For those unaware, All Saints’ Day is a Christian festival celebrated the first day of November each year in honour of all the saints, both those known and those unknown. It is sometimes referred to as ‘All Hallows’ Day’.
The night before, All Hallows Evening or All Hallows’ Eve, is better known these days as Hallowe’en.
What follows is a story of old loss, new love and timeless redemption. It is also my entry for the 2019 Hallowe’en contest.
J.L. sat in the shade of his widow’s walk. The shady roof-top platform towered over the surrounding trees and offered a 360-degree view of the ocean, coast and mainland. The house had been built by his great-great-grandfather, Lazarus Townes, a shrewd sea captain who’d parlayed his savings into an extended shipping and mercantile line based in the town across the bay. Along with the shipping empire, he’d built the house with its widow’s walk – a platform for him to watch for, quite literally, his ships to come in.
A century later, all that remained of that lucrative commercial kingdom was the old house and the island it sat on.
Townes Island stretched about three-quarters of a mile from end to end. The island was connected to the mainland by a long, narrow neck of land. There was a drivable path across the shingle most low tides; when the tide was high, water could be neck-deep, with nasty cross-currents. The tides helped to keep visitors and tourists away, which suited J.L. just fine.
J.L. leaned back, took a sip from the mug of home-brew and swivelled around with his binoculars. From where he sat, he could see a fair length of the eastern beach. There’d been a bobcat there an hour ago and he had hopes of seeing it again. J.L. respected predators and had an unstated agreement with them: We both hunt what we choose — excepting each other. Each fall, he filled his larder with a whitetail or two from the island and was satisfied. For the rest, he knew Mother Nature would refill the island by next year and was pleased to watch the foxes, bobcats — once even a very lost cougar — live out their lives.
Granddaddy Townes had built an expansive place for his wife, progeny and numerous servants. It was, by modern standards, far too large to be sustainable. J.L. had closed off most of the place when he moved in, opening the spare rooms every so often only to air out the shrouded furniture they still held. He himself lived in a bedroom with adjacent toilet and bath. The only other rooms he spent any time in were the two kitchens, the library and the widow’s walk.
Someday, he thought, in the absence of any heirs, the government would reclaim it and the island would eventually become a high-end tourist resort, a conference centre or a public campground, complete with shower buildings, a concession stand and public Wi-Fi. With Sandy gone, he no longer cared, one way or the other.
In the meantime, as the population of the nearby town grew, the island had slowly become a popular, if illicit, hangout spot, a place for surreptitious picnics and private al fresco trysts, a forbidden place where adolescent boys dared each other to go.
J.L.’s reclusive nature had only stimulated interest.
A gate on the landside point and prominent No Trespassing signs had failed to keep out unwanted visitors. Now, the signs merely read:
ALL TRESPASSERS WILL BE FILMED.
ENTRY IMPLIES AGREEMENT TO ALL SUCH
VIDEOS BEING AIRED ON INTERNET
WITHOUT NOTICE OR COMPENSATION.
Oddly enough, it had been the least bothersome visitors, those out simply for a hike or picnic, who had been most discouraged by the signs. The nudists and daring lovers, the ones who might be thought to have the most to lose by being posted online, almost seemed to take it as a challenge.
While J.L. had posted a few lurid videos on line, he had not yet had anyone charged for trespass. An encounter with the irascible island hermit and his dogs was generally enough to discourage return visits, but the possibility of being caught seemed to add spice to the game for some.
He’d grown accustomed to being alone since he moved back to the island five years ago. Such little shopping as he needed was mostly done by the old couple who came around once a fortnight to clean. Truth was that his face was by now mostly unknown in the town. He no longer resembled the last photos taken of him and he could, with but little effort, wander the town streets without being recognized, especially after dark.
He rarely did, wanted no contact, had no desire to mingle. The world had passed him by and he was content for it to be so. It hurt less.
35 acres of forest provided wood for heating in the colder months. Shunning chain saws, he took pleasure in using a double-bitted ax and crosscut saw. The ones in the shed were of an old design with the patina of age. J.L. liked to believe they had once been owned by his great-grandfather.
