Sunday, September 27, 2009

Night's Final Hour: Chapter 4


Ivy Carter

“To live with the conscious knowledge of the shadow of uncertainty, with the knowledge that disaster or tragedy could strike at any time; to be afraid and to know and acknowledge your fear, and still to live creatively and with unstinting love: that is to live with grace.”- Peter Henry Abrahams


The morning service ends and people trickle out to the church yard. Graves can be seen encircling the back half of the chapel yard. A few members of the congregation head over the dewy grass towards the graves of loved ones. Others mill around the front, talking and gossiping. At times, I wonder if our town uses Sunday morning service as an excuse to socialize and gossip. Some of the women seem to live for the moment when they can gossip with friends after service.

I stand at the divide between the living and the dead, waiting for my grandmother and mother to join me. We have a tradition of our own for Sunday service. My mother started it when I was just a baby and unless you’re extremely sick, you don’t miss the tradition. In just a few moments, when they join me, we’ll venture into the meadow of the dead and locate a grave I’m all too familiar with – the grave of my father. From what I’ve been told, Daniel Carter was a great man who would have made an amazing dad. I never had the opportunity to meet him.

My father died in a car accident the day I was born. He received the call that my mother was in labor and took off for the hospital to see my birth. He rushed through traffic at a safe pace, anxious to be a dad. He didn’t see the other car coming. It was sliding and swerving on the icy roads of November. The driver had lost total control of his car and as a result, my father lost his life that day. My birthday is a bittersweet occasion, as my mother remembers my father and tries to celebrate another year of my life – another year that my father has missed.

I break out of my thoughts and look around, finally spotting my mother coming towards me. In her hand are three white roses – one for each of us. My grandmother is trailing behind, pumping her legs in an effort to keep up with my mother on the uphill climb. After they reach me, we head into the graveyard until we find the simple tombstone beneath a large willow tree. My grandmother takes a seat on the stone bench beneath the tree. My grandmother had this bench set there years ago.

I take a seat on the bench as my mother approaches the grave. She kneels beside it, placing the white rose in front of the tombstone. She talks in a hushed voice, talking to my father. I don’t know what she tells him each week – that is between him and her. There are a few moments of silence before she touches the ground above his coffin. She stands and joins my grandmother on the bench.

Grandma Lillian’s turn is next. My father was her only son and some of her only family. When she married my grandfather, she estranged herself from what remained of her own kin. Her family hadn’t approved of him, but she was in love with him. She defied their every wish to spend her life with him. He died a year before my father, leaving her a widow. After my father’s death, she moved in with my mother to help care for me. I watch as she kisses the rose lightly and lays it next to my mother’s. She wipes away a tear and returns to the bench.

I’m the last one to have a turn, as usual. I like being last – it gives me the longest time to spend with my father. The two women my father loved most rise from their bench and give me a slight nod before heading back towards the church. I like being left alone with my father. It seems silly to think about, but this is the only time I really get to spend with him. I won’t say anything to him – I don’t believe in talking to the dead, especially a dead stranger. But I will spend time with him.

The graveyard surrounding the church is the only connection I have to my father. His grave seems out of place among the aged graves of history containing stories that remain a mystery to the living. The four closest graves to my father date back over one hundred years. There is no order to the graveyard, as it was started over two hundred years ago. The earliest grave I have found in the cemetery dates back to 1782.

I approach my father’s grave, still clutching the white rose my mother gave me. I bend down in the same fashion as her and place it beside the other two roses. Three white roses now sit in front of the tombstone. I know from experience that they will be gone before they wilt. I’m not sure who cleans up the flowers of the graveyard, but nothing is left wilted as a reminder of the harshness of death and it’s ever present domain in our lives.

I back away from my father’s grave, still staring at the tombstone. The bleak gray stone looks remorseful in the shade of the willow. I take a seat on the concrete bench and settle against its back. I have forgotten about the morning rain until it soaks into my clothes from the bench. I do my best to ignore my damp clothes as I pull a notebook and pen from my bag. I look around at the graves until one stands out to me.

