Project 52: Toppling Atlas

1 short story a week. 52 weeks a year.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Short Story: 01.29.13 "Vinegar in Place of Wine."

Working Title: Vinegar in Place of Wine. 

    Two men sit near a warm fire in an otherwise dark room. The younger of the two is perched on a granite slab jutting out around the fireplace with an obviously impatient look on his face. The elder is sitting in a leather chair, frayed around the edges of the arm rests; the chair, seemingly just as old as the man who sits in it.
     “No, no, no! You're not listening to me!” the older man exclaims. The younger rolls his eyes back, understanding that the conversation is going nowhere. “Uncle Maxwell! I understand you'd never go through with this when you were my age, I fully understand that. But things have changed since you were a young buck.” “That they have, Douglas. Much more than you could possibly imagine,” Maxwell says, his voice tinged with the curious affect regret has on language. It is soft, and distant, perhaps even considered rude to some.
     “Let me stop you at the door before you try to take a trip down memory lane. If I stay in town, and land this deal, I'll become a partner for sure. This is something Melissa and I both want. So honestly, who cares if we just have a quick elopement? Quick and easy, so we can get back to our busy lives,” Douglas says, starting to sound irritable. His dry tone, and jaw held slightly tilted up in a condescending way suggesting that he is repeating himself.
     “Despite what you may think, boy, I've heard you all five times. It is you who isn't hearing me. Some regrets never go away, and if people judged you for what you lacked, instead of what you have, I'd be a laughing stock,” Maxwell said. “Uncle, your silly hypothetical means nothing in real life. You're extremely powerful, and have accomplished so much in life. There is literally nothing you can't have, and yet you mention lacking. There is nothing you lack that you couldn't easily acquire,” Douglas spoke, the dim outline of a temper starting to peek through.
     “No, my boy, I can have all the materials that I want. That's like having a body without a soul. Wonderful family gatherings, one filled with accidental traditions that grow new additions with each and every year that passes. Sitting around a bonfire with close friends, talking of great hopes and dreams, and saying all of the things we plan to do, even if somewhere deep down we know it may never happen. The smile of a newborn baby. One that has my eyes and nose, but that smile, no, that smile has to come from his beautiful mother. No Dougie, when you get a little older, you'll see just how poor I really am.”
     “Alright then, fine, have it your way. Is that it though? Embarrassing family, loud friends, and horrid babies. Anything else I seemingly can't live without?” Douglas asked. “The most important of them all, Doug,” Maxwell said. Dropping his head into his hands, Douglas ran a hand through his hair, and sighed. “What, exactly, is the most important thing of all, uncle?” “Young love,” Maxwell says. Douglas moves his mouth, but words can't seem to form.
     His eyes dart back and forth as though looking for support from some phantom audience. “You must be joking,” Douglas finally manages to spit out. “Hello? I'm getting married any day now. I'm only 26, and engaged. What part of young love am I missing, Uncle?” Maxwell drops his brows, and looks Douglas directly in the eyes. “Alright, nephew. Alright. I'm sorry to have upset you, but tell me, when was the last time you told each other that you truly loved one another,” Maxwell asked. “Every night at 8 o clock, just before bed. The same as any other night,” Douglas snapped.
     Maxwell let a small frown appear, and reached his hands out meekly to rest on Douglas' shoulders. “Love shouldn't be a part of a set schedule for you two. Not for many years yet, my boy,” Maxwell said. Shifting to remove Maxwell's hands, Douglas grit his teeth together and stared at his uncle defiantly. “Well what the hell would you know, uncle? Have you ever wondered if you only idolize these things because you never had them? Hmm? Like a child whose friends has a shiny new toy, and he gets his first taste of envy looking at it?” Douglas asked. “What do you know?”
     Maxwell's deep gray eyes peered at Douglas, regret starting to flood back into his voice. “I know that for many years now, my looking for young love was like drinking vinegar in place of wine and I know that to this day, I still drink every last hopeful drop,” Maxwell said, the years starting to show on his face.
     After several minutes of frowning at the floor, Douglas stood up, and stormed across the room. Stopping in the doorway, Douglas looked over his shoulder, and looked down on his uncle. The light of a nearby window tracing his body, and making his face appear dark. “You disappoint me, uncle. You're every bit the fool mother says,” and with that, walked away. “Not nearly as much as you'll come to disappoint yourself,” Maxwell said to nobody in particular. The sound of a vehicle is heard starting up, and the squeal of Douglas' tires shrink and eventually fade into the distance. “You're right about the fool part, I suppose. I think I just told a grand joke tonight,” Maxwell said. “I hope you never have to laugh at it.”

     Maxwell's hands start to shiver, but he doesn't hold them to the fire. He doesn't feel the chill in his body. He stares into the flames for a long while, not really feeling anything at all.

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