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NIGHTFALL AT FIVE

Flash in the Pan, Short Stories| Views: 219

Jake swung the door to Benjamin Moore’s wide open, giving Henry the usual nod. “That fox again?” Henry grinned. Jake nodded again. “Well, one can’t keep nature out of the city.” He laid the exact amount of money for a box of nails out on the counter. “You are spending a fortune on that fence, you know. Just set a trap to catch that old Sionnach.” But Jake wouldn’t. He’d rather spend a fortune than catching the Vixen. He was certain it was a female and that one day a litter of pups would be running around his garden. Nature can’t be kept out.

He quickened his pace. There was already that hint of snow in the air. He could smell it. “Way too early…” he thought.

Jake reached the two-storey cottage like wooden house at the edge of the town. He liked the house. Maybe because he had been living there all his life or maybe because it was that edge, that frontier between city and countryside.

He went into the house to change clothes. Not only because of the task at hand, no – getting out of his suit after work had become a liberating ritual. And with each passing day, the relief he felt grew a little stronger. He zipped up the khaki overalls, put the nails into one of the pockets and, as the evening chill was starting to sting, slipped on the old warm jacket that lay hanging by the door as long as he could remember.

“Way too early…”

Jake took a quick glance at the hole and nodded almost amused – there would be no need to measure the damage, he was sure about the size.

The chill started to bother him. Jake looked up. The sun, hanging by a thread, was drawing a distinguished line where the sky, city and countryside would soon merge into darkness. He rushed into the tool shed for some wooden planks, a metal fence panel and grabbed his toolbox almost mechanically on his way out. Jake set his attention to nailing the planks over the broken spot but, as so many times before, couldn’t find the heart to strengthen the fence with the panel. It would hold for a fortnight without it. At the end of the day, the Vixen would get through, no matter what he did. He finished up and lit a cigarette.

His eyes drifted off to the horizon again. Those last rays overflowing the cut between city and countryside made him feel both downcast, yet strangely, radiant. More so now, as it seemed that the sun was being pulled down, sucked into oblivion. And standing there in the garden in almost complete darkness, that last hint of radiance gave way to a profound feeling of sadness. Jake looked at his watch. Exactly five pm. And again, that hint of snow in the air.

He grabbed some logs to make a fire and went inside the house. Once the fire was on, it was time to make his supper. Jake meddled with some pans in the kitchen, returning to the living room with a steaming bowl of soup in his hands. He set down in his father’s old armchair near the fireplace and started to eat slowly. And even though he couldn’t shake off that sadness completely, the hint of radiance overcame him again. Jake tried to remember how he had felt about this time of day the year before. Then the year before that one and the one before that one.

Jake’s memory was excellent. Remembering as far back as his childhood wasn’t a problem. Remembering the way he had felt though, was tough. He set the empty bowl aside and went through some old photo albums from over thirty years ago. There was a picture of him and his father, both sitting in the very same armchair he was sitting in now. Jake recognized the sorrowfulness in his father’s eyes. In his own five-year-old-eyes, he saw the radiance that he had felt briefly, just a few minutes ago. But Jake wasn’t satisfied yet. He set up the white canvas to watch some movies of the family sitting on the porch after supper. He focused on those moments of them sitting in silence, he on his father’s lap, watching the sun go down. And there it was, over and over again – the sadness in his father’s eyes and the radiance in his own.

Jake put another log onto the fire and grabbed one of his long winter-night books. He sank deeper into his father’s armchair and though he didn’t read, he started to wonder: how would other people feel about the announcer of winter? He could hear the Vixen outside trying to get back into the garden. He shouldn’t have fixed that hole, he thought. It wasn’t a thought of guilt though, it was a thought of change. Jake put the book aside. He had to know. He gathered a few things and closed up the house. He passed by the shed for a hammer and opened the hole for the Vixen to take over. Jake started walking. He didn’t know where he would go, only that he would chase nightfall at five.

Patricia Link is a freelance published translator, who recently started writing screenplays and short stories. She is passionate about Comparative Literature, especially when it comes to linking Sci-Fi with Reality or Time with Space. She is equally passionate about a story well told (any genre really) or finding that one sentence that makes a thousand pages thick book worth reading.

869 words

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