Seasons in Red ChillThe snow was the mistress of fields in rolling cloaks of sleep. Unlucky he thought as he rooted for the secret stone. The walls of the cellar were cool, thick concrete and stone and he pressed against the coarse rock surface searching for the loose rock. The cellar was dark and quiet, heaps of snow lay against the oily surface of the small rectangular windows that sat flush with the ceiling and the surrounding walls.
Principle Fix coughed a heavy wheezy gasp as he shivered in the empty cellar. “It’s gotta be here.” he whispered in a gravely voice tinged by the bug he was suffering from. Principle coughed again and wiped a sheen of sweat from his brow. With fumbling childlike hands he found the loose stone and removed it with a gentle pull. His relief was unfettered by the knowledge that he was alone, He prayed, “Let there be other survivors god.” Principle reached into the cool recess and removed the tiny plastic case.
Holding the case in his hands he remembered the sun, the blue revolutions of sky and the shimmer of endless horizons in white, it had snowed the evening before, a foot at least and the wheat fields stood empty except for the dark shoots of weed and stray wheat between the furrowed acres of land.
Hail Wister lived on the neighboring farm and construction on the old stone swimming hole behind the rows of cow stalls had ceased, it was a giant hole filled with gravel loose stone sand, dry thankless soils. Hail had predicted a great swimming hole for the grandchildren and the missus.
“It’ll be the perfect pool for all of us…….swimming and tea.” he had exclaimed. That was last summer and here it was mid winter. The pond had never materialized, construction had gone on until the hole had bubbled mud like hot molasses and smoke.
Principle looked from the kitchen window past the fence row to the great snow filled crater. Hail and his family had left suddenly one day, without notice. Hail, Alma and the two gray hounds they owned had vanished in the space of a day. The day before they left the backhoes and bulldozers had ceased to dig the swimming hole. Hails truck had stood idling in his driveway for a few moments, gray exhaust puffing out a final Farwell to the life they had known. His truck was loaded down and full of household items, the things that had gone on for years in the ancient two story farmhouse. Here today and gone tomorrow, no rhyme or reason or goodbyes to remember.
The sun had been bright and the terrain cool, frosty, sharp with the snows of a sleeping horizon. Principle remembered turning the radio on.
“It’ a great time to find the signs
In Generville. Come visit our green tree shoppers
Mall, everything for a deal, everything
For a steal.”The commercial continued on with a disco tune from the late seventies and a screeching hoot like an owl then the news came on.
“Every hour on the hour.”Principle turned the volume up as he turned away from the snowy vista and the red and white kitchen curtains. Gossip, laughter and then a panicked announcer…..,
“……….a giant, it tore through Peresville
Common like a bomb, it rained and the meteor belched a red colored mist,
Red rain, the entire area was deluged by
the crimson shower.
I repeat a meteor landed in Peresville Common
Today leaving no survivors. The president
Has declared a state of emergency for the area and the state.
Once again a meteor hit Peresville Common
Where it apparently rained blood……”Principle thought about the gravel pit, the swimming hole Hail had attempted to build, obscured acquired by the land, it lay in silent reproach to the efforts of a farmer, a failed attempt at Champaign and hotdogs, river springs and the dreamy castes that filled the grand law of want and will. He had left in defeat after years in the land. The salt of the earth, Hail had left without explanation.
Principle looked back out the window it was sprinkling tiny droplets of moisture, red, thick and viscous like blood; the snow was speckled red and white with tiny depressions like teardrops. The window reflected rivulets of moisture in long streaks, slashes of crimson against the glass.
That damn hole in the ground he couldn’t get around it. Hail had fashioned the guest and here it was in a moment of silent acceptance. Give me red rain to fill the cracks and crevices, come swim in my depths, but now it was deserted except for the snows, the red rains and principle.
Principle thought about all of those things, those moments…..seconds in motion as he removed the red and blue case from the hole in the wall. It was a first aid kit he had acquired from the good-will. Inside lay two gauze and a bottle of camphor oil. Principle took the camphor and rubbed it across his brow in the shape of a cross.
“To the hole.” he coughed, it was the cold or the flu or some kind of nasty bug he wasn’t sure….he knew he was sick. The hole…..go to the hole He thought.
Principle climbed the stairs, wooden slats splintered and old, they creaked as he tested his weight. The living room stood empty at the top of the stairs, Debbie gone now and the children grown. The sky shone bright through the pinkish red sheen on the windows. The hole, go to the hole he thought again; he opened the backdoor to the frost and the blood, to aged fields of wheat in summers gone by as he made his way to the deserted hole in the ground.
His feet came away in frigid layers of frozen scarlet, puffs of loose cotton beneath. Staring ahead he looked at the depression in the ground and sighed in quiet contemplation.
Great strands of ivy covered the surface of the snow in layers across the bottom of the pit and gouts of steam wafted from the center. The truck gone now, Hail had missed it his hole was gushing hot water and steam, Roses and daisies lined the edges growing up defiantly through the snow. His hole, and hails failure, hails reason for leaving. Principle exhale and moved down the edge of the slope where he stepped into the steaming water.
It felt good and he discovered that he really didn’t care about the rain much as he submerged himself in the springs warmth and asylum.
For a moment he dreamed of pools and pearls, he owned it for that moment, forgiving the sky and the blood that poured down around the secret oasis.