Poem: Unmasked by Jessica Cauthon

Unmasked: A Poem by Jessica Cauthon - www.jccauthon.com #poem #freeverse #writing

UNMASKED by Jessica Cauthon

Jumbled like marbles in their pouch
Dancers tumble and twirl
Consumed in a sea, whirled,
Couched safe in masquerade.
Behind my mask, I protect
My weakened soul.

Clap. Bow. Return.
Promenade the gauntlet
Of instigating eyes.
I am tired of performing
This tragedy called Life.

Exit stage LEFT,
For a moment to change,
Rearrange into ACT TWO,
Hidden behind a new mask.

Trip onto stage, forced
Into a part I do not wish
To play. Stumbled
Words, practiced speech
Hold me from mind’s true words.

Disgusted. Enraged.
Mask thrown to ground, torn.
Face unashamed of who
She is, stands before accusing eyes.
Trembles,
completely Unmasked.

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For more stories and poems by Jessica Cauthon, please visit her Library.

Short Story: Mud

Short Story: Mud by Jessica CauthonThis is a rougher draft than I usually post.  I have checked spelling and not much else.  Therefore, the characters are a bit goofier than they should be, and the teenage is a lot more mouthier than she should be.   It’s a work in progress.

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Mud by Jessica Cauthon

The rain disappeared as quickly as it had come. I stepped out on the screened-in porch and began to pull my hip waders over my legs. Although it had not rained recently on the farm, the ground was not absorbing the water quickly so I knew I would have to fight mud for the rest of the afternoon.

“Hey, Grandpa,” I yelled back inside the house. “Are you going to finish plowing the back three acres or do I need to do it before I leave?”

“You, young lady,” he said as he emerged through the door, “are going to get the tractor out of the field where you left it and bring it up to the barn. I can’t believe that you left the tractor in the field when it rained.” He mumbled on as he stepped off the porch and splashed through the mud puddles in the yard.

I gritted my teeth and mumbled, “You left the tractor in the field. You need to go get yourself checked for Alzheimer’s. You better hope it ain’t stuck.” I rolled up my shirtsleeves and stared at the horizon. The rain clouds were moving quickly to the west.

“Hey, Tommy,” I called into the house, “meet me in the field in about ten minutes! The tractor may be stuck!”

“All right,” my brother hollered from inside the house. “I’ll be down there as soon as I finish up this section of the log.”

I stepped off the porch and into a mud puddle. I felt my foot sink a little bit into the mud, and I walked on. I walked directly down the dirt path and avoided walking under any of the trees. The rainwater was still dripping from the leaves and branches to the ground, and I needed to avoid getting damp again. I dunked off the path to take the short cut across one of the water runs on the property without thinking that it would be full since it had just rained. I walked briskly down the well-trodden path and ran my fingers absent-mindedly across the tips of the grass that had grown on the sides of the path. My eyes wandered off the path and to the pasture where my horse was galloping across the pasture.

I continued to walk the path until I had walked about a mile before I even realized that I would not be able to just walk across the bottom of the water run. Why did you walk this way? I thought. You knew that it had just stormed. I looked over my shoulder and saw how far I had already walked. “I am not backtracking. I’ll just as soon jump it,” I decided, fussing at myself for not being observant. I sped up my pace and hastily pulled my hair up in a ponytail. It was warming up quickly and it was humid. I stepped into the trees at what looked to be the end of the path and slowly descended down the side of the embankment.

The bed of the water run was about twenty feet wide, but the water was only running in a span about six feet wide at the narrowest part. I would have to get a running jump. I looked around to find the best place to get a running start before I jumped. With the lack of space to run straight and still gain the proper momentum needed, I decided I would run caddy-cornered and jump at a diagonal.

I pulled up my hip waders that were too big for me and walked far enough away to jump across the water without having to wade through the mud. I had better things to do than to wash boots all afternoon. I turned back to the water and started to run. I reached the water’s edge and sprung into the air. I knew immediately that I was not going to make it all the way across. I felt myself descending rapidly and soon felt the impact of mud under my feet. I landed waist deep in the mud.

“Just my stinking luck!” I yelled loudly as the water began to fill my boots. I struggled to move my legs, but they were trapped in the mud. I really did not want to leave my boots behind, but I saw that I would have to. I looked about quickly trying to find something to use to pull myself out of the mud. A low, over-hanging tree branch caught my attention immediately. I reached out to grab it, but it was just beyond my reach. I slid my feet out of my boots enough that the tips of my toes were where my heels were supposed to be. I stretched again and wrapped my fingers around the branch. I carefully pulled myself up and began to walk my hands down the tree branch towards the bank.

