Life in the Woodpile©

The Fall

It’s early, the soft sheets, still warm, cover them. Dark clouds loom on the horizon.

Liar, Liar pants on fire. He whispers sweet nothings in her ear. Disgusted, her cross-eyed Seal Point Siamese cat leaves the room.

He and she untangle. Sheets tossed aside, JC rises, blurry eyed, and follows the cat downstairs. Feed me says the blue-eyed cat. Now!

JC, fair haired with dark green eyes, stares at the empty cat food bowl. Miss Kitty, feigning affection, rubs JC's leg. Feed me!

JC hears the shower running upstairs, smiles affectionately. Remembering the cat, grabs a can of food, opens it with a popping sound.

Miss Kitty fed, JC starts the coffee, pours the OJ and turns on CNN. All the breaking news fit to print crawls across the quiet TV.

A Cup of Joe on MSNBC. It’s Politics all day everyday. More breaking news. Bored, Miss Kitty finds the cat door, lets herself out.

Not hearing the shower running, JC heads upstairs, coffee in hand. One cream and sugar, one black. A lovers embrace, then a shower.

Hot shower, brisk toweling, hair combed and teeth brushed, JC looks in the mirror, and wonders what the day will bring. Works awaits.

Kitty, sitting on the back porch, eyes the growing storm clouds and sniffs the air. Rain is on the way. She heads for the woodpile.

Keys, sunglasses, checkbook in hand, JC waits patiently by the front door for CJ. CJ, in the kitchen, turns off the TV and joins JC.

They step out onto the front porch and lock the door. A gust of wind ruffles CJ’s dark curly hair. Smokey gray eyes look back at JC.

He opens the car door and she slides in behind the steering wheel. The small red sedan comes to life and eases away from the curb.

He opens the door of his powder blue 1966 Plymouth Valiant, inserts the key and turns it. Nothing happens. Please, not again he sighs.

He goes back to the house and calls his boss. "Les, I’m going to be a little late. Yes, Valiant won’t start. Yes, quickly as I can."

She arrives at work early. Catches the elevator to the 7th floor and greets her boss. "Morning Nosmo." He waves his morning greeting.

At her desk she checks emails, reads the morning headlines and checks her stock portfolio. Up a little, down a little but up today.

Kitty, stalking the wood pile, ears alert for any sound. Piercing eyes watch for small birds, mice and one large rat that live there.

He pays the tow truck driver for the jump start. Forty bucks. Grumbling, He revs Valiant’s now smoothly idling slant six engine.

Arriving at the shipyard, He parks, passes through security and heads for the shop. A cold wind blows up a dust devil in front of him.

He dodges it, tries the door to the shop. It’s locked. The dust devil blows by in swirl of dust, leaves and trash and dies down.

She notes the clients that she needs to call and looks out at Osneset Headland admiring the fall colors creeping up its dark flank.

Kitty flattens herself in the tall grass, watching as a sparrow flits quickly away unaware that danger is waiting only a few feet away.

Another bird emerges from the woodpile. Ears back, tail twitching, Kitty pounces. Leaping high, a swipe of the paw, nothing but air.

He unlocks the shop door, enters and sees the shop foreman Steve Szewczynski, aka Eyechart, reviewing time cards. "Why’s the door locked He asks?"

“Morning Boss,” Eyechart greets Him. "Kaseowiski is coming over from yard 3 and I didn’t want that bum bothering me with his whining."

It’s no secret that Kaseowiski wants His job and complains about him to anyone that will listen. “He’s a lousy supervisor” he drones.

Eyechart points to a note on his desk. "Les wants to see you. Said he’d be in his office. He wants the repair logs from last week."

He sits at his desk and pulls the maintenance logs for a quick review before going to see his boss for the inevitable ass chewing.

Kitty, sensing a change in the wind, abandons the woodpile. Petrichor permeates the air. Ears back, she dashes for the back porch.

Osneset Headland protects the north side of Tonsgard Cove. Tonsgard Boatbuilding Company lies in its shadow. Family owned for 70 years.

Looking down at the boat yard from her 7th floor perch, She turns and answers her phone, "Good Morning, Insalata Caprese" she purrs.

She pumps her fist in the air as she hangs up the phone. A juicy new contract for 50 catered lunches every Friday for the next year.

She emails details of the lunch menu and a copy of the contract to the client with instructions for electronic signatures and payment.

