K. P. Bushnell
Firewood

The night the enormous cedar fell he was still sleeping with the window open and the door ajar though fall was quickly deadening into winter.  He had only just blown out the lamp and pulled the quilt to his neck when he heard the telltale crack and knew a tree—a big one—was going.  His eyes had not yet adjusted to the dark and it would be through the roof before he could relight the lamp so he sat up and closed his eyes from the dark of the room to the dark of his own eyelids and resigned himself to the tree’s will.  It cracked again, he could see it in the mind’s eye: splintering bark, the fracturing core and its hardwood orange heart, tractionless serpent roots, sphagnum tossed, boring worms uprooted, new detritus.  Then the final horrid ripping of the tendonous wood viscera and he perceived it as fell, reaching, clawing its brothers, perhaps drawn to the cradle of his thin rafters.  Unmoving, he waited for the tree until it settled as hastily as it had fallen in the ossuary of the underbrush some distance away.  Well, it didn’t land on us, so we’ll have it for firewood, he said to the cat who tested the silence with her whiskers.  He turned his pillow over and slept.

When the tree frog’s low croak accompanied the relative warmth of the early sun he mixed the oats with boiling water in the same steel mug that held his coffee when he could come by it.  The stove roared at the damper and he slid it closed with the toe of an unlaced boot as he spooned the sticky oats into his mouth.

K. P. Bushnells is a part-time English professor dividing her time between the U.S. and London. She has a piece of fiction forthcoming in the April 2015 issue of Gravel, and most recently wrote an article on maritime literature for the Oxford Bibliography of Victorian Literature.