Visiting Hours

A story spontaneously came to me before bed, so I had to get it written down. It’s a little sad, I suppose, but not the worst. Reading time is approximately 10 minutes, and it is canon to Jacob Andris’ storyline, taking place the winter after the events of Bowman of Wellwood.

“So, I guess it’s been a while,” Jacob murmured, a deep bass voice uttering quietly from his chest. In the distance, someone walked their dog, and the little creature frolicked along smelling flowers and barking at birds. Crisp winter air contrasted with the pure blue sky overhead, a picture perfect day. There wasn’t even any snow on the ground.

He’d always found it funny, in a grim sort of way, that it never rained when he came there. The movies always sold the impression that it should rain when someone visited a graveyard.

Jacob lowered his gaze from the dog-walker to the plot he’d come to visit. His hands, so shaky and unstable lately, were stuffed into his hoodie pocket to keep warm and out of sight. His eyes were sunken, with circles under them that had been improving in the last few weeks. Jacob was rarely impatient, but it was getting ridiculous.

“I woulda visited earlier, but, uh,” his voice trailed off weakly while one hand escaped the pocket. When he touched one fingertip to the entry wound on his shoulder, his jaw clenched. Phantom pain spread across his chest and he lowered his hand.

“A lot’s been going on. I made a new friend, though. He’s a four inch tall woodland fairy.” Jacob let himself grin, and then tilted his head. A glare from the sun lanced across the name etched into the humble grave marker.

Nicholas Andris

Beloved Father and Husband

“He actually got really mad when we called him a fairy. He’s a wood sprite, and he’s the fastest flyer in his village. I have a feeling he’s not gonna like that I’ve grown a couple inches in the last few months, though. He never did like that we … humans, I mean, are so tall. I’m catching up to you.”

Jacob cut a notable figure indeed in the middle of the small sea of gravestones. Blocks of gray stone marked with faded plastic flowers surrounded him, with only the occasional angel statue standing taller. He was six feet and three inches tall. Only a few inches left to go until he caught up with his dad’s prodigious height.

He lifted a hand to scratch absently at his face while his eyes scanned over the worn grave marker. It was never as glossy as the day it was laid. Jacob wished he’d brought a rag to clean it.

Instead, he noticed his hand shaking. A flash of memory, a flurry of green, swarmed his vision and he had to blink it away. Hand back in his pocket, he focused on the stone again. Might as well explain a little.

“I was sorta figuring the little guy out when this nut showed up with a gun. He kept spouting some crazy shit about how sprites are evil. I mean, Bowman’s really snarky and it’s funny as hell, but he’s not evil. It’s complete bullshit. He was gonna take a bunch of them out of their homes, and when I tried to set them free…”

The crazed face glared at him from a veil of months ago. Jacob had sighted the man while the man sighted him from the safe end of the gun.

“He shot me. I was …” Jacob had to stop. The injury, one that doctors called a miracle, would have killed him. He would have died and never known what became of the sprites. “I was basically a goner, if not for Bowman.”

Bowman, a fiercely defiant and independent little wood sprite of four inches tall, was the reason Jacob stood there, alive and mostly well. After leaving the woods had come the hospital stay and the trial, one that earned enough news coverage to give Jacob twenty seconds of fame. The brave kid who pulled through despite a crazed man’s babbling about tiny winged people attacking him.

Jacob knew the truth. He’d always been raised to never tell a lie. In court, he’d sworn it on a Bible.

“I didn’t tell anyone about Bowman or the others. Even mom doesn’t know. That guy… he could have destroyed so many lives. I couldn’t risk other people knowing about them, y’know? I figured you’d understand. Other than Chase and Bobby, you might be the only one I talk to about it.”

No breeze came. A few wispy clouds drifted across the sky, and the person walking their dog angled farther away. Jacob never got answers, of course, but still he was comforted by the following silence.

“So that’s what I’ve been up to, dad,” he said, in an even quieter voice than before. This time, it was tighter and he had to strain just a bit more to force out the words. “Making friends with wood sprites and getting shot. It definitely made the start of the school year pretty weird.”

He reached out a hand, leaning towards the marker, but his fingertips never made contact. There were a lot of cliches that Jacob tried to endorse, but it never rained when he visited his father’s grave. He never quite brought himself to touch the rough edge of the dark grey marker. He was glad for it. Instead of coming out and talking to a grave, he talked to his dad like the man was still there.

“I’m gonna come back sooner for my next visit, since the crazy all died down a bit. Mom’ll probably want to come.”

His hands returned to his pocket and Jacob stared straight down. His boots flattened the dry grass beneath his weight. Once he cast his mind around for any further updates and found none, Jacob allowed himself a faint, grim smile, and angled away from the site once more. Once he left, he’d need to be his usual relaxed self again, and couldn’t go until that was possible.

Finally, the smile turned real. Jacob lifted his head as the peace he was familiar with returned to him like a trickle in a frozen stream. The last few months had been hectic, but it wouldn’t last forever.

Turned out all he really needed was some visiting hours.

“See you later, dad.”

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