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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Winter (11/14/05)

TITLE: Winter's End
By Ann Grover
11/21/05


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As twilight faded, indigo shadows bruised the snow piled along the edge of the road. Amber light spilled through the window panes of a tavern, casting a glow on the drifted snow beneath the low sill.

Inside the tavern, an old man leaned over his savoury pie and breathed in the scent of meat and onions. Just like the pies his Libby used to make. He remembered how she would laughingly wave him away from the hot pastries with a floured hand, her cheeks flushed from the heat of the oven.

He shook his head to clear away the threads of memory, chastising himself for allowing his mind to wander into the bittersweet seasons of his past. Foolishness. He stabbed at his pie.

He became aware that he was being watched. He looked about, but there were no other customers, and the tavern keeper was not to be seen. The old man then turned to the window, and there, a young boy gazed at him through the panes, his hands jammed into the pockets of his too-small woolen jacket.

Famished, no doubt, thought the old man, as he took another mouthful of pie. I remember the gnawing hunger and biting cold. Sodden feet and threadbare clothes that were worthless against the winter wind. He warned himself again not to indulge in wasteful reverie, but bitterness was already rising in an icy tide.

He managed a few more mouthfuls of pie and a swallow of ale before looking out the window again. The boy was still there. The rich taste of the pie turned rancid in the old man’s mouth under the boy’s compelling stare. Laying down his fork and a few coins, the old man pulled on his coat and stepped out into the winter chill.

“Hello, sir,” said the boy.

“Are you hungry? Shall I buy you a pie?”

“No, thank you. The vicar’s wife gave me some bread.” With a nod, the boy indicated the stone church a few paces down the road.

“Ah, yes.”

“You know the vicar?” asked the boy.

“No. I have no need for a vicar.”

The boy regarded him intently, looking beyond the silver brow and deep into his watery eyes. Disconcerted and feeling a twinge, the man pulled his coat closer around himself. Why was the boy scrutinizing him?

“Shall I take you home? Where do you live?”

“Hereabouts.”

“Shall we walk on, then? Until we reach your door?”

“If you wish, sir.”

The two walked silently, the only sound that of their feet tramping in the wet snow. The old man regarded the boy out of the corner of his eye. Something tugged at his memory, but he pushed the elusive thought away. Suddenly, he felt very weary, and he gave a soft gasp.

“Perhaps you should rest, sir.”

The boy gently took his arm and led him towards the oaken door of the church. Inside, candles dispelled the quiet darkness, and the boy eased the old man into a pew. He closed his eyes, and his ragged breathing smoothed as he inhaled the fragrance of old wood and incense.

“Sir?”

Reluctantly, the old man opened his eyes.

“I feel quite unwell.”

“Take your ease,” said the boy.

“I haven’t been in a church for many years, you know.”

The boy nodded, his eyes luminous in the candlelight.

“I’m afraid I have been very angry with God. He took my Libby. Before that, He took my parents.” He continued in a whisper, “Anger is cold. Like winter. Dark. Dead.”

Another nod. Something danced at the edge of the man’s understanding. He could hear the boy’s heartbeat. Or was it his own?

“My life’s always been winter. I’m tired and cold. Oh, God, how I hate winter!” A single tear coursed down his wrinkled cheek, a tear from his melting heart, as the pain of breaking and renewal become one.

Libby’s face suddenly rose before him, and he feebly reached for her. The boy clasped his hand instead, and with amazement, the old man saw a crescent-shaped scar on the boy’s thumb and the matching scar on his own. Awareness dawned, radiant and unclouded.

The boy smiled.

“I’ll stay with you while you rest, sir. When you awake, you will be warm.”

In the morning, the vicar found the old man slumped over in the pew, already cold, his snow-white brow softened by the promise of a new spring.


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This article has been read 1289 times
Member Comments
Member Date
dub W11/21/05
Shades of Dickens indeed, the POV shift really bothered me, because I was so inthralled by this concept. Correct the shift and you have a great one.
terri tiffany11/23/05
You transported me to another time! Well done!
Julianne Jones11/25/05
Beautiful and poignant. You held me attention to the end. Well done.
Pat Guy 11/25/05
Very enjoyable! A good read while bundled up in a warm blanket before a fire and a cup of hot tea. Wish this could be expanded regardless of word count. I suspect there was more that enriched this even further! Loved it!
Marilyn Schnepp 11/25/05
A very well written story that kept my interest thrughout; however, perhaps I'm dense, but I didn't understand the crescent shaped scar; and I wanted the story to end happily ever after...unlike real life, I guess. A Talented writer here for sure.
Suzanne R11/26/05
Your descriptions of indigo and amber in the first paragraph were particularly good. I thought your title really caught the overall intent of the piece too. Well done.
Shari Armstrong 11/26/05
Reminds me of "A Chrsitmas Carol"
Jan Ackerson 11/26/05
Well, I think I "get it"--the little boy is the old man's past, somehow...but just getting him into a church before he died accomplish what it needed? Maybe the story just needs to be expanded. It was certainly beautifully written.
janet rubin11/27/05
I loved this one. Great descriptions.
Nina Phillips11/28/05
I don't know how I missed this one..but I'm sure glad I got to read it now. Charles Dickens shadow in the makings indeed. Very nice all the way through. I feel also that there was a little more involved, but I still caught the drift regardless. Very nice and congratulations on the win. God bless ya, littlelight
Karen Treharne11/29/05
Very well-written Ann. I thoroughly enjoyed the read. Congratulations on your win and for the blessing you provided.
Linda Watson Owen12/10/05
I missed reading this before, Ann. It's absolutely beautiful! What a skillful pen you weild!! Wonderful story!