Life in Season – Winter is the final part of a four part series. Please click here for part one, here for part two and here for part three. Thank you so much to anyone who made it this far. We hope you enjoy it!
It was an earliest memory of yours, siphoning through the fine grass and trying to find a four-leafed clover. Father knelt with you, brushing his fingers between the narrow leaves, scanning the ground on his hands and knees. The Smith Woods, neighbouring the turf, stood tall, lovely, dark and deep. Together, you trekked into the heart of the woodland, as far from the buildings and factories as you could get. You washed your feet in the cool streams and soaked in the tranquility and silence. That’s when Father told you about nature. He described it as everything and anything. If it was green and growing, that’s nature. The river runs and the rain falls, that’s nature. The sun shines and the moon glows, that’s nature. “The seed of the Romantics,” he said, “From the farthest of stars to us, right here, on Earth.”
Billy flicked his cigarette into the dirt. He pulled another out of his pocket, offered you one, but you declined. “It’s not all I thought it would be,” he said. “I shouldn’t have left. There’s nothing to it. You work, you get paid. You work, you get paid. Just the same thing, over and over, and then you die. That’s not a life. I wanna travel, you know? Tour the world. Hike some mountains and shit, all of that. I could – I could go and meet a monk, and then he could teach me his monk ways. Then, I could shave my head and presto – I’d be a monk!” Billy laughed to himself, hard and long, while you could only muster a small smile. It was different, everything was, and it was only then you realised. The Towdown Hills weren’t rolling greens, but mud and marsh, speckled with tree stubs. The Smith Woods were gone, every bush and every branch, levelled out and flattened with concrete for the retail parking lot. Billy Ross, the spice of life, was telling his jokes, telling his stories, but you couldn’t relate to it. His flaming ambition never went out while yours was extinguished long ago. Life was fleeting, you thought, and you lost it to the regular life, to the American dream. You hid your ring from Billy, afraid to show you had subscribed to the ordinary. You wanted something new, you wanted what he had: a lust for adventure. Billy was the ticket. “Let’s drink tonight,” he said, “And then let’s go. Come with me.”
At home, Alice was sat by the window. She was reading During Wind and Rain by Thomas Hardy, and she read it to you when you entered the room. “It’s amazing, isn’t it? It’s so sad but it’s so honest, it’s so true. The spring is fresh, but it must end. The autumn cleanses, but decays. The summer flourishes life, but the winter takes it away. Change is natural.”
Now, I’ve made mistakes in my life, more than I can count on my fingers, on my toes. But it’s all been in an attempt to follow the three most important things in life: love your family, love your friends, forgive yourself. I loved my Father, for all he taught me. I loved my Mother, for her strength. I loved my wife, for her person. Finally, although it took some time, I have forgiven myself for my mistakes.
One mistake I made was listening to my ego back then. I can’t forgive myself for the choices I made that day, so I don’t want to be associated with that person I used to be. What I did was unforgivable. Because of it, I’ve disconnected myself from the past, from that identity. That wasn’t me who rebelled, that wasn’t my anger. That’s not who I am now, instead, that was you. You, in your arrogance, blinded by a life of chaos and anarchy, ignored the words of your dear wife. She asked you not to leave, she pleaded you not to drink, she begged you not to rekindle that old fire but you did it anyway. Something very unnatural stirred, and it changed you. You packed your things and you left. That was the last time you saw Alice Meadows.
You met Billy in the concrete plains of the Smith Wood mall parking lot. You traded swigs from the bourbon bottle as you planned your trip, which countries to go to, which landmarks to see. It had been two years since your last drink, and breaking the seal was a new wave to the beach. Billy threw the empty bottle into the air, and it came crashing down onto a Cadillac. You both laughed and escaped the scene. “I’m hungry for a fight,” he said. You knew just the place.
You recognised every person sat inside the bar, each with the same sullen faces sipping in the smokey haze. A whiskey for you, tequila for Billy. The men stared at him, nosing his studded jacket, his sleeve tattoos, his mohawk mane that nearly brushed the ceiling. The quiet murmurs surrounded you. A quip from the man at the jukebox, which played Frank Sinatra, sparked that flame inside. “You look like a fucking peacock.” The bar laughed, and Billy downed his tequila.
You remembered The Masque of Anarchy. The strength of the words resonated with the alcohol in your blood. It was your calling, why Father had brought it for you. It’s for the pride, it’s for the fight, it’s for the lion inside you. You turned and slugged the man, flooring him instantly, and Billy smashed the glass onto his head. His friends bolted towards you but in two swift hits they were downed as well. In a second, the room erupted, the entire bar rose from their seats, threw down their drinks and threw out their fists, into a barbaric brawl of balding men. Chairs were thrown and broken over backs, the snooker balls were lobbed and smashed the windows, and in the heat, you smacked a cue across a man’s head. His face hit the bar, and then bounced on the wood floor. He cupped his mouth with his hand, trying to catch the teeth that protruded out, crooked and broken, the blood spouting between his fingers. You regretted that in an instant, and knelt to help him.
A thrown eight ball hit the back of your head and you fell, landing onto the broken glass, imbedding itself into your skin. You screamed in pain through dizzy vision, and yelled out as a stool was broken across your legs. You tried to stand but couldn’t feel anything below the waist, your legs bent and battered. Billy was still standing, blocking punches, twisting arms, his feet danced between the fallen drunks who writhed in pain.
One man held his neck and pinned him back against the wall. Billy wrangled against his hold, kicking his legs, pulling at his arm. Unable to free himself, he withdrew a knife from his boot and swung it towards him. The man turned his body to the side, throwing Billy hard onto the floor. He wrenched the blade from his hand and drove it deep into his chest. He bolted for the door, leaving Billy on the ground, gasping. The jukebox began That’s Life, and the sirens began to fill the air. You watched Billy from across the room. His hand, wrapped around the knife, released and fell by his side. His mouth agape, his chest deflating, you watched him take his last breath. The life escaped his eyes. Lost in colour. Slowly fading. Lights out.