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Lakewood Times

Lakewood Times

“Untitled” by Anonymous Student

Tori Klepsky


The forest was ablaze with sounds from a million insects and animals all around me, the chittering of the cicadas, the chirping of the birds, and even the occasional cricket filled the trees with beautiful music. The leaves swayed, gently letting spots of the sun peek through to light up the ground. As I look around I can see squirrels race up trees and a few birds hopping from branch to branch until eventually taking off into the sky above. The clouds are thick today, almost taking up all of the skies and letting little to no sunlight through. The gaps in the clouds allow only for a brief sight of blinding golden light until its rays are once again hidden behind a blanket of mist.

A mix of brown and red leaves crunch under my feet as I make my way through the clearing and into a wide field of grass. In the distance, a small house made of stones and wood sits upon a hill at the edge of the clearing. A plume of smoke can be seen wafting from the house’s chimney, I make my way over to the house, taking my time and enjoying the sweet smell of lilacs and daisies that have started to sprout from the earth. As I get closer to the door I can smell hints of garlic and basil from the open window, I smile as I approach the door and turn its squeaky handle.

I make my way towards the center of the room where a big round table with bowls of soup and bread has already been prepared. I hang my pack on the back of one of the chairs and make my way towards the kitchen. “You never told me you knew how to cook,” I ask the stranger at the stove, tending to a pan full of various veggies.

“You never asked,” says the stranger not once looking up from the sizzling pan.

“Well would have been good to know so you wouldn’t have used up all of my rutabagas,” I say looking around to the various empty jars I’ve used for pickling.

The stranger looks at the mess he’s made of the kitchen. “Sorry,”

“Doesn’t matter as long as you’ve made enough for me,” I say.

I make my way back towards the table and swipe up my bag off of the chair and start emptying it on the kitchen counter. Some various root vegetables and a few handfuls of berries tumble out onto the hard surface.

“Where did you find those?” the stranger asks.

“These? You can find them practically everywhere as long as you can tell them apart from grass, and the berries I have a special place I visit every few weeks for them.” I start to pull down some clean jars from the cabinets and start sorting various roots into their containers, the berries I smash and put into a jar of their own to be used later for jam.

“Dinners almost ready,” the stranger says. “You can go sit down on the table.”

“Sure thing,” I say cleaning off the countertop. “You better not have used up all of my garlic by the way that stuff’s hard to find,” I call over from the table. The bowls of soup and bread are still hot so I start tearing off small pieces and dipping them in the soup. The taste is better than I would have thought, whoever this person is it was worth saving him if I can eat like this for a while.

The stranger walks into the room with a plate full of rutabagas and the rest of the soup, he sets down the pot in the middle of the table and pulls his mitts off. His hands are covered in various scars of varying sizes, most of them are still fresh from when I found him washed up in the river, some of the stones must have made various nicks and scratches all over his body.

“So,” I say wanting to end the silence that’s come over the table. “I’ve treated your wounds and let you stay here for a few nights and now you’ve made me dinner, and yet I still don’t know your name care to share?” I say taking another bite of bread. “Or more importantly where you’re from?” The stranger seems to become restless in his chair, seeming to think that he would be able to stay and then leave without telling me a thing.

“Well,” the stranger starts, my eyebrows rising in curiosity. “My name is Cole,” and that’s it, that’s all he says. After 2 days of me treating his wounds and fever, all I get is his name? Well, I’m not angry it’s not like I would be any different if I wound up in a stranger’s house with a million different bruises and scratches on me. But I am still a bit annoyed that he wouldn’t trust me enough after treating his wound to at least give me a name in the first place.

I let out a sigh, “Well it’s nice to meet you, Cole,” I say content with the name for now, but eventually I’ll dig in deeper and find out how he wound up in that river.

After dinner Cole took the plates and started on the dishes in the kitchen, I started making preparations for tomorrow’s meal. I save the leftover soup and start to chop up some of the roots I gathered today, pickle them in jars and date them for when they’ll eventually be perfect for eating.

