Fiction

Otherwise

By: Leon Kortenkamp

“What was that?  Wake up, Robby.  I heard something.”

“What?  What did you hear?”

“Something.  Did you hear it?”

“No.”

“I was dreaming about my mother.  I saw her so clearly.  I looked into her eyes; she smiled, and then I heard something on the back deck, and it woke me up.”

“The back deck?”

“Yes.  It was so real.  My mother was right here.  Her eyes were so engaging and bright, and she looked like she wanted to tell me something.  What does it mean, Robby?”

“It means you miss your mother, and you were dreaming about her.”

“I do miss her.  She was looking right at me.  She looked…you know…happy. With such a peaceful look on her face.  Then something on the deck woke me up.”

“Probably a mouse.”

“It was a lot bigger than a mouse.”

“Maybe a moose.”

“A moose?  Don’t joke around, Robby.  I’m not in the mood.”

“Right.  Why are you whispering?”

“I’m frightened, Robby.  There’s something out there.  First my mother was right here with me, then the thud on the deck.  This is not good. There’s something out there, and I don’t like the sound of that wind either.”

“A thud, you say?”

“Yes.  Like a thud.  Kind of a thud.  Will you check it out, Robby?  Will you see if there’s anything out there?  Maybe you’re right about a moose.  I remember now; the ranger said there are mooses up here.”

“Moose.”

“You think so too?”

“No.  The plural of moose is moose. Not mooses.”

“God, Robby!  Something’s out there, and you are fussing about moose or mooses.”

“I’m not fussing.  I’ll check it out, but I don’t think you heard a moose.  Moose have hooves.  A moose on the deck would make a sound like a clomp, like a whole bunch of clomps.  You know, clomp, clomp, clomp, clomp…”

“I know what I heard.”

THUD.

“There it is again!  Did you hear it that time, Robby?”

“Yes, I did.  Turn on your lamp.”

“No. No light.  Use the flashlight and be really quiet.  And be careful.”  I think it is a moose.  And they can crash through glass patio doors and come after people.  I saw it on TV.”

“You saw a commercial about house insurance,” Robby says, digging through his backpack for the flashlight.  “It’s not what moose really do.”

“How do you know what they really do?  I think a moose does pretty much whatever it wants to do.  Be careful.”

“Say no more,” Robby announces, training his flashlight through the glass patio doors and on to the deck outside.

“What is it?”

“Pinecones, Julie.  Big pinecones.  You know, the kind they cover with glitter for Christmas decorations?  My guess is, they’re falling out of the tree next to the deck.”

“Pinecones?” Julie asks turning on her bedside lamp.

“Yeah.  Big ferocious pinecones…So much for the moose.  Let’s get some sleep.  We have the hike to the peak tomorrow.”

“I wish we had taken a cabin closer to the others down by the road,” Julie says.  “Instead of this one out here in the total boonies.”

“We liked this one because it’s closer to the peak,” Robby replies.

You liked this one because it’s closer to the peak.”

“But you liked the bigger living room and the fireplace.”

“Well, that was before the moose attack.”

“There was no moose attack,” Robby grumbles.  “Turn out the light.  Big hike tomorrow.”

“I don’t think so.”

“You don’t think so, what?”

 “I don’t think I’m going to be up to hiking to the peak tomorrow,” Julie says, adjusting her pillow and pushing up against the headboard.

“Why not?”

“I can’t go back to sleep.  I’m still thinking of Mom.  She was as alive as you and I, Robby, and she had on that light blue print dress she liked so much.  I know she wanted to say something, but that noise on the deck woke me up before she could say it.  Oh… I wish I knew what she wanted to say.”

“It was a dream, Julie.”

“So, what’s your point?”

“You’ll have some coffee in the morning, and you’ll feel like hiking to the peak,” Robby says in his salesman voice.  “It’s supposed to be a perfect day.  Turn out the light.  Let’s get some sleep.”

“OK, I’ll try…You know, Robby, I sometimes think about what I would do if something happened to you.  Do you think about things like that…about what you would do if something happened to me?”

“Hey…I love you,” Robby says with veiled intentionality.  “Everything is going to be fine.  You’re just spooked by that sound on the deck.  Anybody would be spooked by it, if they didn’t know what it was.  But that’s all over now. Let’s get some sleep.”

THUD.

“Robby? There it is again.”

“Pinecone.”

“Are you sure?”

*****

Leon Kortenkamp is a San Francisco Bay Area writer and artist who lives with his wife, Ginny, in Belmont, California. He was drafted into military service during the Vietnam War and served two years in the US Navy. Following his military tour of duty, he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

        His work has been exhibited, published and collected throughout the United States and around the world.  Recent writing includes poetry and short fiction illustrated with brushed-plate monotypes or photographs.

        He grew up in rural Iowa, and memories of those formative years are often reflected in his work.  It is from this perspective that he examines the vicissitudes of contemporary urban life. 

        He is a professor at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California, an environmental activist, an advocate for honesty and justice in politics, and a lifelong supporter of the humanitarian aid work of Doctors Without Borders and Catholic Relief Services around the world.

Categories: Fiction

1 reply »

  1. I was right there in their midst watching them worry over the “Thuds”. Put together nicely.

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