Letting Life Lead
The lake, glass calm, reflected trees. I don’t know how long I stared out the fuselage window where an oregano plant spilled over the small sill. The old DC-3 Douglas had crashed decades ago. It’d been converted to a house complete with chimney and wood stove. Bunker, a man of few words but busy hands, had done the work himself. He’d even built a preliminary shelter for me from the remnants of a wing. “Everyone needs a place to be,” he’d said.
I tended the stove. Bunker once told me four things were essential for survival: an iron will, a strong knife, fire, and a cast iron pan.
“A handy weapon and makes the slimiest grubs taste gourmet. Damn near indestructible, too. Like you.”
The stew bubbled. I burned my hand when the rag slipped when I set the pan to cool. I stuffed the fabric in my mouth to stifle sobbing. It wasn’t the sting, that hardly hurt. Outbursts happened. I’d burned my hand I was fifteen. Sharp memories overwhelmed. Vivid was the smell of the skillet steak, the bright flower wallpaper, the red vinyl chairs, and the fateful knock before I was taken.
Curved walls shrunk around me. Inside became both safe haven and coffin. I stumbled through the long house body to the heavy, oval door. High grass cushioned my back. My head rang from the impact. Air crushed my chest. Breathes drew in but not out. I thought of Bunker, and how I missed his ugly face. He’d’ve dropped shoulder-to-shoulder with me to wait for the wave to pass.
“Are your dreams like this?” I’d asked. No gray had graced my hair then, and his had grown sparser.
“Yes, only angrier.”
When I moved into the house in my twenties, he’d leave after I fell asleep to protect me from his night terrors.
I walked around the lake to the bank where I had first emerged. The air was crisp and the water cool as my toes sank into the mud. I shed my clothes save for my bra, tank and undershorts. I let the water have me. Could I still do it? How many hours had it taken to swim the length that night? I’d surprised Bunker, that’s for certain.
Broken, bleeding, and half-naked outside the plane’s door I’d cried, “Better to drown than to let them have me.”
He’d stared, pressed his bearded lips together and nodded. He’d told me his name, encouraged me to go but let me stay. With the war, I had no home to go back to.
Now, I manged the ten thousand meters in four hours. My body shook but wasn’t cold. I’d come to the exact spot where the same rusty barrels entwined with sandy grass. Overgrown paths meandered past empty, makeshift dwellings. One glowed with light. The rust stains on the siding, tin roof, and filthy windows hadn’t changed.
I’m not certain what compelled me to climb the cinder block steps. They, older but still stinking of beer, cigarettes, and old piss, were passed out on the couch and chair. The closet where they’d kept me was open, a dirty plate upon a blanket. My iron soul grew hot. The same gun lay amid bullets on a table. It felt comfortable in my grip. Bunker had taught me.
I pressed the barrel to the squirrely one’s head. He opened his eyes and swallowed.
“You have someone. Where?” He shook his head and I shot the creep drooling in the chair; the shirtless man awakened. “Don’t fucking test me.”
“We got nobody, crazy b–”
I closed squirrel mouth permanently. Shirtless confessed and tossed the key. “In the box out back.”
He begged. I took his life more kindly than he’d taken mine. It’s said if you take lives, their faces stick with you. I already saw these bastards every night, so what the hell.
I unlocked the box but didn’t open it. That was a face I didn’t want to know. “I was never here, understand?” A soft knock answered.
I crawled my way back home faster than I’d left it. I gave the waters the gun. If fate drowned me, I’d understand.
The sunset glowed pink. Dinner wafted downwind. My fifteen-year-old son had returned from his town trek. His serious scowl was so like Bunker’s. He hugged me, soaking wet and all.
I kissed his cheek. “Don’t worry, I’m like this house–built to last.”
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Bewitching Journey of Words to Meaning
This is the story of building a cottage , the people and the place. Its a reminder of hope and love.
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