A cold wind flattens the grass as sheets of hard rain start to fall. Kitty ducks through the cat door looking for a warm place to nap.

He laced on his work boots, grabbed the repair logs and headed out the door tugging his hard hat down snuggly against the driving rain.

Gray curtains of rain sweep through the boat yard. The piers, two fingers reaching into the cove, are barely visible as he jogs past.

He ducks into the Steel shop to get under cover. Easymoney stops him. “The overhead crane is down and I have a critical lift today.”

“Call Eyechart, have him get a crew over here to look at it.” “I Gotta run, Izmore is waiting to see me.” He glances up at the crane.

Turning to leave, he hopes it’s a simple fix, but suspects it won’t be. Nothing is anymore. Bubblegum and bailing wire keep it going.

She sticks her head in Nosmo's office. The sign over his shoulder reads “Flatulus Antiquitus”. "Just penned a nice contract" she beams.

Nosmo looks up and asks for details. She briefs him on the client, the menu and contract duration. "It’s a beautiful thing”, he says.

Miss Kitty curls up on the back of the recliner looking out the window as a thick, dark fog begins to replace the slanting rain.

Fall leaves litter the ground outside the window. The once vibrant colors of red and gold now fading to rust. Kitty yawns, then naps.

Fog and low hanging clouds shroud Osneset Headland. Its ghostly shape hangs over the Boatyard like a pall. A stillness fills the air.

Soaked to the skin, he arrives at Les Izmore’s office. The sign on the door reads, "Fabricati Diem". He knocks lightly and enters.

Rick Kaseowiski, standing by the large window, ignores him. Izmore waves him to a chair in front of his large mahogany and teak desk.

Izmore looks at him pointedly and says, “Kaseowiski is taking over all Yard Maintenance starting today. You’re back on the tools.”

“Clear out your desk, turn in your keys, and report to the Engineering loft in the morning” Izmore continued. "They’ll be expecting you".

On the North side of the Headlands is the wild Sinkiuse River. Littered with Class 5 rapids, it drops out of Diamond Lake to the ocean.

Eagles Nest, the extreme tip of the Headlands, stands 200 feet above the crashing surf. It’s only accessible by a steep rocky trail.

He left Izmore’s office feeling lost in the fog blanketing the ship yard. A dark shape ducking between buildings, ghostly in the mist.

He wandered aimlessly in the cold mist finally arriving back at the shop. Eyechart’s hard hat was on his desk with a note. “I quit!”

News travels fast in the yard. He gathered his personal items, dropped the keys on the desk and left the shop lead a note to call him.

Miss Kitty yawns and stretches herself awake. It’s time for her afternoon drink. Hopping off the recliner, she heads for the kitchen.

Sandy, a chiclet toothed brunette poked her head in CJ’s cubicle. “Mr. King would like to see you before you leave today”, she said.

She responded to a few last emails and called it a day. She picked up her briefcase, ran a brush through her hair and turned to leave.

She entered Nosmo’s office quietly. He looked up from his work and smiled warmly at her. “You’re doing a great job for us”, he said.

“Jolene, The Sales Manager, is going on Maternity leave at the end of the month”, he continued. “I want you to take over for her”.

“We’ll hire a temp to fill in for you. You’ll train that person and give them a few starter accounts. You’ll keep your big accounts”.

Miss Kitty had her drink and ducked out the cat door. Sitting in the stillness on the back porch, she watched the woodpile carefully.

The woodpile, a jumble of Alder, sits next to the back fence. The rat, having gorged himself on blackberries, scrambles across the top.

Valiant started reluctantly and JC rolled out of the parking lot heading home. As he passed the local tavern, he saw Eyechart's truck.

The Shipwreck Tavern is nearly as old as the boat yard and looks her age. JC wheeled into the parking lot next to Eyecharts blue F-150.

JC found Eyechart sitting in a booth starring out the window. “Figured you’d stop by”, he said. JC, frowning, sat across from his friend.

Ginny, a plump dishwater blonde barmaid came over and asked JC what he wanted. “A schooner and a pitcher” he replied still frowning.

JC looked at his friend and asked, “What’ll you do now”? “I was looking for a job when I got this one”, Eyechart replied with a smile.

Eyechart tipped his glass in salute to his friend. “You really going back to the loft” he asked? “I’m not sure about that”, JC says.

“I think I’ll take tomorrow off and hike the Headlands. It’ll give me a chance to think about what I want to do next”, he finished.

