Posted by: Kenton Lewis | December 5, 2019

Rainy Day Bear

The winter, over. Finally. It rained and rained and rained. A steady beat on a metal roof. The drops rushed down like a mad river. Outside the window, the leaves gently jerked with each drop of rain that landed upon them.

In the distance, a bear rustled the fresh new foliage. He looked for food. My cabin is food.

It was above freezing, but the dampness made it feel like the coldest winter night when the wind whipped through the pines like the hiss of a horde of demons on the prowl for souls.

The bear moved closer.

He’s familiar. Yes, the one chased away last spring.

I swung the door open to the stove and tossed three more logs in the fire. It’s a good fire. It’s gentle and warm. The crackle is like snapping fingers in time with the pulsating rain on the roof.

The bear approached the perimeter of my clearing as if it were his.

I grabbed the rifle from the case and loaded it. I slung on my coat and walked out on the porch.

Mr. Bear,” I yelled out. “With all due respect, you have everything but this clearing is mine. You have to go.”

The bear stood on his hind legs and held his nose high.

I’d invite you in, but you can not behave and don’t pretend you can’t hear me.”

He fell to all fours and lumbered with a limp toward the cabin.

Frantic, I pointed the rifle over his head and into the skies. Bam!

The bear stopped.

You can hear,” I said.

The bear limped slowly away.

Burly,” I called out. “Why didn’t you tell me it was you?”

The bear stopped and sat.

I approached cautiously with my rifle slung.

It was Burly; a cub found two years earlier. His mother was likely killed. I found him caught in a trap. I released the trap, bound the wounds, and nursed him back to health.

One day Burly was gone.

There he was again with a trap on his paw.

Burly, you must watch your step,” I said.

Burly held out the paw and I released the trap.

I would invite you in, Burly,” I said, “but you smell bad and you’re wet. There is plenty of salmon in the river. You know the way.”

From a distance came a ferocious roar. I panicked and turned. The distant foliage rustled as if a bulldozer was making its way through the woods. Suddenly an enormous male grizzly appeared. Burly moved in behind me. Suddenly I stood between two behemoths of the north.

Burly was smaller and wounded.

The grizzly charged as if I was not there.

I quickly un-slung and raised my rifle. Bam! Bam! Bam!

There was a thud as the grizzly tumbled to the ground.

Burly moved to inspect the fallen foe. He pawed at the lifeless body. He turned to me and shook side to side like a wet dog. There was a gentle sound as if one of approval and thanks. Burly limped away toward the salmon.

I walked back inside soaked to the bone. I called a native friend on the radio and told him I had some bear meat for him.

I sat next to the stove and listened to the steady beat of the rain on the roof and watched the gentle jerk of the leaves caused by the rain.

Ahhh,” I sighed, “spring.”

Posted by: Kenton Lewis | November 29, 2019

Squirrel Hunter

“Didja git yer squirrel?” Maude said looking up from her cup of coffee. She crossed her legs beneath the kitchen table and waited for Tom to answer.

Tom leaned his rifle against the wall next to the kitchen door and walked over to the stove. He grabbed the coffee pot and poured a cup.

“Well?” Maude said. “Ya been gone long enough. Ya shoulduv gotten a half dozen or so.”

“Didn’t git any,” Tom said. He blew the steam from the cup and sipped.

“What were ya doin’ all that time?” Maude said.

“I tromped around for a while and didn’t see any squirrels,” Tom said.

“That woods is full of squirrels,” Maude said. “I betcha I could go out there and shot me a few b’fore noon.”

“I ‘spose ya could,” Tom said. “Ya always was good at huntin’ squirrels.”

“But there ain’t nobody as good as you,” Maude said. “Ya losin’ yer touch?”

“Maybe,” Tom said.

“I told ya, ya need glasses,” Maude said.

“It ain’t that,” Tom said. “I kin still read a license plate from the mailbox to the curve in the road.”

“Must be the sights,” Maude said. “I told ya they was off.”

“Sights are good,” Tom said.

“Then what is it, you lose yer taste fer squirrel?” Maude said.

“I really don’t want to talk about it,” Tom said.

“When it comes ta food on the table, ya better sure want to talk about it,” Maude said.

