Bottom Of The Bottle (Part 1)

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


It stood upwright in structure, he had completed the initial sketching of a new work of art.  For a span of nearly 6 months there was very little rain, drought was unheard of but it was a reality, part of the farm was dry barren of crops, a cow had died in the morning and David Franklin was starting to lose his hope.  The cow had died during the birthing process but its foal calf survived.  Letting a freshly dead cow go to waste was out of the question especially given the drought that only took without giving.  Hours after its death it hung upside down inside his work shed he cut off its hoofs at the ankle and severed its head before he skinned it draining its blood in buckets.  As a hobby David was an artist, in his youth he attended college Rhode Island School of Design to be precise, one of the most prestigious for artists.  His origins was not of a wealthy means and when he got a scholarship in high school to RISD it was a moment where he felt that had struck gold.  During college he was unlike many of his classmates among a group of students that differentiated themselves by dying their hair, getting tattoos and piercings, or did things to make themselves not fit in with ordinary society David Franklin did not.  His custom clothing was a plain solid colored button up shirt with jeans and black shoes.  David did make some friends many from families of means as he was not without a personality or outgoing friendliness though if there was one thing that could make him a pariah it was that he was a republican.  Amongst a crowd of predominately liberals being a republican was not respectable.  David Franklin was a farm boy from the hills of Pennsylvania his great grandfather fought under General Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War and his grandfather fought in Europe during World War 2 losing one of his legs when a grenade exploded next to him.  What caused David to not like foreign affairs was his fathers post war condition after serving in Vietnam.  He served before David was born but growing up the mental scarring was evident as the war never lost its grip on his father.  His father told stories of burning villages and Viet Cong sneak attacking and a story of a Viet Cong soldier crawling under the floor of his cabin.  His father walked into the cabin smelling the scent of raw human shit while looking around for evidence of it he made eye contact with the Viet Cong soldier through cracks in the floor, he pulled out his handgun and emptied the rounds in the cartridge killing him.  There were also accusations of the United States government using agent orange on him while he served, along with stories of drug abuse including heroin.  For all of his fathers complaints it never gave right or reason as to why his father drank and smoked heavily or why his father beat his mother so violently several times, locking David in the basement whipping him with a leather belt that he had gotten from the army.  Shortly after David earned his bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from RISD his father had gotten drunk one night and shot his mother and himself to death.  Nearly a week had passed as David had his own apartment and when he went to visit, he found both of their bodies.  David was an only child and his mother was smart enough to have a lawyer create a will leaving him owner of the 40 acre farm and his inheritance from his mother’s side.  For many years after his world was shattered from the death of his imperfect family that raised him right and showed him that love is stronger than hate.  Though he was a college graduate from a prestigious college and even though he was artistically gifted he worked as a construction laborer.  It was during those years that he found the physical work to be a refuge because he didn’t have to think, he learned his limits, and about the kind of man that he wanted to be.  While he had artistic talent he lacked the desire to use it.

 

