DELCINA'S TREE

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Delcina tends to the needs of the ol' man whose mind isn't what it use to be.

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Jacob awakens from a nightmare

Submitted: December 19, 2015

Reads: 535

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Submitted: December 19, 2015

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Memory can be an intractable child for some men. A closed off, frightened little boy of remembrance too crippled and dead of heart ever to be touched. But for Jacob Hallier Longwood, he wore his past as comfortably as a man wears an old cologned shirt for spring fishing, the sweaty denim aroma welcoming to the skin. He remembered things as he would when he walked the trails on the 200 acres behind his rural estate after a summer’s rain, when the odor of wet Earth enticed him to explore his land.

Yet on this chilly December night, nostalgia had no sweet smell. Only the putrid stench of other time.

And always, as it was, the impressible touch of Delcina made him well.



 

-1-

Chittenden, Vermont

1997

 

The ol’ man writhed atop the oak bed, the Lakota Pendleton blanket and goose-down covers swirled upwards and sideways, his thoughts a-clutter with demonic rogues as he moaned and twitched with fear. The on-going badness showing him: Two young boys playing inside a freight boxcar…rotten teeth of a drunken monster…beating and stabbing! Locomotive thunder outside…SCREAMING! Boy dying…bleeding flesh…!

His soul felt as if it was held hostage by a mountain trapper intent ‘pon skinning him alive. Tornado-like winds smashed into wood and brick, earth and leaf. Snowy rain ripped through the northern Vermont skies with arrogant disregard, as the dream seemed to whip the December storm into a greater fury!

Or the storm provoked the ancient memory. No matter, the ol’ man was fragile of mind. More fragile than he’d ever been before when this brand of his past overtook him. And being the owner of the Green Mountain Railroad, fragile wasn’t part of his make-up.

The bedroom shook and gyrated. Bookshelves behind the massive oak headboard (engraved with a locomotive roaring down a country line surrounded by mountain-scapes) and the decorative shelves around the entire room shook. Bindings of every title wiggled on their edges unable to hide from the blizzard’s powerful screams, as did the burgundy work desk by the windows overlooking a winding driveway.

As did the wood-burning stove in the corner by a clothing cabinet and closet, wall frames of family photographs, Wallace Nuttings train art and other bric-a-bra of the G.M.R. he ran for fifty years, rattled from the Tempest. And rising cogently under the cracks and wails against the great house, as great as Jacob himself came, the guttural sound of a name “Nathaniel.”

Upon the hour, someone entered the room. Delcina Brown, the ageless Jamaican matriarch & family caretaker who had raised Jacob, quietly stood at the front of the massive bed watching his agony.

“Shhh Mistuh’ Jake, hush now me say,” she whispered in a thick Jamaican patois. She sat ‘pon the bed to comfort him and pulled up her flower - patterned nightdress and gently held one of his trembling hands. Thunder! Lightning strike! “Bloweee, Mother’s bitin’ mad t’nite cha ross. Da storm’s as worse than you.”

Jacob mumbled the name Nathaniel again and Delcina tried to soothe him with a delicate cadence to her words. With an impromptu rising off the bed as if expelled from his past, Jacob finally awoke. He choked and snorted, his eyes branded crimson like a panicked bull.

“What the hell are you doin’ here woman?” he mumbled.

“Me come in here cuz’ you wuz’ havin’ tha’ bad dream again Mistuh’ Jake,” she answered wiping cold sweat from his forehead. She grinned down ‘pon him and pat his belly, till he moaned like a puppy.

“There now ol’ man,” she went on, “me make ya’ tummy burn candy like o’ways me done, when you was a chile.’”

“Feels good,” he said letting her warm palm give him peace. And in the bluish strobes penetrating the window glass, he saw her.

Delcina was sepia porcelain with graying temples and the haunted eyes of a timeless sage. Her face unbroken by wrinkles, her countenance disallowing the engravings of Time and was in truth, quite the same face he had known since he was a boy. Del was old yet possessed the protective vitality of a young mother caring for her babes; all strength and uncompromising pose. At ninety-nine years, she was an imposing example of the secret magic that allows a woman to triumph over age. She was indeed elderly, yet not infirm and always, as she was, exquisite.

One of her ‘tricks,’ the simplicity of lying. She knew of her true birth. Everyone else, however, did not. And if questions ever arose as to her longevity, Delcina would laugh demurely or ignore any obligation to answer. Truth was and for all who knew her, she didn’t look a day older than fifty. One might say of Delcina Brown, that she was immortal and possessed the secret of long life given to her by adoring spirits.

“Bring me anything to drink, I’m parched?” he rambled, his rough tone a mix of New England and New York.