“You sound like we’re livin’ during the depression or somethin’,” Tom said. “If we want meat we got a freezer full.”

“I know that but ya like huntin’ squirrel,” Maude said. “And I like fixin’ it fer ya.”

“I know,” Tom said, “but—never mind. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“This sounds deep,” Maude said. “And I ain’t leavin’ ya alone until you fess up.”

Tom sipped the coffee again. He stood in front of the kitchen sink with his back to Maude and looked out the window. An oriole fluttered to a nearby tree and danced along a limb. Two white butterflies darted playfully just above the tall grass at the edge of the woods.

“I was walkin’ out there and I stopped a good aim from a tree full of squirrels. They was a barkin’ and chatterin’ like a hen house with a fox in it but those squirrels was havin’ fun; the time of their life. I sat against a tree and waited for a clear shot. There was so many squirrels in that tree I could have spent the whole morning there. I was watchin’ and before long my eyes go heavy. I dozed off. I don’t know what woke me; I think it was the quiet. I looked just beyond my feet and there was this curious little squirrel. Well, he wasn’t little—good eatin’ size.”

Tom turned his head halfway toward Maude. “Are you followin’ me so far?”

“Sure,” Maude said, “but I’m not so sure you know where yer headin’.”

“There’s something ‘bout the woods,” Tom said turning and gazing out the window again. “Ya kin be havin’ a bad day at work, ya come home and take a walk in the woods and it’s all gone; every bad thing, dark thought, every curse, every clinched fist—ya just let it go. I read where the leaves absorb CO2. I think they absorb other things—things of the mind—things only felt and not seen or measured. Do you understand me?”

“Have ya been wathin’ that public channel?” Maude said.

“That squirrel looked right into me and saw everything about me and yet he was willin’ to spend a moment to give me some joy. I slowly raised my rifle to my shoulder and took aim. He was maybe 15 feet away. I watched him through my sights. I rapped my trigger finger around the trigger. I smiled a bit. My trigger finger trembled. I relaxed my finger. I sat the rife down. That squirrel came up to me and sort of nudged me with his nose as if to say move over.”

“Well?” Maude said.

“Well, what?” Tom said.

“Didja move over?” Maude said.

“Of course,” Tom said. “It’s his territory. He roots around a bit and digs up a nut. He brought it over to me and dropped it in my hand.”

“That’s a crazy story,” Maude said. “I don’t believe it.”

“Maude,” Tom said. “I don’t think I can ever kill another livin’ creature.”

Posted by: Kenton Lewis | July 15, 2019

Crushed (A short story)

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Peter lives in a dystopia. It happened suddenly, all in one day.

“Thank you for coming to my office,” Mr. Crag said formally.

“No problem, Mr. Crag,” Peter smiled. “I’m always glad to meet with you and express some new things that the two of us have in mind.”

“Peter,” Mr. Crag said smugly. “That will be impossible from this day forward.

Sudden euphoria warmed his chest. It was difficult for him not to appear elated, but he felt as though it was upon his face flashing like a neon sign. The rumor was that a new project started. It called for new men, new ideas. He had worked hard for this promotion. There were late nights, taking work home, and working the weekends. He volunteered for every task. He laughed at Mr. Crags’ bad jokes. He covered for him. Now he was about to be rewarded.

“Peter, you have been dismissed.” Mr. Crag said. “At this time your computer is being removed from your office and your access code and email account with us is being erased.”

Peter started to sit.

“Please don’t sit,” Mr. Crag said. “Weldon from security is behind you. He will escort you back to what used to be your office to clean out your personal effects. A box will be provided for you and you will be charged for it.”

“I don’t understand, Mr. Crag,” Peter said.

Crag nodded his head to Weldon. “Show Peter back to his old office and escort him to the front door.”

“But, Mr. Crag,” Peter said.

“Please, Peter, follow Weldon,” Mr. Crag said.

Peter turned. There was no eye contact from Weldon.

Weldon was the man he saw every day as he entered the department. The first smiling face. He always told Peter what kind of mood Mr. Crag was in. Now it was as if he had no face, no feeling, and no soul.

They walked the hallway on the way to Peter’s department. He felt the cold presence of Weldon like an open window on a winter night.