He checked the mail what he expected was the usual bills and spam, unexpectedly there was an envelope he checked the return address “Arianne Sullivan” one of his college classmates.  David took a moment to read the letter briefly taking him out of everything that his world had encompassed.  A reflection of what could have been bursted like a bubble of possibility.  With wealthy associates like Arianne and her best friend Michelle whom he had relations with during college could have given him world changing opportunity, but the death of his parents changed the direction of his future.  He placed the letter on his bedroom desk leaving it there unsure if he was ready to respond or not to her invitation.  There were many people within the world of art and socialites that are covetous.  Something that the Bible teaches about, wanting what other people have and not wanting them to have it for themselves.  That kind of contamination David did not want part of.  If there was a though it was that he the possibility of something new gave him a temporary brightness of hope.  He thought it lunacy or partly to have hope and that night as his dog the closest thing to a best friend had been sick for the past two weeks he thought perhaps that she caught a cold.  She was barely eating and her urine was syrupy and dark yellow.  He walked her regularly and while she was getting old he believed that she would live several more years because of his care for her.  In the morning it began to rain and the wind was hurricane like.  A veterinarian appointment was scheduled for the afternoon.  His expectation was that she had lime and would return to her normal alpha bitch self, but the veterinarian had bad news that her was suffering from kidney failure, that he had to make a decision immediately whether she would live or die.  Woe overtook him and while he held his composure he was flooded with remorse, he did not have thousands to pay for a procedure.  Like the drought that preceded the hurricane like storm he was left flooded as he waited while his best friend was put to sleep.  When the veterinarian assistants carted out his dog covered with a thick plastic bag he lifted her from the cart and put her in the back of his truck.  Wind blew and rain poured in buckets as he drove home he noticed chickens running around the barn and horses out in the yard.  Without an umbrella he ran to the barn that was partitioned one half housing chickens and one half housing horses.  Near to the barn was a lingering tree of substantial size that had been dead for years.  David lacked the resources to pay for its removal nor the machinery to properly cut it down himself, so all that he could do is wait for the storm to pass.  The way that the dead tree sized branches were angled he guessed that when the tree would fall that it would annihilate the barn.  When it fell perhaps it twisted angling crushing just the upper left corner of the barn.  As it fell it bursted through the any wood in its path also collapsing the aluminum fencing that housed the chickens. David did not overreact he gave an estimation while the rain poured.  “It could have been worse”.  He forgot to lock the horses in for the night and chickens were running around.  Though considering his luck perhaps god made him forget to lock in the horses possibly saving their lives if the tree had fell at a different angle.  He knew that coyote’s and foxes were always around at night and it was possible that a couple of them would be taken.  He was tired both emotionally and physically, in the morning the storm would pass and then he would bury his dog and begin to cut up the downed tree.  

 

Sleep was almost impossible during the night he stayed up shitting the cold shit, shivering, feeling that his head was frozen.  A good part of the night he sat in the tub with hot water, hot enough to nearly scold his skin, dunking his head to keep himself warm.  Maybe it was nerves, or that he caught a bug, he could not place it but the effects were real.  In the morning when he buried his dog he was full of clammy sweat like an obese man that one day decided to begin exercising.  Before he started to cut the tree he observed the downed tree like a surgeon observing a patient contemplating the safest approach before operating.  Using a ladder he began with the furthest extremities of the downed tree cutting away from himself letting the hunks of limbs fall freely to the ground careful as to not let the small tree sized branches cut into small logs nor hit the a framed ladder that he was straddled over of.  The closer that he got to the damaged barn he estimated the turn of the tree that was leaning toward the barn, that with the wrong cut would fall back most likely damaging the barn further.  Cut by cut David was a tactician careful and precise with his work and then when the higher risk cutting was the only cuts involved he began to cut near the bottom of the tree where the roots were lifted from the earth itself.  There’s a symmetry with the earth as a natural and the mechanical world that dominates city living.  Twisted and distorted limbs to David resembled people in positions like a work of art or a painted picture.  As he worked he caught a glimpse of inspiration that so rarely ever occurred but he knew it then that because good art is a part of the person that he had real work to do.  Well beyond the cutting of trees and building of barns.  Though he had never worked for a tree cutting company his estimations were correct and as he cut switching from root side to branch side the remaining trunck that was leaning to roll toward the barn fell flat resting on the already broken through part of the barn.  There was the task of catching the loose chickens and shooing away the nosy horses but after the storm passed and sunshine broke through the clouds the rain made the property almost seem normal.  He hadn’t thought of the life giving properties that rain affords a dry land but there was a early spring like feel that made him feel young and vigorous.  After the first day of straight cutting work there was more cutting to be done and then chopping of it into firewood.  As he popped into the shed were the remnants from the dead cow that he butchered and forgotten to clean up.  Two days had passed since he slaughtered the dead cow and the fat that lie in buckets and on the wooden floor was beginning to go rancid.  David Franklin knew the reality of the book of Job and the value of persistence when the only catch was earth itself.  Without help is frightening for those that have always known what it was like to have a catch and a safety net to lessen the impact of loss and hurt.  Accustomed to being alone for long periods of time he knew that not all people had his learned discipline and comfort of being by himself.  "You freaking hack" he said to himself.  Normally he never left a mess to be cleaned up later, but he was pre occupied with his sickly dog.  When he was younger always within the company of being near crowds of people he had inertia when alone and many nights if he gave himself time to think he knew fear.  He didn't know how to unbusy his mind, Fear of god and death with guilt for sin and thoughts of being a failure and then nothing.  He called nothing  a space shot where in a sense his mind would roll spinning endlessly where all of his fears would come to surface, he'd panic.  There were many nights where he was sleepless or little sleep at all and with that was the birth of many of his art pieces.  During college if there was a mix of good and bad, god and devil then he was in hell and his art was the god.  