My bare feet slid out of the boots and I looked down to see the water cover the spot where I had just stood. I swallowed deeply and stretched my foot out towards solid ground. I let go of the branch and fell a few inches to the ground. The mud squished between my toes as I bent over to roll up the cuff of my wet jeans.

“Girl, where are your waders?” asked a voice on the opposite side of the water run. I looked up to see my oldest brother, Tommy, staring down at my mud-splattered face.

“They are in there,” I said angrily as I pointed to the mud.

“Oh, no. Grandpa is going to be angry,” he teased.

“The old coot can get angry,” I retorted as Tommy began to descend the ditch bank. He stepped back as though he was going to jump.

“You may want to take off your shoes and socks and cross barefooted because you will sink,” I suggested calmly.

“And how would you know?” he asked as he winked at me. I closed my mouth and stared at him while he took off his shoes and socks. He held them in one of his huge hands as he took a large step towards the middle of the mud. I reached out my hand and pulled him the rest of the way across. He stood to his full height of six feet and three inches and stared down at my five feet and eight inch stature with a smile. He wiped a piece of mud off my cheek and laughed at me. I was beginning to get chilled in this shaded area.

“Girl, you could always attracted more dirt…”

I shook my head and grumbled. I turned to climb the embankment barefooted, but had trouble fighting the briars. Tommy slid his shoes over his feet and followed me. He scooped me up in his arms and threw me over his shoulder.

“Where are you heading?” he asked seriously.

“To the field to get the tractor, doofus,” I said as I stifled my laughter. Tommy raised his free arm like he was holding a sword and yelled, “We’ll take the tractor, General! We will succeed!” He charged up the embankment with both of us laughing at him.

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Granny’s Hands: A Poem by J. C. Cauthon

Granny's Hands - Cover

Granny’s Hands

© J. C. Cauthon

Soft to the touch,
These hands.
So weathered by life’s hardships
That they have cracked,
Callused.

Every morning, noon,
And night,
They knead dough;
Biscuits for our meals.
These same hands
that string barbed wire
On fence posts.

Supple.
They shell peas and beans
Late into hot, summer nights.
Never tired,
They work on,
Sewing patches over holes
In my jeans.

Caring,
They wipe away my tears
And braid my hair.
Every morning,
They did the same
To her hair.

The same hands
That pressed flowers,
Shucked corn
And chopped wood,
Picked apples,
Brushed horses,
And plucked chickens.

These hands that
Held me tight on stormy nights
As she hummed
To bring me peace,
Cared for me
And let me go,
My Granny’s hands.

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The Last Smoke: A Short Story

The Last Smoke - Cover

 

The Last Smoke: A Short Story

John hunkered down further in the snow-filled trench as a gust of wind ripped through the fortified passage. Next to him, his buddy William did the same, blowing in his gloved hands to warm them against the chill. John sighed. All he wanted to do was curl up with his little girl and read her T’was the Night Before Christmas before he tucked her into her bed. Instead, he was huddled in a trench in frozen France, and he was surrounded by enemy soldiers.

He was almost frozen himself. Snow had been falling since the wee hours of morning, and his trench coat, trousers, and shirt were soaked through. He wished he could move. At least he could warm up that way. But if he accidentally exposed himself over the top of the trench, it would give away their position. And it would likely be the end of him.

He gripped his rifle and prepared to fire a couple of rounds.

William slid a round into his rifle and smiled at him. “It could be worse, you know? It could be this cold and raining. At least the snow gives us a little time before we feel it.”

John smirked then steadied himself.

He hated this part. The part where he had to peek over the edge, fire a round or two, and hope that he would be lucky enough to pull everything he showed the enemy back into the trench when he was done.

He took several deep breaths and nodded to William that he was ready. They both crouched at the edge of the trench and fired blindly into the white expanse.

Rolling himself back down into the trench, he hunched over himself to build up body heat.

William bumped into him as he dropped into a heap beside him. “Just a little while longer, Johnny. Then we can head down to the rest of the group and curl up beside a barrel fire until our skin turns read. You got any papers on you?” He dug around in his pockets, searching for his tobacco.

“They are probably wet. I’m soaked through.” John leaned to his side and pulled his papers out of his back pocket. They were wrapped in leather, but even leather soaks through after a while.

William took the folded leather and set it in his lap with his tobacco tin. He peeled his wet gloves from his hands and untied the string holding the leather closed. Running his index finger against the edges of the papers inside, he gave John a grin. “Middle ones are dry.”

“Hurry up and roll one then. I’m freezing,” John grumbled. He wrapped his hands around the barrel of the rifle, siphoning the last of its warmth into his damp gloves.