“So,” Cole says. “How long have you lived out here? I never knew that people lived this far out.”

I smirk,” Wow the mysterious stranger is curious about my life? How intriguing.” I say “I’ll tell you how long I’ve been here if you tell me how you wound up in that river?”

He falls silent as if I’ve said something obscene, I start to place the last jar up on the shelf but it slips from my hands and falls to the floor with a crash.

“Shit,” I curse to myself as I bend down and start to pick up the larger pieces of glass. I should have gotten a broom and dustpan because as I pick up a piece it slits my palm and leaves a huge red gash across my hand.

Cole bends down to inspect my hand, “You idiot you should have just made me pick it up,” he says.

“Sorry,” I murmur.

“You have any bandages or even some needle and thread? Looks like this needs a few stitches,” he says as he grabs a rag and starts to put pressure on my wound.

“Stitches? I didn’t know you were a doctor,” I say looking to Cole who is now searching through the cabinets for some medical supplies.

“I’m not but I can at least treat a cut like that,” he says finding my small box of bandages and aspirin. “You have a sewing kit or something?”

“Yeah, it’s over on the shelf in that closet, the flowered box you can’t miss it,” I say. Cole sets the meds box down on the counter and walks over to the closet and starts rummaging around until he finally pulls out a box embroidered with roses, poppies, and daisies.

“Come over to the table and let me have a look,” he says as he sits down at the kitchen table.

I sit down and take the rag off of my hand, it’s soaked in blood but at least the wound isn’t bleeding as much as it was a minute ago. Cole looks over my wound and opens the sewing box, he grabs a fine needle and some black thread and stars to tie the needle, he struggles for a minute but eventually, he ties off a knot and starts to sew together the two parts of the skin. Slowly the pieces of skin start to come together and shut close as Cole finishes my stitches, he ties off the thread and places down the needle, and reaches for a cotton ball from the medicine box.

“This might sting a little,” Cole dabs the cotton ball with some rubbing alcohol and starts to clean the remaining blood around my stitches.

I wince in reply to the cool stinging feeling of the alcohol, “God that stings,” I say.

“Well you shouldn’t have been picking up broken glass with your bare hands,” he says

“Fair point,” I say. Cole finishes cleaning up my blood and wraps a bandage around my hand, I admire the bandage as I flex my fingers to test the stitches. “U sure your not a doctor?”

Cole gives off a smile, it’s small but it’s the first time I’ve ever seen him make an expression that didn’t turn towards cranky. “Positive,” he says.

“Could have fooled me,” I say.

Cole packs up the boxes and puts them back in the closet, “I’ll clean this up you can go lay down,” he says.

“Sure thing doctor,” I tease as I make my way over to the living room couch. I grab my bag and pull out a leather-covered book with drawings of various flowers and foliage sketched on all surfaces. I start to flip through the pages and land on a drawing of a distant hill with flowers as far as the eye can see and the sun setting in the distance. I’ve had this book ever since I found it while wandering throughout the forest when I was young. It was buried in my yard, I found it when planting some cabbage in my garden. I thought it might be the previous residents or something but it was completely blank inside and out, I’m the one who filled it in over the years when it was too rainy outside or too cold.

“Nice book, you draw those?” Cole is behind me looking over my shoulder and eyeing my sketches of daffodils and roses.

“I just draw when I’m bored,” I say.

“Really? You must have a lot of free time then,” he says.

“Well there isn’t much to do out in the middle of the forest,” I say starting on the petals of a rose bush, its colors seeming to jump out at you even though it’s just a white and gray pencil drawing.

Cole goes back into the kitchen to clean while I continue to draw for a while. An hour passes, then two, and I finally look up from my book to notice that I haven’t heard any shuffling from Cole for a while. I get up from the couch and start towards the kitchen to feel a cool breeze come across my shoulders. I look around the kitchen to see the window wide open, the drapes swaying with the occasional breeze. I would think that Cole just left but then I see the curtains blotted with bits of red, Coles blood…

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