 

Now as a man with many years being isolated on the farm he was solid granite like.  He only knew sanity and resolve and that persistence pays off.  Cutting tree’s, slaughtering cattle, burying family animals were part of god’s trials and tribulations and his woes and sobs never made it better.  He learned that truth, so he found that through working, it is action and when he was down action is what made it better.  The barn door opened he hadn’t expected company.  David’s hands were full of cow blood and a bucket full of fat and bone was to his side.  “Joyce” he looked eye to eye with the woman that had walked into his barn sized work shed he reached for a rag wiping his hands tossing it to a work bench.  He walked near her, “Bella’s dead and a tree fell through my barn.”  “Oh” she responded, Now Joyce Ernst in her past was a hooker and many men had their way with her, as a result she was a very scarred woman, but with David it was never that way.  Initially what had occurred between them, money was the bond, many years later it was more than that.  She reached forward, but as she neared his head he backed away and raised a hand.  For the first time since events began to unfold he felt real emotion and it came out as anger, “Don’t touch me” he raised a hand defensively over his head “David” she almost whispered.  “I feel your pain” He disagreed and now he wanted to be alone.  He saw beauty with Joyce even with a long scar that marred her left cheek when one of her customers tried to kill her.  On that night Joyce would never forget, a man that seemed pitiful enough trapped her in his house attacking her with a knife, slashing her on her left cheek with enough force to hit her cheek bone, he punched her but she was a fighter and one of her kicks hit him squarely on the nose.  Luckily it was enough force to startle him long enough for her to get out of the apartment.  It was years before in the city of Philadelphia and though her experiences with the police were not favorable she went to them with a gushing wound and when the police arrested the man they had brought dogs to search for drugs, finding that several dead prostitutes were stuffed in a set of freezers in his basement.  That was long ago and by the grace of god she was no longer in that trade, she kept living and the memories had become distant.  Her friendship with David was without formalities and complications, they called it a friendship though it was more than that.  She turned her head away from him knowing that he was in a mood showing the scar side of her face beginning just below her ear.  “Bella was a good dog” Joyce offered David tried to remain strong but tears welled in his eyes.   He took a moment to look at Joyce’s figure, she lived a tough life with several years of drug use and prostitution she was in her upper 30’s and yet somehow she had symmetry and a natural beauty a soft glance at her standing near the entrance after walking away from him softened his tightness from the world that surrounded him.   Joyce was a woman of denial David knew that, it was his belief that denial was how she survived 15 years of hard living.  There was a look that she would give him as if there were a lostness that was seeking to be found though at this moment he was the lost and she found that he had a need.  She walked to him and reached over touching him softly behind the back of his neck when he was dipped low picking up scraps of fat.  It caught him off guard he fell back reaching quickly before he landed on the floor clumsily.  David looked up to Joyce she didn’t apologize even though she hadn’t intended to catch him off balance.  She extended a hand but he didn’t take it he grabbed her calfs, she wore a skirt, his hands were dirty with blood and fat, she became angry.  “What the fuck David” She kicked his hands off of her calfs though he only held on softly he laughed but she didn’t.  “I’m going inside to wash” Joyce walked to the entrance of the work shed, “Wait” he called, she turned around.  “Why did you show up?”  She turned to him, “I wanted to know that you are still alive, because the people in town have been talking” Gossip and rumors were something that David Franklin knew that the townies and locals engaged with.  That was one of the reasons why he never liked to be involved with them.  “They’re all rotted fish in a barrel” Joyce walked to the door opening it showing a glimmer of sunlight through, “Well the fish fries always sell and the restaurants are still open.” She waited for him to respond but he just stared at her without speaking.  She liked how he admired her beauty, it made her feel wanted.  "David clean yourself up, your taking me out on a date" Joyce closed the door behind her leaving David alone while she went to the house to wash herself of cow blood and rancid fat.  Not being Luke warm with a people that he did not like he contemplated kicking her out of his house while cleaning up the rest of the mess.


Submitted: November 19, 2021

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