The whispering morning breeze always accompanies that dreadful blue hue that signals another day, one more beginning with but one outcome; an end.
The breeze is but another tender reminder of the unremitting circle of a play we call life. I’ve yet to lift my eyes out from under this scruffy wool blanket but I can tell from the scampering of the eager paws just outside these wooden walls that the blackness of night is giving in once again to that blasted reality of daylight.
When will my beloved night win this never ending struggle?
Gradually I open my eyes and stare at my new day through the luminescence of that brown ratty blanket. Laying there I think to myself: What if I just stayed on this old mattress all day and just waited for the night to take over again? I’ve got nothing to do, nowhere to go, and best of all no one to meet. It’s settled, I’m going back to sleep.
Just when my day was all laid out all hell broke loose at the door, the side window, and just outside the wall my bed is against; those god damn dogs again, every morning, every damn morning. Playing as they may be, they might as well be a herd of traveling salesman peddling products they say I need to be a civilized upstanding and respected member of this charade called society.
On this side of Jacobs Pass, so called for the old-timer Jacob Tooley who went missing in these woods some time ago, I wake up every morning in my cabin exactly six miles out of town, a good distance to keep those refined types out of my hair.
Out of sight out of mind they say, there might be something to that.
Maybe—just maybe, sort of like a blind man whose hearing has been fine tuned.
And what do I get in return?
A pack of wild dogs that those cultured folks acquired for pets but then decided they no longer wanted and then chased out of town to fend for themselves and onto my door step. Damn those civilized folks and damn those dogs. But honestly, to hell with those ‘civilized’ folks because they give up quicker and easier than these damn dogs ever would and I’d go to hell and back with those irritating dogs before I would with any of those damn cultured people—it’s a fine line; a fine line indeed.
Somewhere in those words the concept of respect swings in the direction of those dogs.
Sitting up I feel that familiar cold that these tired wooden planks share every morning with the soles of my feet.
Familiarity can be nice sometimes and at others nothing short of irritating.
Rubbing my eyes I can tell the iron stove in the far corner has lost all its embers and ceased to care one way or the other about it. I knew I should have placed a few more sections of wood inside last night as I was finishing off the last few sips of whiskey, but with a little whiskey in the body the air never seems as cold as it rightly should. Oh well, always something to kick yourself about even if you think you’ve done everything you can. However, the whiskey has the charmed ability to make that feeling go away. That charmed liquid has many abilities that only present themselves to an open mind and a willing soul.
Standing up, fighting gravities nonstop presence, the floor boards creek under the weight of my thinning frame as I make my way towards the stove to bring the blasted thing back to life again. With the sound of opening the heavy black soot encrusted door the dogs once again erupt into a fantastic blur of yelping, snorting, and scurrying that hits my ears like hammer to anvil.
That reminds me; I need a drink.
After placing a few slivers of scrap wood among last night’s ashes along with a few strips of an old rag I grab the tin of matches off the shelf above the stove and finger one out and put it to its purpose. With a flame jumping around I add a few thicker pieces of chopped cedar I keep inside and shut the iron door, leaving a small opening to let some air flow through. After making sure the thing is going good enough to leave it to its own devices I head for the door and stop close enough so I can hear what’s going on just on the other side: stillness greater than moving, silence greater than stillness and pure silence an impossibility.
They’re out there as sure as I’m in here, all involved waiting for the morning ritual or annoyance depending on which side of the door you are on.
Slowly I unlatch the rusty latch and brace my weight as I swing the door open and jump out screaming which sends at least eleven dogs running in eleven directions as if the great game has begun and there’s no possible outcome in which they lose. With a sly smile pulling at my dry lips I slip back inside and pour some water from the bucket near the sink into the coffee pot and sit the pot on the edge of the stove, checking the flames inside and shutting the contraptions door.
Waiting for the water to warm I head to the one cabinet that holds my lover, my teacher, my friend, and my most trusted enemy all confined in the swirled hardened mixture of heated and then cooled sand that sends light curling in its own preferred way; whiskey, carelessly waiting in its bottle.
Opening the door I’m surprised to see that there is only one full bottle left. I grab it in disgust; given it’s the kind of disgust that comes with getting what you want but knowing you’ll have to dodge the angles of heaven to get more, weaving my way through them I grab my coffee cup and I pull the cork and fill my cup about half way.