The beer was beginning to warm him up and a long over due day hike out to Eagles Nest would do him some good he thought to himself.

JC finished his beer and stood to leave, “Stay in touch” he said to Eyechart knowing that he wouldn’t. “Count on it” Eyechart replied.

CJ was on cloud nine when she reached her car. Nosmo promoted her to Sales Manager. I can’t wait to tell JC she thought.

It’s temporary; only while Jolene is on Maternity leave. Don’t get so excited she told herself. But still, what an opportunity.

Miss Kitty creeps cautiously through the wet grass to the woodpile. Ears perked, tail twitching, she hopes she’ll get lucky tonight.

JC stepped out into the fog surrounding the Shipwreck. The orange sodium vapor street lights caused the fog to have an eerie glow.

JC reached to open the door on Valiant when Indian Johnny appeared out of the fog like a ghost. “Are you Josh Cranston”, he asked?

Johnny, his jet black hair in single warriors braid, was expressionless. Josh, taken aback, nodded yes, and asked why he wanted to know.

“Grandfather dreamed you last night” Johnny intoned. “You should not go to Eagles Nest tomorrow” he continued. “Bear is waiting there”.

Before JC could respond, Johnny disappeared into the fog. Dreams about him and a Bear and Eagles Nest, JC shook his head, bewildered.

Kitty continued to stalk the woodpile, biding her time. The rat continued to rummage through it, eating whatever he could find there.

The house was dark when CJ parked in front of it. When she let herself in, JC was sitting quietly, listening to Fireflies and Whiskey.

She was just bursting with good news and couldn’t wait to tell him but sensed that something hadn’t gone quite right with his day.

She listened quietly to his story and decided to wait and tell him her news in the morning. It would keep until then she thought.

She knew how to ease him troubled mind. She hitched up her skirt, straddled his lap and began to gently shower him with warm kisses.

Later, they had pizza and wine by candle light while they listened to “In the arms of an Angel” by Sarah Mclachlan on the stereo.

Kitty, bored with the woodpile, came in for the night. Finding CJ and Josh listening to music on the sofa; she curled up next to them.

Kaseowiski opened the door to the Maintenance Shop and stepped inside. Notbob, the shop lead, was reading the repair requests for the day.

“Lots to do today, overhead crane is still down in the steel shop. I’ll start there. Send a Machinist over when they come in”, Notbob said.

Notbob handed the repairs slips to Kaseowiski, shouldered his tool bag, grabbed a digital meter and left without so much as a by-your-leave.

The crew trickled into the shop. The grumbling caused a low buzz to fill the air. At exactly 8AM Kaseowiski handed out the job assignments.

Josh got up, feed the cat, poured the OJ and coffee and then called work. “I won’t be in today; I’m taking a day off to clear my head”.

JC packed a lunch, grabbed his day pack with the 10 Essentials, a canteen of water, his hiking boots, red gaiters and kissed CJ good-bye.

“I love you. I’ll see you tonight” he whispered in her ear as he kissed her good-bye. She smiled, started to share her news, but faltered.

JC tossed his gear on the back seat, patted Valiant’s dashboard and holding his breath, turned the key. Valiant came to life without a hitch.

CJ watched as Valiant pulled away from the curb and headed towards town. She locked the door to the house, got in her car and drove to work.

As JC drove through town heading for the trail head at Owyhee Uplands, he had a gnawing sense that something was left unsaid between them.

Miss Kitty jumped up on the kitchen window sill and looked at the morning sun shining on the woodpile. It promised to be a crisp sunny day.

JC rolled to a stop at the trail head to Eagles Nest. Warmed by the morning sun, wisps of steam rose from the black top of the parking lot.

He buttoned his gaiters on over his boots, pulled on his wool sweater, shouldered his day pack and started up the narrow rock strewn trail.

8 miles up a little, down a little, but mostly up. The Sinkiuse River raged below as the trial wound along the north side of the Headlands.

CJ got to her desk feeling like something wasn’t right but she couldn’t pin it down. She picked up the phone and called the Temp Agency.

She realizes the agency will need a few days to find people with sales experience and she wants to start interviewing candidates next week.

Rumors flew around the shipyard like seagulls on a garbage scow. JC had punched Izmore in the face, he'd quit, been fired, and stormed out.

JC carefully navigated the slippery trail high above the Sinkiuse. His thoughts focused on avoiding wet leaves, loose rocks and washouts.