He gaziantep escort bayan reklamları had his own garden, a patch of raspberry canes, some fruit trees. His autumns were kept busy with canning. He fished a bit, hunted some, kept half a dozen hens and did his own butchering and brewing. What the assorted layers of uniformed aardvarks on the mainland didn’t know about the small still at the foot of his garden was none of their business. They had their place, he thought with a quiet smile, just not here.
His grandfather had broken with tradition by installing electricity from the state system. That allowed him what he thought the best of both worlds — things like freezers, a washing machine and a computer with a satellite upload. And hot running water, he thought. Best invention ever. Flush toilets got high marks on his list, too, but hot water took the ribbon.
He was reclusive, not daft.
His father, on the other hand, had been daft — or at least possessed of very poor judgement. It was primarily his mismanagement that had sent Townes Lines down the path to bankruptcy. By the time his bungling had come to a sudden end, there were hardly any pieces, business-wise, left to pick up.
The local paper had carried a front-page story about J.L.’s return to his long-empty ancestral home, with the implied hope that the Townes heir would somehow revitalize the sagging town economy. The article had been written without his input as he’d ignored repeated requests for an interview. Its publication had brought more invitations to join this, support that, act as… Those too he had ignored. Eventually, the requests had trickled off, then stopped.
Social media, to the small extent he followed them, mentioned his name once in a while. Of late, ‘J.L.’ (his lifelong preference over either ‘Jacob’ or ‘Lazarus’) had begun to be misspelled as ‘Jael’. He found a perverse humour in it. Some, taking it from there, had even gone Biblical and begun claiming he was female. That was even funnier.
He sat up, leaned forward, peered over the railing at the beach. The bobcat had returned, evidently having found something washed up at the waterline. J.L. had thrown away his watch shortly after his return to the island. He looked at the sun, did a mental calculation and figured that Kitty had another quarter hour before the rising tide chased her out.
J.L. spent his days reading, working his garden, doing household chores. He spent a lot of time walking the island paths, learning the ways of his furred and feathered neighbours. In the evenings, he surfed the web, wrote a bit, checked the cameras. He’d half-completed a Free University philosophy degree online. The contents of an extensive, if somewhat dated, library filled in any remaining empty hours.
He was about to turn away to watch the harbor traffic when the bobcat suddenly bounded away from the water and into the woods, clearly spooked by something nearby. He swung the glasses around and back, could see nothing. Probably a dog off the mainland. They came around from time to time. Looking down, he could see Bonnie, one of his own two Alsatians, lounging in the shade by the garden from what was still hot sun. He could see no sign of her partner, Clyde, but that wasn’t unusual.
Local boats had begun to head for the harbor at the sight of the black line of clouds sweeping in. Better find your lair, Kitty, he grinned to himself. The house was closed up; J.L. rarely worried about the weather in any case.
He enjoyed watching storms from his private perch. Twice, he’d been there when the row of old-fashioned copper lightning rods just yards away had streamed thunder and ozone hellfire to the sky. Both times had been hair-raising — literally — but he was determined not to allow the sky to frighten him anymore, however much it sounded like something else.
He stumped downstairs, returning shortly with a glass of something more suitable to storm-watching. Looking down, he noticed that Bonnie had vanished from her place.
The storm was moving in quickly now. The winds were picking up and the sun was cut off by looming grey-black clouds. It looked to be a dandy gale inbound.
He propped his chair back against the brick chimney behind him, put his feet up on the rail and awaited the imminent return of his companions. While the dogs would take on a grizzly for him, he smiled to himself, thunder was their kryptonite; they’d be back at the door below at the first crash, tails between their legs. Off in the far distance, he could see the first strikes of lightning far out on the water. He started as another massive strike hit somewhere behind him on his island.
He had been so focussed on the storm that he’d overlooked the dogs barking. Most unusually, both of them were calling their excitement, ignoring the thunder. He shifted and looked to the east, towards the beach where the gaziantep escort resimleri sound was coming from. The shoreline was empty, what he could see of it, but rapidly being submerged by the rising tide. Yet something was driving the dogs mad.
Shrugging, he got to his feet and, finishing his tumbler, started down the stairs. The dogs were pretty smart, but they were his partners and this kind of commotion indicated something they couldn’t handle. A bear, perhaps? Unlikely. Another damned porcupine?
