Saturday, December 20, 2014

Barker the Snowman, Part One

Timothy was bored.

Sitting on the pillow lined seat set against the windows, he idly watched as soft snow dancing on the wind, slowly piling up outside his home. Well, his home and his parents place of work.
Timothy’s parents were the town morticians.
It wasn’t a large town, so they served as the tenders to the graveyard, as well as the funeral directors and elders in the local church. Between their many hats they wore they were able to eke out a fair existence for their small family, something Timothy, despite being nine years old, was entirely aware of, and very grateful for.
Hearing the stairs creak beneath the weight of someone with a light frame, Timothy rolled his head a tad. “Hey Mom,” he said, not bothering to look away from the snowfall.
“Hey Tim, what are you doing?” She asked, moving up behind her son. Long black hair and pale blue eyes framed by aristocratic features, she was an aging beauty to be certain.
“Watching the snow,” Timothy replied with a bored tone.
“Why don’t you go out and play?” She suggested.
Timothy snorted. “With who? The other kids are either too young, too old or find me too creepy because of what we do. I don’t really have anyone to play with.”
“Oh,” she said, pondering for a moment. She brightened, patting him on the back. “Why don’t you build a snowman?”
“A snowman?” Timothy repeated, a tad sardonically.
“Yeah, in front of the parlor. Make our little funeral home a little more cheery, y’know?”
“A snowman won’t do that Mom,” Timothy chuckled.
“Of course it will! I’ll even find some clothes for the snowman to wear, we have a collection box around here somewhere… we can get him all made up like Frosty!”
“Maybe… it might be nice to see a Frosty outside the parlor.”
“See? Let’s go raid the lost and found and the donation bin and get some clothes and you can set up a snowman! Boredom solved!” Timothy’s mother clapped her hands, smiling.
For the next ten minutes they went through the donation box, going over everything twice just to make sure that nobody could really use it. They found a black vest, an old fur cap and a set of pants that had seen better days. Combined with a threadbare sweater that would serve only to act as a layer for another sweater should anyone actually use it, and they had an outfit for their prospective snowman.
Taking the bundle of clothes, Timothy was quietly ushered out of the front of the mortuary/home, where he walked down the curving drive towards the main road. Plopping down the clothes atop a snowdrift, Timothy looked around to see what he had to work with. The snow had piled up to nearly two feet in height out here in front of the mortuary, giving him ample supplies. He had scissors and a needle with twin so he could mold the body then cut and stitches the clothing onto his creation with ease, instead of trying to shuffle clothes around packed snow.
Humming Jingle Bells to himself, he slowly began making a snowman, forming two thick columns for legs, followed by a tall midsection. Standing on the low wall close by, he configured a head atop the midsection, using dark pieces of black rock for eyes and a toothy smile. Pulling one of his father’s old pipes from his pocket, he slid it into the slit where he had formed the mouth, before sliding on the moth-eaten fur cap.
Finally, after hopping down from the wall, he went searching for some broken branches for arms. After ten minutes, he’d found two split branches roughly the length of the snowman, and dragged them to where his creation stood. Setting the arms where the shoulders would be, he finished off his creation by using the scissors to whittle fingers on the long branches, three pronged sharp wooden spits per hand, resting at the eight foot tall snowman’s feet. Taking the vest, he cut it apart and wrapped it around the body, before stitching it closed around the torso. He did the same with the pants, using more twine then necessary as he thought it gave his snowman a more macabre look to him (there was a reason the other children didn’t hang out with him) before he moved onto the sweater.
Looking at the red sweater, he decided he was going to cut it up into patches which he would then use to sew up the holes in the snowman’s clothes. An hour came and went, and a red faced Timothy finally stood back to look at his creation. A tall snowman with a black vest and pants, intermittently patched up by thin red cloth, stood with a fur hat and a red mantle over his shoulders, with a pipe sticking between jagged stone teeth, twin glinting eyes peering out from their deep lair in the snowman’s triangular head.
“Not bad. Not good, but not bad.” Timothy said to himself, rubbing his mitten clad hands together to try and return feeling to his digits. “The pipe gives it a nice touch I think…”
Looking at the wood and metal pipe, Timothy stood on his toes to adjust it further, pushing it deeper inside the snowman’s head. Suddenly, he heard a loud cracking noise from above, causing him to spin in place.
One of the power lines from the tall wooden poles had snapped, and was lazily swinging down towards Timothy. Letting out a small shriek, Timothy ran out onto the road, crossing it just as the power line swung and bumped into his icy creation. The twine sparked as electricity lanced up and down the frozen form of the snowman, the branches growing dark as they began to heat up. The entire figure shook and rattled, until the power line swung away from it, dragging along the ground some fifteen feet away, resting partially on an old stone statue of an angel.
Timothy, gasping for breath, looked both ways before crossing back over, thinking about how close he’d come to certain death. Walking up to his snowman, he looked at it and sighed. The finer features on the snowman had partially melted, the mouth now resembling a flapping maw with crooked teeth, the pipe hanging out of it precariously. The clothes smoked slightly, and the branch arms twitched… wait, twitched?