He stopped about halfway, took out and energy bar and ate it. Warmed by the exertion, he took off his sweater and tied it around his waist.

Donning his pack, he headed up the trail admiring the beauty of the Osneset Headlands. Hemlock, Spruce and Fir filtered the afternoon sun.

As he neared Eagles Nest the trail flattened out. It got its name because of its perilous perch above the pounding surf and the river below.

JC walked to the edge of Eagles Nest and looked out at the azure blue sky and the ocean below. It made his knees wobbly, so he stepped back.

CJ left work a little early and stopped by the store. She knew he’d be hungry after his hike. She’d fix a nice dinner and tell him her news.

JC found a warm dry spot to sit and soak up the afternoon sun. He pulled out his lunch and while he ate it lost himself in his thoughts.

A cold breeze sent a chill down JC’s spine. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been day dreaming, but the orange sun was settling on the horizon.

“Damn”! I’ll have to make most of the hike out in the dark. Indian Johnny’s warning rose up from the crashing surf below. “Bear is there”.

Josh pulled on his sweater, shouldered his backpack and started down the trail. He stopped and looked at the sun setting below the horizon.

He’d spent the afternoon thinking about his future, but hadn’t reached any conclusions. Now, in the glooming, he focused on the trail ahead.

CJ prepared dinner for her returning hero hoping he’d found what he was looking for at Eagles Nest. She knew things were about to change.

The star filled sky proffered a cold crisp night as Miss Kitty, listening intently, surveyed the woodpile. She too sensed the coming change.

Kaseowiski, a Petty Tyrant, spent his day trying to quell a rebellion by the maintenance crew and other Journeymen in the shipyard.

Notbob worked on the over head crane most of the day. He told Grubby the machinist the hoist motor was shot, and then went to tell Easymoney.

JC made his way hurriedly down the trail. It was pitch black with only occasional breaks in the canopy. He could hear the river raging below.

The town’s evangelist, Deacon Blue, spent his day on the street corner chanting “Though I walk through the valley of death I fear no evil”.

Slipping on wet leaves and loose rocks, JC lost his balance. Falling, the last thing he saw through the trees was Ursa Major. Then, nothing.

The "Fall" ends here!

"Life in the Woodpile", Chapter 2, "The Valley":

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Life in the Woodpile

About L.I.T.W.

Each paragraph in the story is a daily Tweet. Six Tweets make a group and are posted here in a "Serialized version of the story. For those of you that aren't familiar with Twitter; each Tweet can only consist of 140 characters and spaces maximum.

Look at my "Other friendly links" below to follow me on Twitter or Facebook or to  read my blog.

The Main Characters

  • Miss Kitty Thatcher, a cross-eyed, blue eyed Seal Point Siamese cat belonging to CJ.
  • JC, aka Josh Cranston, worked his way up from the Layout Engineering Loft to Maintenance Supervisor. Grandson of one of the founders of Tonsgard Boatbuilding.
  • CJ (full name not yet revealed) works as a sales rep for a highTech Catering Service and lives with JC.
  • The Woodpile; A jumble of split alder that is filled with life and is Miss Kitty's favorite haunt.
Other Characters
  • Valiant, JC's 1966 powder blue Plymouth Valiant stationwagon. A once very reliabel car he's had since he was a teenager.
  • Les Izsmore, CEO of Tonsgard Boatbuilding, not a member of the founding families.
  • Nosmo King, owner and GM of Insalata Caprese, a Catering Service embracing technology.
  • Steve Szewczynski,aka Eyechart,formerly the main yard Maintenance shop foreman and friend of JC.
  • Rick Kaseowiski, yard 3 maintenance foreman that wants to be (and now is) Maintenance Supervisor and will do and say anything he needs to get there.
  • Easy Money, Boilermaker and Steel Shop foreman.
  • Jolene, current sales manager for Insalata Caprese, going on maternity leave.
  • Sandy, CJ's co-worker.
  • Ginny, the barmaid.
  • John Nichols, aka Indian Johnny, a native American that lives on the near by reservation and works as a day laborer in the shipyard.
  • Notbob, aka Robert Cranston Jr.; JC's cousin. He's Notbob because JC's uncle is Bob.
  • Deacon Blue, the town's Evangelist and self professed soul saver.
  • Grubby, a short stocky man that always wears greasy coveralls but is a Machine Whisperer.