Walking down the hall, he pulled on an old rain slicker, picked up a flashlight and, as an afterthought, tucked his father’s old double-barreled shotgun under his arm, making sure it was loaded on his way out the door.
Dark as it was, black as the sky was, the rain had not yet started as he started down the path leading to the east beach. The wind was blowing the trees hard and leaves were whipped up in his face. He followed the sound of the dogs as he headed down between the trees.
Rain still hadn’t started falling, but J.L. could smell its approach, its tang becoming apparent over the smell of shore and woods. The sky rapidly became much darker. Even knowing the path as he did, he stumbled once or twice. He began to smell wood smoke and ozone, no doubt from the lightning strike. From experience, he doubted there was much danger of a serious fire, especially with heavy rain inbound.
The last bit of the trail was a steep drop down onto the beach, itself already ankle-deep in seawater. He sloshed through it, hearing the dogs just ahead. He turned the flashlight on to help with the gloom, swung it back and forth.
Bonnie was suddenly at his knees, shivering with excitement. She barked, darted forward, stopped and turned around to look at him before barking again. Good girl, Lassie! he grinned to himself. Has that idiot Timmy fallen down the well again?
The dog sprinted forward. J.L. could now see Clyde, his tail straight out behind him, barking furiously at him as the first few grape-sized drops of rain started to fall. Holding the shotgun by the grip in one hand, finger carefully out of the trigger guard, he turned on the flashlight to discover, not a porcupine or a bear, but a naked human form huddling under a bush, arms around its legs and long hair covering its head.
He lifted the shotgun away. “Hello?” he called. Then, “Bonnie, Clyde, heel!”
The two dogs stopped barking, came to his feet, shivering. The figure lifted its face, covered its eyes with one hand. “Please!” it called in a very feminine voice. “Please help me.”
J.L. lowered the flashlight so the beam was no longer in her eyes.
“Are you all right?” he said. At that moment, the heavens opened with a blast of lightning and explosion of thunder. Rain began coming down in buckets.
Looking at the figure under the tree, J.L. held out his hand. Wide eyes stared at him for a moment, then a slender hand came out. He took it — how cold! — and tried to pull her to her feet. The girl stumbled, fell towards him. “I hurt my ankle,” he could hear her cry over the storm.
He thought for just a second before resting the shotgun up high in tree branches. It would keep there until the morning, no matter how high the storm surge proved to be. There was oil on it, he thought; it would last out the night. Not good, but no worse than a damp morning in a duck blind or a rainy night patrol.
The woman was shivering violently. He shrugged out of the slicker, wrapped it around her and picked her up, one arm under her knees and the other under her back. The girl was substantial, solid in his arms, but hardly impossibly heavy. The rain was cold and he could feel it lashing his hair, running down his back.
The tide was up over his shins by the time he left the beach. He could hear the dogs splashing through the water ahead of him.
It was a steep climb, but the years of solid exercise had tightened his muscles and, in any case, she was no heavier than other loads he had routinely carried in the Sandbox. The trail was turning slippery with the rain, but he managed to avoid falling until almost back at the house. There his ankle slid out from under him on a patch of mud and he landed heavily. The woman gave a shriek before scrambling to her hands and knees. The dogs crisscrossed between them, their uncertainty clear.
“Sorry,” he puffed. “Almost there.” He was by now shivering himself. He pulled her to her one serviceable foot, put her arm over his shoulder and his around her waist before lurching towards the door. Inside and out of the rain, he fumbled for the light, shoving the heavy door closed behind them with a foot. Leaving the girl by herself for a moment, he returned with a pair of heavy towels and passed her one.
The house was still warm from the afternoon sun, but his shivering didn’t stop. Leaving her again, he went into the main kitchen and gaziantep escort bayan sitesi put on a kettle before stripping off his wet clothes and toweling himself off. He wrapped the towel around his waist.
When he returned to the hallway, the girl was sitting on the floor, towel wrapped around her and his discarded slicker in a puddle on the floor beside her. One slender leg was held straight out in front of her.
