Bramble

This one story I wrote on a whim in class and finished right after the class’s session was over. It’s a bit abstract, unconventional, prologue-ish. Can maybe be expanded. I don’t know. It was a pretty one-shot thing.

The ending is a bit rushed, I admit. The class was over and I wasn’t going to leave it too hanging.

Anyway, I hope it’s readable.

“Oh, bloody hell,” she said, as she stared at the paper that keep insisted on being being empty. She had his pen out, the same pen her uncle gave her, five years ago, before he was shot a year later, shortly after he told her to write his biography.

“You can write, can’t you?” he had said, in his delirium. “You can tell a story. I saw you. Treat those words like pets of yours.”

And she could. At least, she thought she could. She appeared to be able to do it. But it’s been four year and all she had, for all her efforts, were dozens of useless scribbles and acres of empty space. Blank papers by the piles. And that night was proving no better. She was drawing a blank, again.

She put the pen down and resigned to just sitting there, thinking the whole thing through all over again. Her desk was surrounded by papers: letters and books and journals. Scribbled notes, cobbled-together transcripts of his uncle’s many anecdotes.

If he wasn’t already close to losing his mind when he asked her to do this, she would have asked why he didn’t write it himself. He liked to talk, to tell stories and expound on his experiences. His speech was often colourful. He remembered all the little details of his escapades even when he missed the big pictures. Always the life of the party, until his mind started to go and his words became far too colourful for the public ears.

Everyone knew he was a notorious drunk with a loose tongue that won’t refuse an offer. There didn’t seem any doubt either than he was taking drugs, or at least sniffing things that he shouldn’t. She once asked him point blank, when his mind was only slightly gone and no one outside the family had noticed it yet.

“Are you on drugs?” she has asked.

He smiled, a sort of knowing, sympathetic smile. A smile one gave to an accusation one had heard a hundred times before, but could do nothing to deny, no matter what the truth could be. “No,” he answered. “No, I’m not.”

When he started spouting nonsense–more nonsense than usual–no one was very much surprised. He’d always been a bit overcreative in people’s eyes. When his speech started to slur and wander they let him be and let him loose. When the family decided they couldn’t put up with him they had often suggested him to a psychiatrist, or at least a doctor of any sort, but he always refused with such ferocity as if doing so would sign his death warrant. She had remarked this fact to him once, in those exact words, and he had laughed. A small sad laugh one did to enlighten an otherwise hopeless situation.

“I’m afraid I already did,” he had replied, “sign my death warrant.”

On his final days he often scribbled on his journal while speaking, as if reading them out loud, to no one in particular. It was a big house that the family lived in, and he had a whole room to himself with a view of the pond and a garden with roses and violets. They left him to his ramblings there, but sometimes she visited, and then she listened. She sat down and wrote his messy, occasionally incoherent stories.

“We could, would be married,” he’d said, a phrase he often returned to again and again, as his fingers moved across his journal, drawing a rose he picked from the garden with a precision that slid on and off at seemingly random. “And then they came and shed her blood out and took off with all I have. Had. Still have. Do you know that roses are blue, can be blue?”

“Violets are the ones that are blue, Uncle. Roses are red.”

“Ah, that’s what you all say. But I know better. Because they know better. And there be things you never know.”

It was maddening to listen to him ramble all day and night, and some days even she couldn’t push herself to do it. But she kept returning to his room, every other day or once a week or just any time she could. She returned to listen and to write down and to collect his drawings and scribbles. After long enough, she managed to piece together something resembling a coherent story, the ten years when he disappeared from the family.

And then, one day, out of the blue, just as the family was arguing whether or not to drop him in an asylum, he returned. He left his room and walked by himself to the grand room where the argument was taking place. With his eyes clear and his mind seemingly back in order, he told them that he was feeling better, that he was thinking of taking a walk outside on the family’s expansive land. She had volunteered to go with him, out of worry, out of pity, perhaps because no one else would do, was too dumbstruck and confused and complicated by his appearance. So she went outside with him and she noticed, as they stepped out, a small grateful smile on his face.

