Friday, December 12, 2014

12-12-14 Writing Warm-up
2:39 PM

12-12-14 Writing Warm-up


12-12-14 Writing Warm-up
Artwork © Craig Robertson/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency, All Rights Reserved - http://www.torontosun.com/2014/01/07/brutal-cold-descends-on-toronto
Story and Characters © Brannon Hollingsworth, All Rights Reserved 
Brought to you by Four Fools Press: “Crazy Good Stories”


"They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons."
- 1 Timothy 3:10

"Get up!" the disembodied voice pealed discordantly. Cletus wished, for the billionth time, that it had feet, or hands, or something with which to deal physically with this particular charge. "I said get up, Deacon! Hurry!"

The great, grey block of a man rumbled like a sliding tectonic plate but successfully ignored the all-too familiar voice in his head. He levered an eyelid open – a bit – and groaned at the stabbing intrusion daylight brought. He could have sworn those blinds had been closed before. He’d no doubt that Cletus had somehow worked that “little miracle” just for him.

"Shush, Cletus, my head’s splittin'."

"Just desserts, my friend, or have you forgotten the bit about, 'not indulging in much wine'?"

"Yea, yea. Just give me a bit'o'peace, will ya?" The man feebly swatted a thick-fingered hand through the air. He knew that he would not be able to strike Cletus, but the symbolic gesture seemed to work: Cletus' echoing voice had dissipated. The damage had been done, though, and now that he was awake, he could not coax his hammering head back into submission. He only had two options, lie on the cold floor in misery or get up and get to feeling better. Being the man of action that he was, he chose the latter.

***

The shadows of afternoon were creeping up the long, narrow streets by the time he rose, splashed some aspirin down his throat, some water on his face and tossed on a shabby coat to ward away the late fall nip.  Steam billowed out of sewer grates along the traffic-clogged streets; the venting columns of haze reminded him of the cheesy fogger machines he’d seen in the cheap plays downtown.

A lot like this world – just a low-budget, second-rate version of that which was real…

He grunted to himself, tucked his scraggly, badly-in-need-of-a-shave chin to his barrel chest and trudged onward through the gathering gloom. He caught the whiff of coming snow in the air and quickened his pace, if his mother – God rest her soul – had been there, she’d have chided him about going outside in the wind without a hat. The man raised his eyes to the skies as he passed from the lemony glow of a sodium street light; or was she thinking that right n--

"Heya dere big fellah! Spare some change?" A gap-toothed voice issued from a gap-toothed mouth connected to a ragamuffin-of-a-man hunched over a steam vent in the sidewalk. The way he was crouched over the steaming vent, wrapped in several layers of warm, smoky air, shredded cardboard and cast-off, filthy rags, all woven into a make-shift blanket, made him look like a nightmare Humpty Dumpty.

Deacon paused, and looked the man over with steely grey eyes. Long ago, he’d been given a gift, some called it discernment; some, that was, who did not know any better. He’d had a long time to hone and focus that gift into what it was meant to be: a powerful tool for learning lots about potential enemies and allies. As his gaze fell over Humpty, Deacon knew that the man would only use the money to buy booze, which he would then use to drink himself into oblivion. Oblivion that would come quickly and help the man bear the bone-numbing night spent on a frost-limed, coarse, concrete bed. But that was not all - he could see much further, deeper, into the man than merely that.

Humpty drank to escape things: things like the frigid, biting, night air and his shattered, scarred past which sprang, screaming and frothing into his terrified dreams each night. Humpty drank to give the world an excuse to hate him, because he was filled with self-hatred; if the world despised and loathed him, he reasoned internally; then who was he to argue? Humpty had willingly placed himself in a vicious, down-spiraling cycle of self-deprivation followed by self-loathing.

Steely grey eyes blinked and the gift had done its work. One corner of the big man's usually down-mouth cocked up in a half-grin. He extended his hand Humpty Dumpty - to what many would have considered to have been no more than a pile of human refuse – and replied.

"Th' name's Deacon. How's about somethin' even better than some change? How about a change?"

It took some convincing, but eventually, Deacon coaxed Humpty – who's real name was Carl – up from his grate-roost as the first frosty flakes fell. They went and shared a hot meal and two bottomless mugs of steaming joe in the back corner of a no-count diner in the wrong section of town. As his belly warmed, so too did Carl's tongue; he soon discovered that Deacon was actually listening to him and what's more that the big man wanted to listen to him.

And then the real work began.

Before morning, the first real snow of the season had fallen: six feet of wet, white wonderfulness. Another wonder had occurred – Carl had stayed warm and dry through the whole of the night – and by morning, had made a decision to turn his life completely upside down and strike off in a totally new direction. The words that his new-found friend resonated with him, as did the compassion that came with them.

Deacon took no pride in what had been done; he was just a player and had done his part – like he’d been doing for years and years.  It was just part of who he was and he could not change it anymore than he could the color of his thinning grey hair or the fact that he cursed way too much.

As he trudged home in the cold, still light of the morning something stopped him dead in his tracks. It was Humpty’s – Carl’s – grate and it was covered with a huge snow drift. Sometime during the night, the warm air had stopped flowing and the snow had begun piling.

"I told you to hurry." Cletus’ voice chimed like a silver bell in Deacon's head.

Deacon, eyes wide with fear and awe, could only nod in silence.

***

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