The dogs, having shaken off the rainwater from their fur, lay beside her, quiet, watching intently, almost protectively now. The tip of Clyde’s tail thumped lightly on the floor as J.L. approached.
“C’mon, darlin’,” he said. “Let’s get you someplace warm.” As he helped her up again, his towel fell off. Dammit, he thought to himself, not the time for this! Ignoring the fallen towel, he half-carried her into the library. Putting her on a couch, he knelt in front of the fireplace and lit the firewood already laid there. The logs soon blazed up into healthy flames.
He rose to his feet, turned around. The girl was watching him. Her eyes dipped to his nudity. He grimaced in apology, covered himself with two hands.
“Sorry,” he said. “Back in a minute.” He returned in a minute with his towel back in place and another dry one for her. Handing it to her, he went to the kitchen, spooned brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon sticks and respectable shots of whiskey into two mugs, pouring boiling water over them before taking the drinks back into the library.
The young woman — definitely young, definitely a woman — was attempting to dry the long red hair stretching almost to her waist. The other towel had slid down her body, exposing shapely breasts topped with small, dark areolae and prominent nipples. Firm hips led down to strong-looking legs.
She hadn’t heard him enter and looked up, blushing, her hands dragging her towel up to cover her near-nakedness.
He turned his head. “I keep having to apologize. I brought you something warm to drink.”
Her voice was a clear alto. “You’ve nothing to apologize for. Without you, I’d be swimming by now.”
“Maybe,” he replied, “but I’m sorry to have embarrassed you. I’m going to warm up some soup. Call me when you are ready. I’ll try and find you something to wear.”
J.L. put some stew from the refrigerator onto the stove, then went into to his bedroom and dressed. He selected a spare set of sweats for the girl, old but clean and warm, and added a pair of wool socks. This time he knocked before entering.
The young woman was sitting with her ankle propped up on one end of the sofa.
“Let me take a look at that,” he said. He waited, watching her heart-shaped face. It occurred to him that she was remarkably pretty.
When she nodded, he knelt beside the sofa. He prodded here and there, wincing with her as he did so. He looked up at her strained face. As he sat up, he noticed between the folds of towel that she was indeed a real redhead. Shame on you, J.L., he thought to himself.
“Doesn’t look like it’s broken,” he said. He went to the kitchen, brought back a large porcelain bowl half-full of ice and water. “Put your foot in there,” he said. “It will help. The toddy will keep you warm and I can fetch a blanket if need be.”
The girl hissed as her foot entered the icy water. J.L. stirred up the fire and tossed another log on, as much to make the room look warmer as anything else.
He pointed to the clothes. “You can put those on if you want,” he offered. “Not your size, but they should be warm enough. When you get that done, if you want, I’ll tape up your ankle. I think I have some crutches around here someplace.”
The girl looked at him. “Thank you, but could I ask you to call me a cab, please? I need to get home.”
“Well,” he replied, smiling slightly, “there are two problems with that. The first is that I don’t have a phone. The second is that the tide is coming in and the road will be impassable by now. I have a computer you can use if you want to notify somebody.”
“So I’m stuck here? Is that what you’re saying?”
His smile vanished at the tone of her challenge. “What I’m saying is that you were trespassing on clearly posted land. What I’m saying is that I rescued you, carried you half a mile in the rain and that you’re wearing my clothes, drinking my liquor. What are you saying?”
The woman blushed, lowered her eyes to the floor. “I’m sorry,” she said softly. “I am grateful, truly. I…”
She paused. “May I take my foot out now? It’s really aching from the cold.”
Stooping, he removed the bowl and stood up.
She looked at him in the flickering light, as if for the first time. She saw a slim man a generation older than herself, not tall, with well-defined muscles but carrying too little fat to be truly healthy. His hair was close-cropped, as stylessly as if he had cut it himself. His red-brown beard reached to his collarbones; close to his chin, the whiskers were threaded with grey. Dark, deep-set eyes framed a prominent, beaky nose. J.L. couldn’t be called an imposing or handsome man by any conventional standard.
He left the room, returning shortly afterwards. The girl had donned his sweats and one sock. They actually fit her well enough. He lifted her injured leg, sat on the sofa beneath it and started wrapping it expertly with an elastic bandage.