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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Short Story: Dusk to Dusk, Ashes to Ashes


Painting by Dr. Murad Abel
Short stories have the ability to spark the imagination and lead the reader with a thought or concept to ponder. Each store is unique and became popular over the 17th and 18th centuries from the storytelling of the past. They made their way into magazines, books, newspapers and other printed works. The short story is designed to quickly entertain the reader while leaving a lasting impression.

Short short stories, or flash fiction, has a basic structure such as the exposition (introduction), complication, climax and resolution. The difficulty with such stories is that they are so short it is hard to build a story with dynamic characters and therefore descriptions are generally brief and artistic. It isn’t easy to write a clear store within a page or two.

Short stories are also known in China where they are called “smoke long” which means they are finished in about the time you smoke a cigarette. Most of the great writers like Ernest Hemingway and Edgar Allen Poe wrote a few short stories. Some writers collected all of their short stories and put them into a book. 

Title: Dusk to Dusk, Ashes to Ashes

The little barn on the hill has been barren for over a generation with no one to claim it as home. Weeds have grown where bountiful crops once stood, the paint is peeling, the door has long been broken by local thieves, and the two-rut road has blended into a dandelion's paradise.  Its neatness long transformed into the chaotic order of nature. Horses, pigs, and cows were sold lifetimes ago after old man Granger said his famous words, “dusk to dusk, ashes to ashes, it is time for me to close my lashes.” 

Nature moved in and claimed the grounds slowly by coaxing it back to the place from which it came. Little trees have risen in the once plowed fields while the fences have crumbled into ruble.  It rested abandoned until little Samuel, from just up the rocky road, claimed the old barn as a fort for his adventures, hideouts, and as a haven from the day’s events. The walls may be lined with the droppings of birds, the ceiling full off abandoned bee hives, and the dirt floor sprinkled with the footprints of country critters but it contained within its dampness the treasures of another life.  

Manual mowers, pots, tools, hammers, rusty nails, birthing calipers and a host of other abandoned tools were thrown about the place in random fashion. With his flat black hair, corduroy trousers, and dusty boots old Granger’s barn became a place of refuge from the troubles of childhood life. Once known it didn’t take long before a clan of fellow kinsman also adopted the place for their personal refuge. One by one they came to explore. To the fourth grade countryside class it was a location of freedom from parental oversight, a place where things could be stowed away, a social place for young boys who deemed it their secret hideout and launching pad for wild adventures. 

 As little Samuel grew and so did his partners and the old barn took on new purposes and uses. Football, dodge ball, BB gun fights, throwing stars, beer, firecrackers, and all the other rowdy  activities young teens engage in, were common weekend occurrences on old Granger’s land. To Samuel it was the place he first shot a deer, just down the gravel road from where he once pulled 50 suckers from the stream within an hour, and about a mile from where he and a friend smashed mail boxes in a game of “roadside baseball”. The center of the earth existed within ten miles of nowhere.

It still maintained its charm in high school where a long line of barely operable cars and trucks made their way up the two rut umbrella of trees and into the open field. Bonfires, benches, and brews kept the stories flowing that would spook even the most hard hearted of listeners. Many nights were spent looking up at the dark open sky talking about all the things that young adults talk about. Girls, money, baseball, politics...no topic was taboo. The dribble drivel of dreams. The stars were always on display as no light but the glow of an open fire was standing between man and his universe. 

Despite its years of childhood abuse that farm building couldn’t withstand the power of an angry spirit. A twister moved through and tore the roof clear off and threw it somewhere in the field. The walls crushed inward covering its history and ending its era. Samuel walked around the pile of ruble kicking the debris thinking of all the fun he had in this decrepit place. Bending down to tie his shoe he noticed a coffee can with the cover half torn off. Lying in the grass was a $20 bill, letters, and a few black and white pictures. He reached down, blew the dust off, and began to read one of the aged pages. “Dearest Janet, it is these gassed trenches….”

For days Samuel did nothing but read and reread the letters, peer into the pictures, and try and decipher the life history of old man Granger. The more he asked people about this idealized character the more he learned that all that knew him were also long gone. From the letters he could determine that old man Granger was in trenches in WWI and was in love with a Janet from Wisconsin. They wrote to each other on a regular basis and married afterward. When finished, each letter was folded with meticulous care and placed in the coffee can along with pictures of old man Granger and his beloved Janet. The $20 bill was an odd temptation and more than once the 18 year old Samuel thought about spending it on something important. Movies, gas, clothing...the needs were endless. At each moment he lifted it out of the can, he dropped it back in thinking it might bring him good luck if he holds onto it a little longer. 

Nearly 60 years have passed since Samuel has visited the old farm property. After taking care of financial affairs, hosting family visitors, and listening to the blessings of priests he desired to pay homage to the earth one more time. All the documents have been signed, his children are taken care of, his grand children have their financial futures secured, and his wife’s grave was decorated with newly cut flowers. With his grey shaking hands he mustered all his strength and dropped a few new sheets of papers, pictures, and a fresh $20 bill, bundled with the old, into the can and slide them next to the tattered yellow papers of old man Granger. With a motion of his finger he tells the nurse to give the fresh and smartly dressed attorney standing in the hallway his package with clearly written instructions.  Let the young man know, “dusk to dusk, ashes to ashes, it is time for me to close my lashes.

Dr. Murad Abel

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