Iowa Writes

R.C. DAVIS
Snowfall on Dead Leaves (Part 2)


        Now, he just wanted quiet, and breaking from the thicket, he made his way deeper into the woods, knowing that's where he would find it. The trees went from being arm thick Ash and Poplar, to giant Oak, Maple, and Elm. The Oak trees were different from the others. They would keep their leaves until new ones pushed them out in the spring.
        Stubborn til the end, just like me.
        The thought struck a nerve, and he wondered if that was really something to be proud of. He didn't want that in his head, so he pushed it away. Better to think about right now, and changing his direction, moved down into a small glen. The dark gray clouds thickened over his head, and his toes started to grow numb. He stomped as he walked, trying to keep the blood circulating. This disturbed a cottontail rabbit that had been hiding under a low bush. It burst out at a dead run, then zigzagging, made its way up the slope on the opposite side.
        He brought the shotgun up to his shoulder without thinking about it, and leaning his cheek against the stock, he sighted along the barrels. He waited until the rabbit disappeared over the top before he pulled the trigger. There was a dry click, and he remembered that he hadn't even bothered to load the gun.
        Lowering it back down, he saw the stock was wet where his face had rested. Was he was crying? He wondered how long the tears had been rolling down his numb skin. It didn't matter though; no one was there to see them. No one to call him crybaby, or pansy ass. The times when they had caught him openly weeping, they had treated him badly. He tried to make himself feel better with, 'Sticks and stones may break my bones . . .' But, that was a lie. The names always hurt.
        He studied the crazy pattern the tears were making as they froze in the decorative cross-hatching on the walnut stock. He tried to make himself believe that it was the cold making them leak and wiping his face with a rough knit glove, he tried to stop the flow of water from his eyes. It was a poor attempt at hiding the evidence of his frailty, and suddenly a great sadness rose up in him and he lost all control. Dropping down on all fours, the gun slipped from his grip. The sound of his sobs echoed through the trees and hot tears dripped, making strange shapes in the snow.
        It's not her fault
        "What?" he said, getting up on his knees. He could have sworn that someone had spoken to him. Sitting back on his calves, he studied the forest around him. Not a soul in sight, and then he saw the big owl that sat on a low branch, its big yellow eyes, questioning.

        Now, he just wanted quiet, and breaking from the thicket, he made his way deeper into the woods, knowing that's where he would find it. The trees went from being arm thick Ash and Poplar, to giant Oak, Maple, and Elm. The Oak trees were different from the others. They would keep their leaves until new ones pushed them out in the spring.
        Stubborn til the end, just like me.
        The thought struck a nerve, and he wondered if that was really something to be proud of. He didn't want that in his head, so he pushed it away. Better to think about right now, and changing his direction, moved down into a small glen. The dark gray clouds thickened over his head, and his toes started to grow numb. He stomped as he walked, trying to keep the blood circulating. This disturbed a cottontail rabbit that had been hiding under a low bush. It burst out at a dead run, then zigzagging, made its way up the slope on the opposite side.
        He brought the shotgun up to his shoulder without thinking about it, and leaning his cheek against the stock, he sighted along the barrels. He waited until the rabbit disappeared over the top before he pulled the trigger. There was a dry click, and he remembered that he hadn't even bothered to load the gun.
        Lowering it back down, he saw the stock was wet where his face had rested. Was he was crying? He wondered how long the tears had been rolling down his numb skin. It didn't matter though; no one was there to see them. No one to call him crybaby, or pansy ass. The times when they had caught him openly weeping, they had treated him badly. He tried to make himself feel better with, 'Sticks and stones may break my bones . . .' But, that was a lie. The names always hurt.
        He studied the crazy pattern the tears were making as they froze in the decorative cross-hatching on the walnut stock. He tried to make himself believe that it was the cold making them leak and wiping his face with a rough knit glove, he tried to stop the flow of water from his eyes. It was a poor attempt at hiding the evidence of his frailty, and suddenly a great sadness rose up in him and he lost all control. Dropping down on all fours, the gun slipped from his grip. The sound of his sobs echoed through the trees and hot tears dripped, making strange shapes in the snow.
        It's not her fault
        "What?" he said, getting up on his knees. He could have sworn that someone had spoken to him. Sitting back on his calves, he studied the forest around him. Not a soul in sight, and then he saw the big owl that sat on a low branch, its big yellow eyes, questioning.
        Could it have been?
        "Naaaw," he said aloud, realizing that they were his own words, in his own voice, inside his own head.
        With that, the owl let go with a single, "Whooo" and dropping from its perch, flapped silently away.
        "Yes, who? Who is to blame for this mess?" he muttered to himself, watching the bird disappear from sight. Deep down, he knew she couldn't help that his bastard of a father had walked out on her and left them with nothing. Stealing away in the night when they were fast asleep. What had made it worse was that he had taken the boy's two sisters, with him. At first, he thought of the girls as traitors, but over the last few months, he came to accept that they weren't to blame either. However, knowing that didn't lessen the pain of a broken heart.
        His tears finally stopped, and picking up the gun, he wiped off the snow. Then, getting to his feet, he walked away, soon coming to a cut bank on the river's shore. The dark water there was free from ice, and reflected his image. The person he saw there was not the same boy who lived in his head. The likeness, reflected before him, was of someone older. A stranger. Someone he didn't know, but knew he would soon have too. The door to his childhood had been slammed in his face and he was no longer allowed to go there. It was going to be like starting all over again, and he felt afraid.
        Standing, lost in thought, he watched his image squirm, and wiggle. The river rolled away and now, his anger seemed to go with it. It was almost as if someone had pulled a plug, allowing the black water of his rage to drain away. Now pity took its place and he remembered what his mother was like before that terrible day. He found himself smiling at the memories, and worked hard to keep the tears from coming again. He knew she was fighting to keep her head on straight, and he wondered if she understood that he was too.
        It was then that the snow came. Not gradually with a few warning flakes trailing down, but all at once. Like someone had opened a giant trapdoor in the sky. Snowflakes as large as cotton balls came, falling straight down. It was so thick; it made it hard to see. He backed up underneath the trees and listened. It seemed to clatter as it struck the leaves, becoming the only sound in the timber as it echoed from shore to shore. A steady beat that bounced around the treetops and then funneled down to the ground. After a few minutes, it slacked off, and he found its steady rhythm comforting. Like the sound of a slow summer rain on the roof of an attic bedroom.
        He now felt the cold inside his coat, and his stomach rumbled from hunger. The thought of hot chocolate and cookies made him turn and start back the way he had come. He would make it right with her. He had doubts that things would change much, but regardless, he needed to try. Every little bit would help and something told him that if he did, it would make him feel better about himself. He worked his way back through the ancient Oaks, his footprints fast filling with snow. The little cottontail sat undetected under a nearby windfall. It watched as the boy disappeared into the storm, the noise of his heavy boots fading away, leaving only the sound of snowfall on dead leaves.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


R.C. DAVIS

R.C. Davis is a fiction writer and poet who lives and writes in Iowa City, Iowa.  While he grew up in the rolling hills that form the western banks of the Mississippi River, his interests in people, places, and genres are very cosmopolitan in scope.




Snowfall on Dead Leaves appeared on the Daily Palette in two parts.  If you missed Part 1, be sure to check out yesterday's page.

This page was first displayed
on December 24, 2015

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