“Must be kiddin’ mon,” Del laughed. “Me come in here dead a night to make sure ya wuz’ o’rite n’ ax’ if me brung ya sumthin’? Must be loony tuned or sumting mon.” Another thunderclap and lightning, which lit the entire room, like a Hollywood light at a movie premiere.

“Bumbo’clot, see dat?” she asked, rising off the bed and standing by the window. “Such a chaos out dere’ me say. Mother half a randy bad itch tonight.”

“Helluva’ strange storm,” he said rubbing his face vigorously with both hands. “Snow n’ rain and that noisy damned crackin,’ nevuh’ seen it in fifty years.”

“Me wonduh’ how dem trees feel out dere’ whin’ such a storm come on dem? Me wonduh.”

“I never worry about your tree Del, don’t ever worry about that one,” said Jacob, arching his neck backwards to relieve the stiffness. “How a pain in my ass woman like you could create such a thing, I’ll never know, whatever it is,” he ranted and took pause, coughing loudly.

“B’cuz you is a pain in me ass too! Hear me now what me say, mon,’” Del shouted above another thunderclap. They both giggled.

“Ya still beautiful, woman,” he gave her.

Yuh dam lagga head bud mon. ‘Lef mi nuh!” she ranted.

“Don’t patois me to death! I’m too old to decipher it,” he said, unable to understand her dialect. “Might as well speak a child’s garbling for gods sake.”

“Me say ‘ya stupid mon and to leave me alone,” she translated with a laugh. “Nevuh you or ya pop Teddy could ever hear me good.”

“What’s that Del could you repeat please?”

She ignored him right then, like she always did when he pretended to be annoyed and fierce, in the face of his own embarrassment. In a way, she always felt too informal with him. Though many times before when the ol’ man’s mind preyed ‘pon him, she’d enter the room the same way, staying a while to chat about nonsensical things till he went back to sleep.

“You lie down now, Mistuh’ Jake, and rest. Mornin’ come soon for we,” she gently ordered, facing the window. The dripping wet snow reflected ‘pon her body off the cold wet glass. “Dese’ windows gwana (going to) be messed up after the storm huh,” Del said, her hand pressed up against the window.

“Get someone else to clean em,’ not you. I don’t want you doin’ that anymore. I told ya that, Del,” he said firmly, laying back down and sighing roughly. “Christ, you’ll clean ya’self into oblivion one day.”

“Shush y’sef now,” said Del, her body motionless at the window.

“Del?” Jacob asked.

“Hmm?”

“I need to see Nathaniel.”

Silence between them as the winter storm, re-fueled itself. “I don’t like seein’ ‘em like I did t’nite in tha’ goddamned nightmare. I want to see him better. Not like that.”

Delcina smoothed out her nightdress and stood closer to the wood stove, its emanating heat caressing her. Riding ‘pon a shared moment ‘tween them was the silent understanding that the ol’ man’s health was fading and that Delcina was the only person he loved and adored, who could help him when the time came.

“Sometimes us do see who we miss, in bettuh ways,” she told him. “You see Nate soon me ‘tink, ol’ man.”

“Go to bed woman. I don’t want ya’ seeing me in this way,” he said, his eyes staring up at the cathedral ceiling and wooden beams. “How I wish old age could be plucked off like a weed.”

“Maybe we go up in da’ woods dere’ soon?” she asked. “Up to Sugar Hollows me say.”

“Yes, I’d like that, Del. Now to go sleep,” he replied, clearing his throat of spit.

“Goo’nite den’, ol’ man. Ya be uhree (alright).” Del said, proudly leaving the room, a tenacious clash of thunder hiding her words. Or so she thought.

“I ain’t old as you, woman, ‘n don’t forget it!” Jacob said.

But Del was gone, her Vaseline scented skin all that remained of her presence. Jacob lay there awake for a time thinking how wonderfully sad it was to still be alive and not of the earth’s soil yet. Unlucky, he always was, to have a mind that thrived ‘pon memories, the good and awful ones, far too often. He could ignore thoughts of Nathaniel. Yes, he could force himself to do that right then. But Delcina demanded his attention and all she meant to him — his mind showing him moment ‘pon moment of their relationship through the decades. He had no bad memories of her. She was his confidante and keeper and the greatest love of his life. And the more he studied her silently of mind, the calmer he became, less afraid and easier to breathe. The nightmare, a bad smellin’ shirt had been tucked far back into its secret box.

“Jesus H., let me die o’reddy,” he whispered with a sneer. Then, he turned over and lay in a fetal position neatly tucked under the covers.

“Ya coulda’ brought me some of the JD Black, couldn’t you?” he said, unable to fight sleep. He needed a solid night’s rest. Tomorrow was his eighty-seventh birthday.


 


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