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By Cheryl Ann Guido
She stood beside the antique wood-burning stove reflecting on her life. On top of the cast-iron burner, a percolator slowly brewed her favorite beverage, dark rich coffee. The steady rhythm of the pops that coincided with tiny brown bursts of liquid hitting the glass top was hypnotic. Such a pleasant, calming smell, she thought, as she inhaled the smoky aroma, letting the steam travel deep inside her nostrils.
Her faithful dog Molly was curled up on a brightly colored braided rug in front of the fireplace. The logs would burn just long enough. Molly lifted her head and wagged her tail. How she loved that mutt. Molly had been at her side for nearly ten years. It was good that they were together, especially now.
The percolator went silent, signaling that her coffee was ready. As she poured some into her favorite mug, she was reminded of her grandfather. After his wife died, he built this cabin, way up in the mountains. It was supposed to be his personal retreat, but there were many times that family joined him.
As a child, he had told her his dream of wanting a place where he could be free of modern conveniences, a place where he could escape from the world and be one with nature. Here, there was no electricity, no running water. Water had to be drawn from the well behind the house, one that he had constructed himself after days of using a dowser rod to search for the precious liquid. Lighting was provided by candles and kerosene lamps. The only heat came from the fireplace, though it was enough to warm the one-room home. She remembered his excitement when he found the antique stove at a junk shop. Chopping wood would keep him in shape. He told her as he went to work, cleaning it up and polishing it to a brilliant shine. Being a carpenter by trade, he made all of the furniture, a wooden table with four chairs, a bed, and some shelves to keep supplies. The one piece that he was most proud of was a wooden rocking chair. In it, he would sit on the front porch, smoking his pipe and rock for hours. In the late Fall, when it became too cool to sit outside, he brought the rocker in and placed it in front of the only window in the house so he could still observe the winter wonders of nature. How many times had he told her that these things were all that he needed for his life to be complete? He was right. Now it was her turn.
She picked up her mug, grabbed a wool blanket, and settled down in the rocker, throwing the blanket across her legs. As she watched some cardinals flutter from tree to tree, she thought about her world, a world that had been in turmoil for years. Everyone on the planet lived with the daily fear of annihilation as its leaders threatened to destroy their enemies with nuclear bombs and other deadly weapons. There was so much hatred, so much conflict and refusal to work with one another in the name of peace. Yet here, in the quiet of the mountains, the birds sang, the lake was crystal clear, and the trees hid all of the ugliness. Here it was easy to forget.
A rabbit hopped onto the ledge of her window. It cocked its head, picked up the carrot that she placed there every morning, then scampered back into the woods. She smiled. She would miss this when the time came. She wished that she could gather all of the forest creatures together and just will the evil in the world to go away.
A wet nose shoved itself under the palm of her hand. She looked over at Molly, who had joined her and now rested her massive head on top of the blanket. She scratched behind the dog’s ears as she sipped her coffee. It won’t be long now, she thought. The planes had flown over a while ago. A few minutes later, the earth shook. Plates and glassware had tumbled off of the shelves and crashed onto the floor. It was then that she decided to make some coffee, a last little bit of enjoyment.
In the distance, a blinding glow lit up the sky. The fiery light grew bigger and bigger as it slowly advanced with a sound that roared like a thundering freight train. She placed the now empty cup on the window ledge, then wrapped her arms around Molly, watching the wall of flame coming closer and closer until it finally consumed the trees outside of the cabin.
“I love you, Molly.”
She buried her face in the fur on top of Molly’s head and kissed her as the world went white, and they became nothing.
©2020 by Cheryl Ann Guido