The faces that smiled and greeted him at one time walked by as if he were invisible. It seemed like a dream

He walked slowly into his department. The first desk was Marge, a short stout bubbly woman with hair stacked high like a corn shock. She quickly looked away. ‘How does she know’ Peter wondered? For all, she knew Weldon could just be on another assignment and walking the same direction.

Peter saw Robertson standing at the printer near the window. He quickly looked outside. There was nothing to see, only a gravel-covered flat room.

Peter walked toward his office. Miss Sanders his secretary quickly grabbed some papers from the desk and quickly walked to Doug Belcher’s desk at the far end of the room. Belcher looked down the aisle. He saw Peter and rolled on his chair under the desk.

Peter stepped to the doorway of his office. On the wall to his right was a number of awards and plaques for him and his department. He tried to smile. He proudly stuck out his chin.

Peter turned to the department. Everyone was busy at their computers and workstations. “You knew, you all knew, didn’t you?”

No one raised their heads or gave the slightest indication that a word was uttered.

A cardboard box sat on his desk. He moved dolefully toward his awards and plaques. He removed one from the wall. It read “Employee of the Year.”

“I’m sorry sir,” Weldon said. “Technically that belongs to the company.”

Peter tossed it on his chair.

Peter scanned the room. He quickly calculated the size of the items purchased directly by him; a picture of his family, a nameplate, a desk clock, an autographed picture of Clint Eastwood, a game ball from an Illinois/Northwestern football game, and model of a sailboat. He reached for the upper right desk drawer.

“There’s nothing in there, sir,” Weldon said moving toward Peter.

“My car keys,” Peter said.

“Oh, my mistake, sir,” Weldon reached in his pocket and handed the car keys to Peter.

“I’m leaving it all, Weldon,” Peter said.

“Very well, sir,” Weldon said. “You will be sent a bill for removal.”

Peter knew when this happened there was no use in trying to retain your job. The corporation was so big and powerful that it would end up mentally and emotionally exhausting you and ruining your life.

Peter thought he had a future with the corporation. His life was mortgaged on that expectation. There were promises made and he had met or exceeded all expectations.

“It’s a shock,” Peter said to Weldon. “I’ve seen it done and always assumed the guy did something really bad, but I haven‘t done anything, but work hard and be loyal.”

Peter grabbed the football and tossed it to Weldon. “This is yours.”

“Don’t have any need for it, sir,” Weldon said and placed it in the chair.

“And neither do I,” Pete said.

He walked to the elevator with Weldon behind him. The decent of five floors to the ground floor seemed faster than normal.

“Did you have them speed it up?” Peter chuckled slightly.

“No sir,” Weldon said

The door opened and ahead of Peter was the glass doors to the outside. The hallway and lobby that always appeared full of life and greenery were suddenly drab and lifeless.

At the door, he turned to Weldon and offered his hand. “No hard feelings, Weldon. I understand you are just doing your job. You know that this corporation makes Weldon?”

Weldon held the door open.

“It makes misery,” Pete said. “I see it on your face and everybody’s.”

“Sir,” Weldon said. “The door.”

Peter walked to his car. He stopped and turned. The building he once saw as full of energy, excitement, security, purpose, ideas, and integrity melted in front of him like lava. The trees that lined the walk appeared dead and skeleton-like. The bright white building turned to a pale shade of gray. He looked in the windows only seeing robotic manikins moving about aimlessly.

Life was never been the same since that day twenty-two years ago. After three years of looking for a job and finding none, his wife left with their child. Peter tried a few career changes; the last one a night clerk at a local motel. All the old friends moved away.

The building he worked at now sits empty. It’s been empty for fifteen years. The corporation found a new location and left this one behind. Peter took up residence there. He had no place else to go, except the streets or shelters. He found his way through a basement window. He wanders the empty offices, conference rooms, and hallways to pass the time. There is as much life there now as the day he left.

Not too many know about the window. He found a comfortable room that belonged to one of the janitors. He shares it with two others. There’s three mattresses, a battery radio, and a hot plate.

It was a cold winter day. Peter crawled through the window eased himself to the floor. Today he had a bag full of discarded snacks from a wholesale bakery. He walked the long tunnel-like hallway with steam pipes that ran the length of it.

He arrived at the room and opened the door. “Crag, Weldon, you ought to see what I got today.”

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