William set to work, sprinkling the tobacco on a dry rolling paper then rhythmically rolling it between his thumbs and fingers to pack the tobacco tight. He folded the leather pouch back up and handed it to John to tie closed.

John wrapped the strings around the leather and tied it tightly before he shoved it back into his rear pocket. The movement exposed his wet backside to the frigid air, sending a chill through his body.

William tapped the end of the cigarette on the lid of the tobacco tin to pack the tobacco even tighter, then he closed the tin tight and slid it inside the interior pocket of his trench coat. Pulling a box of matches out of the same pocket, he placed the tip of the cigarette in his mouth. He fiddled with the box with his cold fingers until he was able to push the end of it open, and he pulled one of the tiny sticks out. Striking it quick against the barrel of his rifle, he lit the cigarette and snuffed the match out in the snow.

He took two long puffs then passed it to John. “You know, I’m starting to wonder if we are even shooting at anyone. We ain’t had a shot returned in two days.”

John shook his head, taking the cigarette. “They’re out there. Just because we can’t see them and we haven’t heard them, don’t mean they aren’t biding their time.”

William chuckled. “I bet they packed up and left once the snow started coming down hard. They probably decided that if it got this cold up here, we could have it.”

John smirked and took a long draw on the cigarette. The smoke was warm on his throat, and it tickled it slightly, but it did little more to heat him up. He passed it back to William. “They’re out there. They’re probably just waiting for a clean shot before they let us know where they are.”

William tucked the cigarette in his mouth, letting it dangle as he talked. “I’ll prove we’re alone. If no one returns fire after our next shots, I ‘ll stand up and roll us another cigarette.” He looked at John, his face full of certainty. “I’m telling you, there’s no one out there. We’re just shooting at the snow.”

John pulled a bullet from his ammunition pouch and loaded his weapon. He frowned. He did not want to agree to such a stupid bet, but he knew that no matter what he said, William was going to do it. Once William set his mind on something, he did it. If anything, trying to talk him out of it only made him want to do it more. John bowed his head against his weapon in silence, hoping that William would just let it go.

“You ready, Johnny?”

John looked sidelong at his friend, doing his best to ignore the “I’ll show you” grin on his face. He gave William a nod.

William adjusted the cigarette in his mouth, and they both crouched at the edge of the trench again. They each fired a single shot into the falling snow.

Rolling back down into the trench, they kept low, listening. No shots were returned.

“Told you,” William said with a triumphant smile on his lips.

John put his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Just wait. They may still be trying to determine where the shots came from.”

William shook his head. “I’m telling you, Johnny, there’s no one out there. The officers just have us out here to make their superiors think they are working. We’re freezing while they’re down there by the barrel, eating and staying warm.” William took one last puff on the cigarette and snuffed it out in the snow. He placed the part he did not smoke in the pocket of his trench coat.

“Give them five minutes, Will. Just five,” he pleaded with him. He did not want to beg, but he would stall for as long as he could.

“Fine, I’ll give ‘em five minutes, then I’m going to roll a victory cigarette, and we are going to march down to the other end of this trench and park our asses by that fire. The commissions can come down here and fire at the snow if they want to appear busy.”

John snorted and closed his eyes. He hugged the warm barrel against his chest and rocked side to side to create as much heat as possible. And he prayed. He prayed for a single shot to ring out, anything to prove that they were not shooting at nothing—anything to make his friend give up his stupid idea.

The minutes ticked by much too quickly. John counted the seconds and knew that he had run out of time.

“Gimme your papers, Johnny.”

He pulled the leather pouch from his seat pocket again and passed them to William.

William propped his rifle against the side of the trench and stood up. Swiping his arm across the snow at the top of the trench, he created a flat spot to wrap and roll his cigarette.

“I told you, Johnny. We’re gonna be sitting next to the barrel in about ten minutes, finally warm, finally dry. Them officers think they got us fooled.”

John could not say anything. He gripped his rifle and watched his friend, praying hard and fast that even if there were soldiers out there, they were hunkered down in the trenches next to their fires and not paying attention.

William pulled a small stack of papers out of the leather pouch and flipped through them to find a dry one.

John’s gaze darted to his friend as soon as the single shot broke the silence.

William’s head jerked back, and his hands stopped moving. He appeared frozen for a moment, gazing off at something in the distance. Then he fell, crumpling into a heap.

John sat, frozen in shock, as his best friend’s body collapsed into the snow.

A gust of wind whipped through the trench, picking up the cigarette papers and scattering them over the snow, but John could not do anything but stare.

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