Slowly, much to Timothy’s delight, the snowman straightened its back, shuffling off sheets of thin ice forming over it with a low crunching noise as it took a step forward. Raising one three fingered hand to the pipe, the snowman moved it around in his jaw before looking down at Timothy, its beady black eyes glinting mysteriously.
“Yeah? Whaddya want?” The snowman asked, it’s voice the sound of a far-away blizzard, snow pelting stone in high winds.
“You’re alive!” Timothy exclaimed, looking over the snowman carefully, so as to make sure he wasn’t dreaming any of this.
“And so are you. What’s your point?” The snowman quipped, bringing up a hand to scratch at its partially melted face.
“It’s just I’ve only ever read about talking snowmen, never seen one before,” Timothy replied, somewhat bashfully.
“Well get a good hard look, cause I have some unfinished business I need to take care of.” The snowman said, looking up and down the road. “Where are we?”
“Silent Springs, Colorado.” Timothy replied after a moment. What kind of unfinished business could a newly born snowman have?
“Not too far then…” The snowman mused, before he looked down at Timothy with a curious expression. “What’s your name kid?”
“Timothy! What’s yours?”
The snowman hesitated. “Barker… you can call me Barker.”
“Barker? What kind of name is that for a snowman?” Timothy asked him, before crying out as Barker snagged him by his arm, hauling him close.
“It’s a good enough name. Now listen here runt, I want you to go inside and get a cellphone, some of your Dad’s tobacco for this pipe and… something I can eat.”
“Like what?”
“I don’t know… I’m hungry though, so something heavy. Do you have any ham, or steak?”
“We have leftover lasagna from last night…” Timothy ventured.
“Perfect, bring out what’s left of that” Barker ordered, crunching through the snow around the low wall and into the front yard of the mortuary. “Holy Hell kid, you live in a funeral home?”
“Yeah, so what?” Timothy asked, expecting to be made fun of.
“So nothing. Just go in and get what I asked. And don’t heat the lasagna up… snowman, remember?” Barker said, pointing at himself, grinning with his pebble teeth.
Timothy moved away once released and headed inside, watching as Barker shuffled off towards the graveyard. Opening the front door, he almost collided with his father, a portly man dressed in a smock and long gloves.
“Whoa there young man, watch where you’re going! Got some messy gloves here and I don’t want to get anything on you!”
“Sorry sir,” Timothy said, looking sheepish.
“Nothing to be sorry about just be careful. Now your mother and I will be arranging a funeral for a, uh, special case, so don’t come downstairs. I have a fresh body that I’d rather you didn’t see.”
“Special case?” Timothy repeated, looking at his father. His father only used those words when they were burying a criminal. Two years ago they’d buried a child molester, and had people coming by to desecrate his grave for months afterwards. Now whenever they got a similar case they kept it low key.
“Yes, and I don’t want you seeing it. Might give you nightmares…” His father muttered to himself. Looking back at his son, the man smiled broadly. “Just play outside, alright?”
“Yes sir,” Timothy agreed, moving to go upstairs towards his father’s study.
“Thatta boy,” his father said, moving towards the door leading to the basement, where they kept all of the equipment for preparing a body.
Gathering the tobacco, his father’s cell phone and a plate of lasagna, Timothy walked out the back door to head out into the graveyard in search of his snowman. He didn’t have to look far.
He found him standing over a grave-to-be, the headstone the only thing marking the spot. Walking up slowly, he placed the plate of food on the headstone and turned to look at the snowman. The creature appeared to be in a daze, staring at the freshly carved words on the marble slab. Timothy looked down to read the inscription.
“Daniel Bark, born in nineteen sixty-five, died in two thousand and fourteen. May he find the peace in death that he never found in life.” Timothy recited, before looking at the snowman. “What’s that mean?”
The snowman stood still for a moment. “It means that someone… close… cared for this man and made certain he got a proper grave.”
“You okay?” Timothy asked, holding out a plastic baggy of tobacco that his father kept in the drawer of his desk, along with a lighter.
Barker turned and looked at the baggy before breaking into a wide grin. “Now I’m fine. I thought I asked for tobacco?”
“That’s what this is, isn’t it? It’s what my Dad smokes with his pipe.” Timothy replied, somewhat confused.
Barker chuckled, taking the baggy and tearing it open, stuffing some of the plant matter into the pipe. “No, it’s not tobacco. It’s something way better. Tell your Dad you love him next time you see him, because he’d a great Dad for a kid to have.”
“I know!” Timothy chirped, holding up the golden lighter and flipping it on for Barker to use. Squatting down as best he could, he allowed the flame to light the pipe and took a few experimental puffs,  sucking in the smoke and holding it for a good ten seconds, before blowing it out in a long stream slowly.
“Damn! Your Dad likes the good shit!” Barker said, coughing once as he pulled the pipe away from his mouth. “Is that the lasagna?”
“Yeah, chicken lasagna. My Mom makes it every Monday night. Tuesdays are leftover days.”

“So it’s Tuesday? How ironic…” Barker said, puffing on his pipe as he lifted the plate. Taking the pipe out with one hand, he opened his mouth wider than should be possible and slid the food into his open mouth, before swallowing it all in one gulp. “Hmmm… not bad. Still hungry though.”

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