Ashley Hendricks
1847 – 1864
“Beloved son”


I stare at the grave which is only inches from that of my father. This young man died when he was only my age. I stare at the dates for a second longer, taking in their meaning. I recall from my history classes that the Civil War occurred around this time. It’s quite likely that this boy was a victim of the brutal war. It’s even more likely that there’s no body to match this tombstone. My pen lingers for a moment as my mind contemplates the story of Ashley Hendricks.

Ashley jumped over the log and ran faster. He could hear the others running behind him. He couldn’t tell if they were northerners or southerners. He couldn’t tell if they were on his side or not. All he could tell was that they were running after him. Was this to be his end? Was he to die in battle?

The pace of the soldiers seemed to quicken. With each passing moment, they were gaining quickly on the young, na├»ve soldier running ahead. No matter how fast he ran, the soldier would never stand a chance in these woods – they knew them like the back of their hand. They were bound to be the victors in this scenario.


I put my pen down and read back over what I’ve written. Each time I write about one of the old graves in this cemetery, I find myself focused on war. It seems that any number of them could have been soldiers that lost their lives in war. All I know of war is what I’ve seen in movies. War has never been close to me, like it was for many of these men and women. What must it have been like growing up back then?

My mother has always accused me of being too curious. She thinks I spend too much time with my nose in a book to truly enjoy life. According to her, living life to its fullest means getting out and doing stuff. It doesn’t mean reading and writing, the two things I enjoy the most. Therefore, I find myself forced to socialize and entertain at my mother’s side. Sunday afternoons by my father’s grave is the only time I’m guaranteed to be left alone, so I take full advantage of it.

I read my passage aloud to the empty graveyard. I would like to think that my father or someone is out there listening, out there enjoying my stories. It gives more meaning to the story when I feel it’s for someone’s enjoyment other than just mine.

* * * * *


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Night's Final Hour by Crystal and Pamela MacLean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Night's Final Hour: Chapter 3

Benjamin Delacroix

“It's no accident that the church and the graveyard stand side by side. The city of the dead sleeps encircled by the city of the living.” - Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider

The distant sun sinks into the horizon and bursts, coloring the sky in shades of molten lava. From my place, I watch as the lights in distant windows flicker off. The town slowly becomes engulfed by a dull darkness, only the moon’s radiance shimmers down on the scattered homes. Across the shadowed field, an owl sits perched on the weather vane, ready to spend his waking hours. A shrill hoot resounds through the night as the grey bird takes flight. An owl is to the night what the rooster is to day; announcer of the change in time.

I stay seated in my place, patiently waiting for the chapel bell to toll the eleventh hour. At eleven minutes past night’s final hour, the world looks a little less foreign and grey to me. Rising from my seat, I stretch my limbs out of a habit formed years ago by a very different man. With one foot solidly placed on the ground in front of the other, my legs trek across the field and begin the descent of the hill. Tonight, as per most nights of a similar nature, I’m only leaving my resting place because I have a definite destination. The library will be closed at this hour; of this I have no doubts, but it is the only time when I can retrieve my next book for reading. In my six hours and forty four minutes of nightly existence, I will peruse through multiple volumes in search of a text to hold my affections for at least a week. It would be unfortunate if I had to return to the library before this time next week; I have other places that I tend to frequent on other days of the week.

My feet barely touch the cement roadway and my mind travels back to a time of cobble roads and slower days. This town has changed so drastically over the passing decades that it becomes more difficult to visualize how it once looked. Wooden cabins were long ago replaced by small homes that gave way to elaborate houses too big for the families inside. The transportation system of today is gravely different from the ones that I remember and found reason in. Large contraptions of metals like steel and copper mixed with paint and gasoline carry people from a starting place to a destination emitting fumes that are sometimes so potent that it can be seen with the human eye. Like solid boxes, the vehicles close the people inside of them off from the rest of the world; one cannot ride by and ask their neighbor how their sick mother has been. Moving from place to place on rubber supports, a car is a portable prison that people chose to place themselves in. My thoughts are listening to the rhythmic click of horseshoes against a stone cobble road when the church bell denotes the first morning hour. Shaken from my dream, I refocus my attention on reaching the library.

