartment originally designed for the store owner. Now, most business owners, having moved up in society with proper homes on residential streets, are renting the apartments to their employees as partial recompense.

When I’m not teaching, I help out downstairs in the bakery. The bakery, Called Lamb’s Daily Bread, was started by my father and mother, both devout Presbyterians, thus the name.

My name is Ruth Lamb, the only surviving child of Jeremiah and Beatrice Lamb.

Even though, I literally grew up in the bakery, I wanted to be a teacher, so upon the death of my parents during the blizzard of ’89, I sold the business. I could not run the bakery by myself and had no suitors hovering or interested.  I had planned the proper, father and mother approved courtship after I became a teacher, but, my parents passed before I could make it happen.

The overwhelming grief, the selling of the business and my appointment as the teacher in the town’s new school, were my priorities. Only now, alone in the evenings, do I begin to dream of a partner. The shadows projected on the apartment window curtains across the way are of couples, eating, enjoying each other’s company, and in one window, a child swirled by her father, dancing in front of the candlelight on the other side of their room. I share part of their life with them.

There is a young man that works at the bank down the street. I see him when he walks to work on the other side of the cobblestones, in his fashionable gray suit and brown hat. He tips his hat as he walks, attracting attention from all he meets, an up and comer, with a confident walk to match. I’ve seen him in the bank sitting at the third desk from the front. The first desk is as far as my kind of business takes me, I in my modest dark dress and proper “school Marm” hat.

This vision triggered a childhood game to rush uncontrollably through my mind.

I Ruth Lamb, by the flickering life of this candle, wish to be noticed by him. I, in his vision as a distant, moving shadow, need help to catch his eye in the light.” I chanted with my eyes squished shut.

In the moment, I was wishing so hard, I recited this twice to make sure that whatever powers grant such wishes heard and understood me.

What a silly thing to do!  A modern, Christian teacher should know better. It was but a “little girl moment” that has now passed.

*****

    The clip clop of a single horse and the rattle of a four-wheel wagon awaken me early on this, Saturday morning. I open the curtain of my view to the world and see the lamplighter making his snuffing rounds. The rising sun casts long shadows down Main Street. The moving horse and wagon, the movement of early risers and their exaggerated shadows in motion, animate the street. It’s the stretching awake of Main Street this early morning.

I opened the window a bit to freshen the air in my small room. It was brisk and invigorating. I prepared to go down to the bakery. They always need help setting up for the marketing day, and I need to eat.

Turning to leave my room, I hear this refrain through my room’s open window.

I have buttons and buckles,

 Candles and lotions,

Needles and pins,

 Ribbons and notions.

 

I can grant your wishes,

 Or sing you a tale,

I’m the haberdasher,

With a Whiffenpoof’s wail.

 

High, high, twiddle dee dee

I have things that are real, and

Things you can’t see

High, high, twiddle dee doh

Leave your wishes with me

Before I must go.

I’ve heard and seen him before, a red whiskered man with a green bowler hat and red bowtie stood at the end of the street holding the reins to steady his horse and cart. His head lay back, and mouth opened wide as the ditty was exhaled. That tenor voice flew down the street and echoed between the buildings that, by this time, had seduced someone to each doorway.

He came but once a year. Everyone knew him as Lucky O’Grady. There are stories from those who have bought his wares that say luck miraculously came their way. Some say, he only appears when someone is in need, or when someone worthy has made a wish for him to grant. Good things seem to happen when he is around.

I was happy to see him, as was everyone. This town could use a little cheering up. He was a promising start to the day.

I danced down the two flights of stairs to the lilt his voice planted in my mind. Now, into the bakery I lightly stepped, to find customers already lined up for their daily bread. The young owners looked relieved as I stepped into the room and immediately started serving people.

It was “good morning” and “thank you”, “good morning and thank you” continuously for twenty minutes.

The room suddenly stopped moving except for the stirred up flour dust that glowed in slices of sunlight from the windows and door. It’s as if some Royal Highness or something had walked in. In the doorway stood Lucky O’Grady, holding his bowler by the rim, close to his chest, looking left and right for the end of the line. Everyone else had been serviced, so there was a clear path to the whitewashed wooden counter. He glanced around as if surprised to find himself at the front of the line.

“May I have a loaf of that fine, fine bread?” He asked with a brogue.

Glancing into his sparkling eyes but not staring, I wrapped a fresh loaf in some baker’s paper and handed it to him.

As O’Grady paid me, he said, “Thank you Mum,” with a slight head nod and a light, half-step back, as if to bow to me!

“Would you be the Marm, Miss Ruth Lamb?” He asked.

“I would!” I answered with a question in my attitude.

“I have something special for you,” he said reaching in his side coat pocket.

Out came a beautiful yellow ribbon. “For your hair Mum,” he said.

All eyes of the people still in the store followed the yellow ribbon as it passed from his hand to my trembling hand.

“I have done nothing to deserve this; it’s not necessary to…..”

“Ah, but it ‘tis!” His brogue interrupted me. “’tis from the ones who appreciate you Miss Lamb!”

With that, he bowed, backed, and turned out of the bakery as applause broke out. The young wife of the new owner rushed behind me and took the ribbon from my hand. She tied that yellow ribbon to the “school marm” knot on the back of my head, as the applause grew louder.

Shyly embarrassed, I dusted the flour dust from my dress, straightened myself upright, and tried to make it look like I shook all of this nonsense off (all the while, playing with the new, yellow ribbon in my hair).  It was time to get back to the duties at hand. Everyone smiled at the great act I had just given them.

I took a step back toward my station, my shoulders and eyes swinging to greet the next customer.

As my eyes made contact with the eyes of the gentleman in line, my shoulders dropped at the defeat of the poise I had so painfully gathered up in front of everyone.

“Good mornin’ Miss Lamb,” the young banker smiled nonchalantly. “Could I get some of those sugar cookies to take to the bank? We’re working for a short time this morning, and I want to take them to my helpers.”

He knew who I was, and he knew my name!” I thought, surprised.

“By the way,” he said, “ my name is Thomas O’Hara and I would be wonderin’ if anyone has asked you to the cotillion at the fort tonight, or might there be a chance……”

My eyes focused on the yellow kerchief  in his suit coat pocket. ‘Twas as yellow as the yellow ribbon in my hair!

*****

I have buttons and buckles, candles and lotions,

Needles and pins, ribbons and notions.

I can grant your wishes, or sing you a tale,

I’m the haberdasher, with a Whiffenpoof’s wail.