[ The Explorer ]

Prompt: This starting sentence is your prompt: The wind touched my neck and I turned…


The wind touched my neck and I turned; the beautiful frost still bit the end of each naked twig. Leaving it vulnerable to nature’s teeth.  The smell of pine whizzed up my nose. It reminded me of Christmas. Maybe even a specific Christmas. Yes. When I went to see the family in The North Shore. I smiled at the memory, breathing in it. 

I kept walking through the woodland, my mind racing with thoughts, coming and going out like broken waves. Each one felt different. I thought about when we would all be huddled around the dinner table, as mom delivered food in abundance. Delicious hams and transfat delights all somehow gloriously forgivable. I thought about the conversations, wine induced political debates. Some of us so liberal that we didn’t know how to listen, and some so far right that it scared me. Fuck, it scared me so much.  I never knew my brother had such strong opinions. But then I so did I. But they were so desperately opposite that it felt like whoever we talked about anything seemingly important it was like trying to build a puzzle from the beginning, but realising that half way through you didn’t have all the parts. We just couldn’t make it work. 

I sat on the ground, the soil hard from remains of winter burdens. I took my boots off and rubbed my feet for a second, enjoying the moment of peace. I’d been walking for two days, through Gifford Pinchot National Forest, in Washington state. I’d never really stayed in one place for long. My need for new images I think came from my father. He had been in the navy and moved from England to Canada before any of us kids were born. He had always said to me “don’t ever do anything you don’t wanna do”, and so I never did. I never got the office job, I never stayed still, I never worried about taxes and accounts, because it wasn’t what I wanted to do. My brother jimmy, he did the opposite. I don’t think I ever saw him without a glass of whisky in his hand. I don’t think I could imagine him and his wife smiling with their eyes during their annual holiday card. Sure, they would smile, making sure all of the family knew about their new Lexus, or that they had all gone camping under the stars in the summer. My brother had sadness dripping from every single pore. If you could see his heart it would be in six separate parts, hollowed out. He wasn’t always so sad. I know that. 

I put my boots back on and started walking up the sloping woodland. Wrapped up in my water proofs, I wandered with pensive precision through the mass wilderness until I reached the opening, in front of me were views so far reaching that it didn’t even look real. The echoes of bird song broke the sky, the greens and red and whites like hand stitched quilts made for the valley offering sanctuary below. I called myself an explorer, that was my JOB, to explore. Letting my beard have a mind of its own on my face, I ate what I found in the forest, knowing the difference between deadly and edible, I took the berries from my pocket, placed them in my out and gently chewed them. My body ached with movement but there was a blissful feeling with each step into the unknown. Governments in Canada and America talk about freedom like they own it, as though by getting up and putting on a suit every day you are buying your freedom. I knew freedom didn’t cost a thing. Jimmy, my brother disagreed. The last time we saw each other he said something. We both said some things. It was my father funeral. He had been 65 and it was only 28 days ago.  I stopped against a tree and felt my gut ache like someone had kicked it with lead boots on. I took a huge breath in and held my hand to my face. Thinking about my father. Dressed in his navy uniform. Always so neat, no crease. His neck twisted by the belt, his body swinging in the silence of all our grief. My mom had found him. A letter next to his empty glass that still smelt of Jamaican dark rum, ‘I love you all. I’m free’.

I stood still against the creaking tree and moved closer to the edge of the canyon. My brother’s words repeated in my head “you did this. You and your fucking freedom”. His sad eyes like dead stars. My stomach ached again, the inedible berries starting to work, I moved closer to the edge, and closer. I felt the wind hitting me hard, coming fast, slamming against my face like slaps, Christmas, all that talk, dads laughter, my mother’s kindness, the lights from the tree, the smell of pine, the wind felt like it was going through me, inside me, my brothers words, my brothers words, my brothers words, and then everything went dark. 

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