***

The night following my library escapade begins much in the same manner. As I patiently wait for the chapel to ring the eleventh hour, the owl begins its ascent into the night sky in search of a small field mouse to prey upon. At eleven minutes past the hour, a change occurs and I begin my nightly trek through the town of Nuitville. Just as I do every Friday night, I am making my way through the winter bitten forest to place I used to call home. Although my home could never have withstood the weather and modernization, I still visit the land where it used to stand. Today, the land has been reduced and portioned off into several homesteads.

Where my family’s small cabin used to rest, a home stands providing shelter and memories to a new inhabitant. The newest family unit, as far as I have collected, to obtain the land is calm and subdued. A simple, two story farmhouse holds three generations including a grandmother, her daughter, and her granddaughter. I have yet to collect much detailed information about the family and will probably avoid doing so. The house actually stands partially in the same location that my cabin would be located. The farmhouse is shifted slightly forward from where my old home used to sit. If the two homes were juxtaposed, the back of my cabin would extend beyond the current farmhouse. The back of the small cabin consisted of my bed chambers and a small corner porch.

Even when I lived here, my love was for the lands surrounding my home. Venturing into the forest, I remember the days when I was just a young boy creating stories in my head about the people who lived amongst the tree trunks. An original Huck Finn, I would climb the trees and sail down the river in a makeshift raft. Telling time was a little more difficult in my day and often I’d return home, late for dinner, and find myself on the frightening side of a switch. After punishment, I would go tramping back outside to the haven of the woods. Leaving through the back door, I can still picture Momma fretting, “That boy is surely going to get himself in a tangle one of these nights.”

Many nights I’d find myself climbing the grassy hill up to the chapel, waiting for the sun to declare the start of a new day. Papa would often find me, half asleep and barely hanging on to the roof of the church. Wanting to see the sun rise from the highest point in town, I would scale the wooden siding of the chapel and hold on as tight as my small hands allowed. For the most part, my tired child’s body would demand sleep before the sun would begin to peak its head over the far horizon. Now, years later, I have seen the sun rising over the town from that very spot many mornings.

***

In time, I have developed a weekly routine which dictates when I visit certain locations within Nuitville. Many years have passed since the last time I deviated from the plan I established long ago. Saturday night has, for the majority of the passage of time, been the night when I acquire a town newspaper. My intentions tonight are not to return to the library or my lands but to travel further into town to the small general store where I’ll be able to pick up the paper for tomorrow.

The Sunday paper is promptly delivered to Hank’s store on Saturdays at eleven-thirty at night which coincides with my travel hours perfectly. The small convenience store is open around the clock on any day other than the town’s Founding Day, Fourth of July, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Several shifts with multiple employees ensure that someone is working during the day’s twenty four hours; however, each Saturday night, at exactly midnight, Hank goes out back of his shop and smokes the last cigarette in his weekly pack. As I creep into the store, I see the smoke wafting up over the window display; Hank’s actions are right on schedule. From the display stand, I remove a single copy of the Sunday paper and walk over to the counter. Placing all of the coins I’ve collected this week on the cold wooden surface, I scratch a note onto the corner of the paper. Tearing the single right corner from the paper, I lay the words beside the coins which explain that, with my regards, I hope I’ve left enough currency to cover the expenses the shop incurred in obtaining the newspaper I’ve taken. Venturing back into the open air of the night, I can hear Hank gagging and coughing as the ash and cigarette tar settle in his lungs. The studies scientists have done on smoking were initially incredulous to my unacquainted mind; now I question why more of the men I knew didn’t die younger.

***

The remaining days of the week pass slowly like an hourglass with wet sand stuck to its glass sides. I have no prearranged adventures for the days that come. Already I have been home again, I have obtained a book for the forthcoming week, and I a paper recounting any of the prior week’s events that I may have overlooked; there is nothing more I need to do to make my simple solitude content.