Ah, the first taste of contentment to bring in the new day. I take another sip and check on the coffee pot again, a few more minutes, and walk over to my chair that sits about seven feet in front of the stove front.
Sitting down I look around at home sweet home. It’s not much; a fifteen by fifteen foot cabin I built with my own hands from trees that once stood around where my home now sits. Two windows, one facing south the other west, didn’t place one on the east side because who wants to see that damn sun destroying the solitude of night. The ceiling reaches about six and a half feet and the only door belongs on the north side. The roof leans at a forty-five degree angle, or at least as close as I could get it there, towards the south, away from my door, to let the rain fall off onto the downward slope of land that begins its descent at the edge of my flat plot where my home rests and constantly settles closer to its ultimate incorporation back into the landscape.
As you walk in you will find the stove in the closest corner to the right along with my overstuffed chair that offers the most comfort for miles around. In the far corner to the left is my cherished bed where I spend as much time as possible dreaming the dreams this world can never offer; realities of existence that will never be mine once my eyes are open, a universe in its self. Just to the left of entering you’ll find a sink with shelves above that hold my limited dishes and a stand where I keep the bucket full of water which I retrieve from the creek which is about a five minute downhill walk from the porch. My comfort cabinet hangs nailed to the wooden wall to the right of the sink where a crown of thorns would surely fit nicely on top of. There’s another small stand next to my chair where a few candles and the latest interest of a book rest; this week it’s another Sherlock adventure where attention to detail always defeats the slyest of the sly. Next to my bed is a book shelf that is waiting for the inevitable collapse brought on by the combination of one of my nemeses, gravity, and one of my greatest pleasures, books.
When one doesn’t have the desire to travel in three dimensions one can always travel in two.
In the middle of the room lays a rug that my mother left me when she died eight years ago. It is the only sophisticated piece in my entire home. One of those hand woven wool rugs from Europe that must have graced the room of some high society snob who never appreciated it. It’s about five feet by six and a beautiful thing to behold with its dark burgundy tuffs shadowing the deep green vines that glide their way around in a perfectly random pattern that is nothing short of amazing and splendor; it’s one of the two family attachments I have held on to.
Other than a single lantern and a few more candles here and there that’s pretty much it, nothing to brag about but nothing to be ashamed of either; bragging and shame, both nothing more than two sides of a worthless coin trying to be spent in a foreign country.
The coffee water is ready now and I take my last sip of whiskey before pouring some hot water into the cup and dipping the twisted rag full of coffee grounds into it. Letting the grounds fuse with the water I grab my pipe and cup and head out to the porch and sit down on my other chair made from a single piece of tree trunk, backrest and all.
That thing must be eighty pounds or so; glad Caleb was around for that one.
Filling the pipe and taking the first puff I catch a glimpse of a few of the dogs that never seem to be very far away.
It’s a strange relationship the dogs and I have. I can’t say I’m glad to have them around because of the racket they make every morning but they do make a great early warning system for anyone and anything that comes within a half mile radius of my secluded home. We’re not cozy with each other; I don’t attempt to hurt them but I don’t let them get too comfortably close to the cabin either. They get the entrails of the deer, rabbits, squirrels, foxes, and beavers that I’m lucky enough to kill for food and use for trade in town for this and that but mostly their hides bring in the money I need for that numbing happiness called whiskey. That great liquid that changes objective reality; and that my friend is not subject to debate. I don’t think the dogs would disagree, with the entrails that is.
My name is Joseph Tooley and it was my father that went missing eight years ago out here in these very woods. No trace has ever been found of him in all that time. And believe me it hasn’t been for a lack of looking. His disappearance was the main reason I moved out to this area and built my cabin. The only other is that after my mom passed I felt no motivation to be a part of society and all the trouble people have to offer. Truthfully though, people don’t like me much and honestly I prefer it that way. Don’t get me wrong there are a few folks in town I get along with and actually enjoy a conversation with every now and then. Like old William and his younger brother Walter who runs the tavern on Briggs Street, Caleb the local preacher, who I run into at the tavern quite a bit by the way, Orville the grounds keeper of the only cemetery, and Mrs. Beatina who I trade furs with for candles and coffee and such. But other than that the rest are basically ghosts I try to avoid.
If you’re wondering of any sort of family history beyond that I’ll do my best to pull some details from the mist of memories and the haze that comforts my mind.