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News & Features » April 2019 » “Home in the Snow, 1971” by William J. Jackson

“Home in the Snow, 1971” by William J. Jackson

Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.

This week, a pieceworker is the victim of theft.

Home in the Snow, 1971
by William J. Jackson
Northeast Kingdom, Vermont

After six months building a post-and-beam house in the wilderness of Northeast Kingdom, Vermont, I found work at Ira Ethan Furniture Factory a few towns away, doing piecework—joining already cut wooden pieces into parts of cabinets. The number of pieces one joined determined one’s pay, and I was slow as a beginner. My supervisor, Tim, tried to help me improve my speed, but I was a cautious gluer. 

After a few weeks the VW bug I drove, which I parked at night out by the gravel road a third of a mile from my house in the woods, was burgled. My spare tire, snow chains, and two backpacks, which my wife and I traveled to India with the year before, were stolen.

A few weeks later, Scully, a piecework employee at a workbench down the row from mine, came to my bench at quitting time. “Need a spare tire, or snow chains?” he asked. 

In the parking lot he opened his trunk, showing me my spare tire and snow chains, but no backpacks. 

“Crime doesn’t pay,” I said. 

Scully said, “A kid in Kirby sold them to me for almost nothing.”

I got my tire and chains back, never speaking to Scully again. Later I saw in a local paper that police had caught a theft ring in Kirby breaking into cars. 

I kept working at the furniture factory doing piecework.

Waking to flowing-brook sounds, I drove on winding roads to work. I drove home hypnotized often by curving, slow-falling snowflakes dodging my windshield.

Mornings on the way to work I passed a shop window displaying an antique hardwood spinning wheel for sale. Maybe a gift for my wife? Christmas was near; maybe I could save up . . .

On Wednesday before Thanksgiving all two hundred employees—newcomers and old-timers—lined up before going home, as Tim, the wiry supervisor near the door, handed out neatly dressed turkeys. 

On the way home I stopped at Vern and Lucy’s farmhouse and gave them the turkey.

Two weeks later, I had a chance to work nearer home at a sawmill, so I told Tim I was tired of the job, and was quitting. 

“But we gave you a turkey!” he said. He was usually nervous, hurried; now he seemed angry.

“I’m a vegetarian. I gave it to friends, old-timers.”

Tim motioned. “Come here.” Tim took me to his thermos and poured us both coffees. Out back he lit a cigarette.  

“Let me tell you something,” Tim said. “I’m tired. Know why? I’m still tired from ten years ago when the government wanted to buy my house and yard for eminent domain, to construct a road. I got an option to pay them a dollar, buy my own house back, and move it. I disassembled my house and moved it a mile away, reassembled the whole house. Every night, and weekends. I’m still tired from that. That’s tired. Give the job another try. You’re not tired yet.” I guessed he got a turkey for Thanksgiving, and a carton of cigarettes too.

“I’m sorry. I’m giving you two weeks notice.”

The bags under Tim’s eyes seemed sad. “OK.”

Monday, my final day there, it snowed all day. I received my meager pay in a small envelope and drove through falling snow, mesmerized by slow-motion curving flakes in my headlight beams. I drove slowly; it was hard to see far ahead. 

On the road where my mailbox stood I turned, and parked in my short driveway. I was a third of a mile from home. Only a narrow footpath led there during the summer. With leaves in the fall and snow in the winter, the path was hard to follow at night. It zigzagged beneath spruces and pines, around brush, through some low-lying wetland then rose uphill to my house.

This night, clouds and thick snowfall covered the moon and stars. My flashlight’s batteries were on their last legs.

Turning it on I saw vaguely familiar places on the path. In a couple of seconds—light vanished. Switched off, the flashlight regenerated itself for another two seconds, but after awhile familiar places no longer appeared. I was disoriented. Lost in the trees. I kept going, unsure, guessing . . . thick snow might be the death of me, how could I not panic?

Then I saw a window of lantern light—home. 

In the clearing we’d made in the woods every shape was snowy; but inside, all was cozy and restful with satisfaction, even without a spinning wheel.

***

WILLIAM J. JACKSON grew up in Rock Island, Illinois. He has lived in Chicago, New York City (Lower East Side), Vermont, and India. He first learned about aspects of storytelling by performing roles as an actor in summer stock and Shakespeare plays. The author of several books about South Indian culture, in recent years Jackson has focused on writing international fiction about timely issues (terrorism, bullying, trafficking, addiction) and evolving new ways of making psyche-oriented collages, and a graphic novel based on his book Diving for Carlos. Some of his writings are located at https://iupui.academia.edu/WilliamJackson 

His Twitter username is @Tsalabagundi.

***

Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Apr 8, 2019

Category: Original Fiction, Mondays Are Murder, Original Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



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