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Night's Final Hour by Crystal and Pamela MacLean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Night's Final Hour: Chapter 2


Ivy Carter

“Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” - Hans Christian Andersen


The morning rain pitter patters against the windowsill above my head. I can hear the coffee kettle sputtering in the kitchen. It should be whistling at any moment.

There’s a rustling at my feet and a golden head pops up. Sandy’s ears perk up as she listens to the morning routine. I bury my head deeper into the pillow and drift back to sleep.

The whistling of the kettle rings in my ears, jarring me awake. Someone mutters loudly as they stub their toe. My toes are cold as Sandy greets me with morning kisses. I stare out the window at the steadily beating rain and wonder what the day has in store.

In the kitchen, I find Grandma Lilly sitting at the kitchen table with a coffee mug in her hands. She is dressed in her Sunday best, waiting patiently on the rest of the house. I pretend to mirror her enthusiasm as I place two slices of bread in the toaster. I pour cold juice into a cup and watch the droplets racing down the window.

The toaster pops, interrupting my thoughts. My toast comes up browned and ready for buttering. I butter my toast and join my grandma at the table. She smiles across the top of her cup as I bite into my first piece of toast.

My mother is the last one to the kitchen as usual. She pours herself a cup of coffee and joins us at the table. We sit in silence – them with their coffee and me with my toast.

The clock ticks above the door as the minutes pass slowly. I watch the second hand inch its way around the circle. The numbers blur together as I lose my focus and drift into a daydream.

I am shaken back to reality by my mother’s clipped tone and my grandmother’s hurried feet. We are out the door and on our way to church in a matter of minutes. My mother mutters something about the seats filling up and the need to arrive early.

Sunday service is the only one we attend because it’s expected of us. I’m not a church-goer by nature, even though I’ve been attending since I was a toddler.

The seats are filling up quickly as we step into the crowded church which is too small for the needs of the town. No one is willing to part with the past, so we continue to squish our way into the room we outgrew years before I was born.

Babies cry and mothers scold children as the congregation waits for the sermon to begin. I pull a notebook and pen from my purse, ignoring the loud sighs of my mother. I turn to a blank page and let my mind drift to the window and further still to the graveyard that surrounds the back half of the church. I know that stories and adventures await my pen.

* * * * *

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Night's Final Hour by Crystal and Pamela MacLean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Our First Award!!

We're extremely happy to announce our first blog award!! Two to Write has received The Kreative Blogger Award! Thanks, Cynde for nominating us!!

You can check out Cynde's blog here: http://cyndes-got-the-write-stuff.blogspot.com/ It's worth the trip over there to read her blog!
We now get the pleasure of passing on this award to seven bloggers. We follow so many great blogs that it was an extremely tough decision.
Here are the rules for the award:
  1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
  2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
  3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
  4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting. (below)
  5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
  6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate. (below)
  7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.

Seven Interesting Facts About Us:

  1. One of our favorite pasttimes is attending Renaissance Faires - in costume.
  2. We finished our first full-length, co-written novel, Dancing beneath the Moon, this past summer and are currently in the process of editing it.
  3. We both plan to be teachers.
  4. We both participated in gymnastics and Girl Scouts when we were younger.
  5. Our favorite television show is Supernatural.
  6. We IM each other when we're sitting in the same room.
  7. We both have our own personal blogs in addition to Two to Write.

Passing on the Award to:

  1. Princess Bookie
  2. Editorial Ass
  3. Paperback Writer
  4. The World According to Maggie
  5. Authors Promoting Authors
  6. Elana Johnson, Author
  7. QueryTracker.net

Keep up the great blogs everyone!!

