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Skinners

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Paul
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Posted 10/31/08 - 5:44 PM:
Subject: Skinners
I decided to write something themed for Halloween just as an exercise. It's basically crap that [as usual] I couldn't come up with a workable plot for, but so it goes.

The white picket fence was tattered and broken. Instead of a gate there was a gap. A single, lonely oak tree stood at the entrance. Just beyond, a shopping center loomed.

I stepped forward through the gap. There were two tombstones. I knelt on the grave to read the inscription on the larger one: "James Skinner, a native of Scotland, died August 9, 1885 aged 73 years. At rest."

James Skinner's sleep was shallow and troubled, not as restful as it had once been. The town he'd known died a century ago, leaving his tiny cemetery in isolation for decades. Now a different town was expanding ever-outward, paving over history. Construction noise droned on and the buildings closed in. The man and his wife who lay below were were forgotten by all, their cemetery a crumbling afterthought in a sea of suburban sprawl. In a few more years the bulldozers would roll in and no trace would remain.

I reached out to touch the ancient, cracked tombstone. The world went black. I felt I was suddenly lying down. I was in a box, trapped. I pushed upward and with great effort threw open the lid to reveal the sky.

It was dusk, with the last fingers of the sun casting a red glow over the sky. It was the same cemetery, and the same oak tree, but the fence was freshly painted and the tombstone uncracked. The town was changed. To the north there were a few small buildings and a Catholic cemetery. Northeast was a winery and the long rows of the vineyard. To the west and south there were only the rolling hills.

I walked over to the winery and knocked on a door. An old woman opened it.

"May I come in?" I asked her.

"You..." she stammered, "you can't be here."

"I was in the cemetery," I explained. "I don't remember how I got there. It's getting cold and dark. I'd like a place to sleep if it's not too much trouble."

She stared open-mouthed at me for a minute. "We buried you in August. I've gone insane."

Something about her stirred a memory. I grabbed the memory and pulled it into focus. My gaze seemed to petrify her.

"I remember now. I remember. You're my wife."

She nodded.

"Can't I come in? It's cold, I'm tired."

She slammed the door. From behind it, she shouted "Go back to your grave!"

I stood there a minute, stunned. Finally I turned and took a walk through the town. It had become dark, and a light rain was beginning to fall.

The town was quiet. The people kept themselves inside and I was alone with memories each house and each tree and each rock would bring the surface. I remembered the day I first saw this land, when I was young and fresh from Scotland, full of dreams in the days of the gold rush. I remembered the day I decided to start the winery, the day I married Cassie, and the day I died.

I came full circle to the cemetery, to my grave, where I lay myself to rest as the rain intensified and lightning flashed in the distance.

A crack of thunder woke me. I was lying in the old cemetery, head against the ancient tombstone, soaked by rain. My head ached, but I pulled myself to my feet. It was night, but the lights of the nearby apartments told me everything was as it should be. Covered in mud, I strode out and back home.


Illustrations: cemetary, tombstone, dusk (well... dawn, but you wouldn't know if I didn't tell you sticking out tongue), oak tree (well, a different nearby one), catholic cemetery
Nihil Loc
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Posted 11/01/08 - 3:11 AM:

Even so, Paul, your pithy original crap is a step above the general clap trap crap.

Happy Halloween. smiling face
libertygrl
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Posted 11/03/08 - 5:36 PM:

i like it. the part where the wife yells at him to go back to his grave caught me by surprise and is brilliant.

my sense of the character is that he wants to be at rest. so for me the story could come to a close with the line, "I came full circle to the cemetery, to my grave, where I lay myself to rest as the rain intensified and lightning flashed in the distance." i like the image it paints of spirit seeking calm in the midst of a storm. there is a poignant sense of resigned absolution.

you could also take the story in other directions by exploring the question of what it is he wants, if not rest. "what if" questions might help. like, what if the narrator is not actually james skinner? and then considering the plot in light of whatever new questions are raised by the "what if".
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