Short Story

“A Rather Motley Assortment”

As I sit, typing these very words to which you are audience, overhead there looms in the not-too far distance a cloud of imperceptible emotions. A mass of condensed disgust, self-loathing, fear and hate enshrining all the joys and dreams of what may have been in an impenetrable, indecisive tomb. Such is the fate of all artists, or so I am told, although it seems more so everyday that I am simply void of the virtue of appreciation.

Somewhere, far beyond this mass of loathing, contained there within, but allowed a stroll in the yard of the cosmos from time to time, is a dream… but more than a simple fantasy confined to mere mortal vices, more even than words can contain. It is Life itself, or perhaps the will to live, and, as on nights such as these, is the covert savior for what is to come on this plane of existence.

So, as I sit, these words come to me by way of an intent to live, on pain of a slippage into the void to which we are daily subject, and owe the appreciation of all which we are inclined to know and enjoy.
The sun is nearly impossible to see through the heavy clouds, but light pervades the air so that you can almost taste it, like dew in the early morning of a warm summers day. I walk a path, to where I know not yet, but walk I do, into the unknown depths of the forest, and as I walk, a shadow flickers in the corner of my eye, my right eye; always my right. It follows me through glen and dale, beneath the willows branches, across the merry stream.

Follow it does, but it does not menace, so I fret it not, although it does wait, silently in the corners, watching always my movements, waiting. for what purpose it exists, or the nature of its intent I am not privy, however I can guess, and do, to some extent: at least on braver nights.

It is my shepherd, my school master. It beckons me to bravery, and reprimands me my stupidity. It is my two-edged sword, on which I know I shall suffer my last breath. Let us call it Death, for it rides always my right shoulder.

The trees are pristine, like something from an almost-famous painting that lacked the appeal of happier pictures, and was sentenced to a gloomy existence in the attic of some well-to-do nobody, adding only more so to that air of true, unappreciated beauty. They seem to have silver linings, although that could be simply an illusion do entirely to an incurable case of nearsightedness. They seem almost to blur past me as I walk, each glance at one a master’s finest portrait, gone instantly through the movements of time and space, never to reappear again.

I savor these gloomy pictures, and thoughts, and soon find myself quite alone in the midst of a gathering of very unusual characters: To my right, as always, is Death, but to the left… well, let us say simply that it was a motley crew of more or less undesirables. As names are unimportant excluding the purpose of story telling, let us assign them each a name based solely on impression.

First there was Gimpy; an older fellow, riddled with arthritis, quite the singer in his day, but it’s not his day anymore, at least that is what Death whispers to me. “In fact,” says he, “his next day is not but a fortnight away.”

Second there was Ginger, A bright fellow, with a dull look about him: Strong in his youth, weak in his mind. He didn’t seem to have much to say, although he jaw did seem a bit unhinged.

Third there was Nobody, and he was decidedly my favorite. He stood apart, but was easily the central figure of this motley assortment. He seemed bright, and strong in both body and mind, but something about him seemed off… Leaning to my right I whisper, “what is it about this Nobody that makes him such to me?”

Death chuckles, “He has but one issue, a damnable lack of ambition.” I suppose that is enough to ruin a man of talent.

Lastly in the crowd there was Leader, almost invisible from the rear of the crew, for he was half as tall and twice as thin as either Ginger or Nobody, but his voice was easily heard over the other three. “I do not like him,” said I to my right. “His mind is as his body: small and fragile, and yet his mouth comprises most of his face.”

Death, serious now, whispered back, “Like him or not, he will lead until others step forward, and the one willing to take another’s life into his hand is not the one worthy to care for it.”

As we stood, we watched this motley assortment in the forest as they made their merry dinner. Gimpy ate roots, while Ginger and Leader shared the freshly skinned rabbit stew. Nobody waited happily sucking grass until Leader and Ginger had eaten their fill, then merrily gathered the bones for their marrow. I imagine he said something along the lines of, “Good Din.” to Gimpy, who shrugged carelessly. I say imagined because I lacked the perceptive ear required to hear poor nobodies voice over Leaders loud tone.

This loud tone I am mentioning, was very busy giving commands. not necessarily the necessary sort either. Rather they were very silly in nature, mostly directed at Ginger. It seems as though they were given solely for the purpose of giving.

As we watch quietly, Ginger is busy pulling the roots of the weeds in the clearing and arranging the weeds in groups according to sizes of stems and the positioning of leaves. Nobody watches carefully what Ginger is doing, while Gimpy, who by this time has found himself a comfortable log, sits staring at the pair of them blankly.

What an odd sort, I think to myself. “I wonder,” say I to the nearest shadow, “which would I most likely be was I to be included in that motley assortment? Would I be silent old Gimpy: watching others as I wait for my next meal or conversation? or perhaps strong, stupid Ginger: working tirelessly to an end I neither know or care to question? I am quite sure I could never be Nobody, and as for Leader, I would never want to lord over another being.”

“There are always those who would rather do than think,” says Death, “those who would rather talk than feel, and those who would prefer others to do for them that which they must do for themselves. Whichever you would be, each is as poor a life as the other.”

I take these words to heart and, looking up, notice the sun has taken its leave, and the moon has claimed the sky once more. Followed by Death, and led by the moon’s luminescence I take my own leave of this motley assortment, and walking once more, find a crook in a nearby stream where a gnarly old willow tree has taken root.

Nestling myself in its rooted embrace, listening to the caressing sounds of a soft wind through the drooped branches mingling with the turbulent waters of a moderate sized stream, I find sleep, as the snakes slowly drop from the branches into the water.

(This is a short story that I wrote several years ago at about 1am, following a nightmare. I hope that you found it to be enjoyable. It is the oldest work of my own fiction that I have found any record of. Comment your thoughts!)

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