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The Color of New Wine: flash fiction by cam
This is a flash fiction story which I wrote in the fall of 2014 for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. After receiving valuable feedback from fellow participants and the judges, I have rewritten the story. I hope you enjoy this version of The Color of New Wine.
Under the Light of a Full Moon....
The Color of New Wine
Under the light of a full moon, the red barn stands in sharp contrast to the undulating, snow covered landscape of my farm in northern Michigan. Inside, I pace the one hundred year old floorboards, waiting to defend my farm against someone who is threatening to destroy all I, David Vanderkolk, have worked for.
Slashed tractor tires and a shattered, truck windshield are among the acts of vandalism which have been committed. Two nights ago, dozens of heirloom grapevines were cut down, piled high and set ablaze. A hand written note was left each time, telling me to abandon my plans to open a winery in the barn and to destroy all the vines I had planted over the last few years. The notes made it clear that the barn would be the next target if I failed to follow these instructions.
The Red Barn Stands....
In 1920 my great grandfather planted the first cherry tree on our farm, leading to decades of prosperity. But four years ago the economy led me to make the decision to uproot the cherry orchards and replace them with profitable vineyards.
The grand opening of the winery is just a few days away. Wines from the last two growing seasons will be served on a bar sculpted out of ice. The notes made it clear that the event was to be cancelled.
On this silent, windless night, automobile tires crunch over the frozen snow of the driveway. Through a nearby window, no headlights are visible.
Moonlight floods through the barn door, and a man steps inside. The door swings closed, and the figure is enveloped in darkness. The beam of a flashlight pierces the blackness as the intruder moves through the lower level. I dare not move for fear alerting this obtruder to my presence.
The light reappears, moving toward the stairway which leads to the upper level where I'm standing. Anger and fear spar in my chest, leaving me breathless. Each wooden step to the loft releases an exaggerated creak.
At the top of the stairs, only a dozen strides from where I'm standing, the light goes out. I hear the intake of a breath, a long sigh, then the voice of my own brother, Martin, fills every dark corner of the barn with words intended for no one but himself.
“I’ve warned you. Warned you over and over. I Gave you every chance to stop. Well, I’m here to finish the job, David. You won’t be throwing a party in this barn on Saturday, and you won't be making any damned wine here either.”
The flashlight clicks, and Martin pans the area, chasing away shadows,revealing stacks of musty hay bales. The beam finally falls on me. Martin recoils, staggering backward, nearly stepping off the edge of the stairway.
“It’s been you all along,” I say.
“Yeah, it’s been me all along.”
“Why? Why? David, you know what I’ve been through with alcohol. I’m dry now, but it ruined my relationship with Mom and Dad. Alcohol wrecked my marriage. My own children want nothing to do with me. My career is gone, and in midlife I’m forced to salvage whatever I can out of this train wreck of an existence. And now you have the balls to turn my childhood home into a winery?
“You could have talked to me before this.”
“Dad left you the farm, not me. It was your decision, and you made the wrong one.”
“Dad left you enough money to buy your own farm, but you seemed to have found other things to do with it.”
“Screw you, David” he said. “We used to play in this barn, slept out here, spent all our free time in here. This place holds all the memories I have of life without alcohol. And now, I’ll lose those too.
“What are you going to do?
He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a book of matches. He lights one, blows it out and flicks it into the hay. He lights another and lets it burn longer, then tosses it aside.
“You’re going to start a fire, Martin. Please stop.”
“Are you going to change your mind about the farm?”
“I replaced the cherry trees four years ago. There are hundreds of acres of grapes now.”
“Is that a no?”
He strikes another match and holds the flame under the booklet.
“Okay, we can talk about it.”
“Put the fire out.”
“I don’t think so.”
I lunge but too late. Martin’s hand seems to burst into flame. He stumbles backward out of my reach, but something buried under the loose hay trips him, and he falls onto his back. The fire launches into a slow arch, landing in the perfect tinder of dry hay. The flashlight skids across wood planks and bounces down the stairway. The only light remaining is coming from flames that are quickly eating through the dry, loose hay on their way across the loft to my brother and me.
The Color of New Wine....
In the darkness, I hear Martin laboring, fighting to draw a breath. Gurgling sounds accompany each attempt. I'm on my knees beside him, hands touching his shaking body. I feel hot blood and the cold, steel tine of a pitchfork. In the light of the growing fire, blood pumps from the wound as air bubbles from a punctured lung.
I carry Martin down the narrow stairway and outside where I lay him on the ground. I put pressure on the wound, but in the light of a full moon, the snow lies in stark contrast to the expanding stain, the color of new wine. Inside the barn, the flames are burning out of control.
My past and my future are slipping away, and I can do nothing to stop them.