The family’s land was wild and vast. You could get lost in there, if you weren’t part of the family, if you hadn’t lived there for years already. He walked with some determination, perfectly sober and without a doubt in his step. She followed along, trying to match his pace.

“You’ve always believed in me, don’t you?” he said, as they walked towards the woods to the east. “I know you think I’ve lost it, and I did, alright. But you were still there. Believing.”

She wasn’t sure how to answer that, but she nodded.

“How much have you known?”

“Well,” she started. “You loved someone. And someone else took her away.”

He smiled a small sad smile. “The good old-fashioned love story, isn’t it?”

“I wouldn’t say it’s good old.”

“Do you remember what I told you, to write them down? Write them down in a way people can understand?”

She had nodded, had thought of all the scribbles and notes she had collected.

He stopped, suddenly, in front of where the dense, undeveloped forest started. He turned to his niece, crouched down and looked her in the eyes. His hand was cold when they held hers, and their grip was strong and scared. “They are going to say bad things about it. More than they already, worse than they already said. But you’ve always believed in me. Can I trust you to keep believing in me, after today, after everything they say, after I’m long gone and forgotten? I know, you know. I know that I’ve done some bad things. You’ve heard my story. But I’ve always tried my best, tried to make amends, to never forget. And-‘

He closed his eyes, his eyebrows furrowed. He shook his head as if trying to chase off the demons from his thoughts.

“Tell them I’m sorry. In your book. Tell everyone I’m sorry.”

She’d nodded. And then he let go of her hand and kissed her forehead with as much assurance as a father who could do nothing more to protect his children.

“Whatever happens,” he said. “Whatever you hear. Whatever you do, don’t follow me.”

And then he was gone, off running to the forest where she couldn’t see him. And then there was the sound of a shot, loud enough to scatter the birds from their trees and the foxes from their burrows. And then the family came running and she realised, slowly, speechlessly, that it was over.

She still had the police report on his desk, four years later, as she worked on her one hundredth attempt at his story. They ruled it as a suicide, of course they would rule it as a suicide. The family and the people who thought they knew him gave piles upon dozens of possible motives, possible scenarios. Reasoning, speculations, spits on his grave. She knew none of them was true. Now he’s long gone and nearly forgotten and she was still working on his book, but she still believed in him and she still had all the pieces he had told her of his story.

She looked down, again, at her empty page, reining in all the thoughts and all those words swarming in her head. And then she put her pen down, and she couldn’t do it.

There was one piece missing, she realised. Something that couldn’t be taken from just the things he’d said. One thing she needed to do his story any sort of justification. It doesn’t have an ending. No matter how hard she believed, she didn’t truly know what happened in the woods, that time four years ago when the shot and he was gone and everyone said he did it to himself.

She knew that wasn’t true, but he wasn’t around to tell her how. She had the puzzle pieces but none of the answer.

She sighed, put the pen down, put all her papers into her drawers and files and folders. She found her hat, her mantle, and then she opened the door and set out to find his ending.

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2 thoughts on “Bramble

  1. I wrote a review for this months ago, I did. But at the time the internet wasn’t feeling kind to me and deleted the whole thing in a failed network wreck. I like this. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why but I just like this.on a personal basis. Maybe it’s the cool old guy spouting nonsense things I believe to be so very true, or it’s the way you paint that girl on a writer’s block. Maybe because I also hear voices and ghosts all the time. I dunno.

    Atmospheric prose, deranged characters going off-tangent on existential philosophy. I could definitely go through days reading this kind of writing.
    The ending is perfect.

    1. Probably a muse knocks on my door while I was glaring at that empty piece of paper like it’s trying to eat my soul. I had pages and previous pages of words that are going absolutely nowhere at all, so in my frustration I wrote about how they’re going nowhere at all. How it got here from there, I have no idea. Probably that knock.

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