Thanks again for nominating us Cynde!!!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Night's Final Hour: Chapter 1

Benjamin Delacroix

“Live to the point of tears” – Albert Camus

Beside the chapel, an event is being held in honor of a young couple. Their friends and family have traveled across the nation to share the day with them. The bride, in white, has been down the aisle. The groom, decked in his finest, has smiled and said his vows. Mothers and sisters have dried the tears from their smiling eyes while fathers and brothers have tried to hide their childish grins. The ceremony has passed and eager children wait for the time to slice the cake. Twinkling lights race around the rose covered terrace posts surrounding the reception and the bride makes the announcement. Twenty girls gather in a crowd before the bride and she turns her back to them. In an exaggerated motion, building suspense, she pulls her arms down in front of her and slowly launches them up and over her head, allowing the bouquet of a dozen white roses to slide from her hands and into the air. A redhead peals with laughter as she catches the bouquet.

Across the fresh mown grass, an identical bouquet of a dozen white roses falls through the air and lands softly on the tilled dirt mound. The newly laid grave is littered with flowered affections. The redheaded widow tries to block out the spirited tunes that drift down from the wedding party, crashing into her mind and breaking the dam that holds back the tears. Free falling, tiny droplets splash in the dirt creating new mud. She stands alone, longing to return to the day when they began their life together. The jovial wedding does not ease her pain.

***

Somewhere in the distance the clock tower tolls, resounding through the small Virginia town. On the lonely hill, the chapel doors stand open to let the autumn air flow through. Sunday service starts and the sermon is preaching faith in the good Lord’s plan. The choir softly sings the gospel and the muffled cries of young babies can barely be heard over the congregation’s shuffling feet and musical voices. Everyone slowly rushes out as a crowd to find relief from the cramped interior. On the front steps, the sheriff thanks the preacher for another perfectly planned sermon and everyone leaves with their recent doubts erased. Last week’s horror was not without reason and tragedy always has a purpose. The preacher’s been reminding them so they go home knowing that the young man’s death is another part of God’s force, working His will on Earth.

***

The birds are singing a springtime melody, fit for the occasion on the hill. She stands on the front steps outside the weathered church, pacing back and forth as her friend tries to calm the butterflies forming in her stomach. Two steps below her, the bridesmaids hold the train of her wedding gown, trailing behind her with each treading step. She stops and they sigh in relief. One arm extended toward her maid of honor and best friend since grade school, she beckons for her friend’s hand. The brunette clasps the hand of her closest friend and they exchange words with just a smile. The bouquet is handed to the bride and she takes a step up. A hand held up to her eye, she shields the glaring sun and tells her friend with a teary smile, “This is my forever.”

The birds are singing a rainy lament, fit for the occasion on the hill. He stands outside of the weathered church on the moist grass and kneels down, letting the torrent of rain wash over him. Behind him, his brother places a hand on his shoulder and offers his sympathies. The man brushes the hand from his shoulder and slams a flat palm to the ground. Curling his hand into a fist, he gathers grass in his grasp and rips it from the Earth. He stands and glares down at his treacherous hand as the dirt sprinkles back to the ground below. His brother turns to the friend beside him and they both journey back toward the wooden church, seeking shelter from the rain and giving the man space to breathe. A lily rests atop the smooth stone. By the way of his calloused hand, a kiss travels from the man to the tombstone and he quietly whispers to the wind, “This is my forever.”

***

Beneath a tree, four shadows stand in an arc around a solitary tombstone. As the sun sets, they watch as the sky changes from fire to water and slowly each shadow fades to nothing until only one remains on the hill. The lonely figure approaches the tombstone and sits lopsidedly upon it.

***


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Night's Final Hour by Crystal and Pamela MacLean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Introducing: Night's Final Hour

Ivy Mae Carter never thought the stories she created would ever come to life. Ghosts and spirits were just supposed to be figments of the imagination recorded on thin pages. They weren't supposed to be real. Benjamin Delacroix is certainly as real as they come though. He died on November 13, 1782, but he never left. Something kept Benjamin connected to the ground in Nuitville, Virginia. Over the years, he developed a weekly routine. He knew when he would become corporeal each night and he knew his limitations during the day. He would venture around the town, following the day-to-day events of the townspeople. He would listen to the stories that a young girl shared.
* * *

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Night's Final Hour by Crystal and Pamela MacLean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.