The Cottage – Part Four – (Short Story)

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Part Three – Click Here | Part Two – Click Here | Part One – Click Here

“You’d better get used to opening them ears.” An all too familiar voice chirped.

Jim started violently.

He ashed his jeans with spent tobacco and cursed aloud as hot coffee singed his hand.

Clad in a dusty grey-green dress with her torso wrapped in flannel Lizzy Jennings was more scarecrow than grandame as she stood chuckling in the meadow.

“Pain’s the best teacher.”

“Pain in the ass.”

“I told ya to watch that foul tongue round me. You best believe that I will cut it off.”

Jim believed her.

The sound of birdsong, the hum of the insect kingdom, and the scent of wildflowers were the perfect ambient noise. They were the perfect cover. No wonder she’d been able to sneak up on him.

“So, auntie why ya come pokin’ round here like a robber? And how did ya make all fifteen miles without an engine to tell me you were arriving?”

At this she let out a low whistle. After some moments an old brown packhorse trotted leisurely out the wood, across the wild grass thickets, and right up to the scarecrow. The scarecrow then produced two brown sugar cubes as an offering to the long and eager tongue.

“That explains why I didn’t hear a motor.”

“So ya called me auntie. Now I can tell ya read some of that… which you must. But I know that you have not read it all. Or even more than da faintest dip of a toe.”

“O yea. And how?”

“Ye wouldn’t be sittin so comfortable.”


“Yea…O…hell-O…that’s why I came round. You seem slow to understanding. Irreverent, lazy, BOY.”

“A bit too old to be a boy…but irreverent…lazy…? Sounds about right. Slow? Maybe with math but then again do I look Asian?”

“You look like a fool.”

“I see why you and Hant got along so well…”

“Look!” She cut him off. “I don’t call ye a fool lightly. I am not teasing. It is a condition. A disease. You’re sick Jim. And we have to cure it.”

“A wise man once said: You can’t fix stupid.”

“I didn’t say you were stupid. I said you are a fool. Most fools are not stupid. In fact, the greatest fools are often pretty clever.”

“Ain’t clever neither. So, I think I’m pretty safely in that sweet spot in the middle there.”

“No. You are a fool.”

Jim rolled his eyes. “Fine.”

“No. No it ain’t…FIINE…,” she sarcastically drew out the ‘fine.’

“I’ve lived in Boston for twenty-five years. Left home at fourteen. That’s eleven winters worth of foolhardy. I’d say I am doing wicked FIIIINE.”

She started at the colloquialism.

“Yes…that’s the problem…that…is what makes ye a fool. You’re wicked. It makes ya thick to the old ways.”

“Never really cared for the old ways. Or any kind of ways for that matter.”

“Well, that bluster might impress folk who’d eat each other if the electrics went out but round here that kinda thinkin is suicidal.”

“The good die young.”

“It ain’t death ye have to be afeard of.”

“O great more religion…”

Lizzy shook her head. “No, this ain’t religion. This isn’t ritual. There ain’t no need for it in God’s presence nor in those spaces he has made desolate.”

“Still sounds like religion talk to me.”

“Well, maybe talk ain’t what ya need. Maybe what you need is to see…or better to feel. Then you’re gonna read. O you’re gonna read real careful.” She chuckled again as she mounted the leisurely grazer that had been bemusedly listening to the intergenerational exchange.

“Cryptic frikkin hillbilly psychobabble…if I want this much cheesy mysticism I’ll listen to Zeppelin.”

Fortunately, the coffee was still warm. He’d only spilled enough from the thick tin mug to sting his hand a touch. He resumed the reverie which had been so rudely interrupted.

Another Pall Mall bristled to life with the kiss of a Zippo. Through the pretty white cancerous cloud he saw the distant line of trees across the wild flowering meadow. They were not just trees but a wood. A thick wood by the looks of it. From his slightly elevated position on the top most porch step he saw mountains. Did the wood end only there? How far?

‘Just where in the fuck am I really?’ He mused.

Even though he found this particular morning particularly pleasing he could not help but regret a more careful assessment of the map. The lack of foresight in bringing a map or compass was even more lamentable.

He stood up and strode across the wildly varying ground as grasses grazed his jeans. All around him were trees. The meadow, though vast in comparison to the cabin, was but a brighter drop in a sea of green.

And while the town of Reed was fifteen miles away. That relative proximity added little balm to the gradual registering of the utter strangeness of all that had so quickly and recently transpired.

‘How far was an actual town?’

Jim reeled a bit.

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