Sitting in the rocking chair, she was well aware of the tangled thoughts swirling in her head. Between work and recent family events, her head felt as if she were trying to watch 10 soap operas at the same time. Watching the snowflakes lazily drift to meet the 6 inches of snow that had fallen in the night, it gave her a sense of calm. A feeling that she would be able to find her ground and get her head back in order. For some reason, cleaning always gave her a sense of purpose and was mindless enough that she could let herself think and daydream at the same time. This old cabin was sure to need a good cleaning as no one from her family had been here recently that she knew of. The fire was blazing in the wood stove, so she would have heat for water from the well outside. There were supposed to be some cleaning supplies in the closet, maybe even just vinegar. Normally she would be putting on some music in her apartment while she cleaned, but at this cabin, there wasn’t any cell reception. There was an old battery radio that maybe could get a local station, but unlikely. She didn’t want any of that excess noise anyhow, her mind was too busy already. Heading outside to the well, she grabbed a couple of metal pails and her coat. She hoped the well wouldn’t be frozen, but if it was, she would be collecting snow to use for water. When she got to the well and pumped the handle, no water came out. Not even the sound as if the water were moving up the pipe. It was either frozen or broken, which was going to complicate her ability to gather water. Gathering snow in both metal pails, she packed in as much as she could, then carried it inside. There was an area on top of the wood stove to set both pails, so she would have to sit and wait for the water to heat. This didn’t bother her though; she came to the cabin to gather her thoughts and try to collect herself before returning to civilization.  

Ruth sat in the rocking chair again, looking out the window at the snow that had seemed to double in the size of the flakes. She had brought enough food for 3-4 days in a cooler, and jugs of water, and since she drove her four-wheel drive truck, she wasn’t worried about getting out if she needed more food. What worried her was having to go back to her job that created more stress for her than ever before. The client was asking for more than her staff could handle and expected results, no matter what needed to be done. Normally, she would push her staff to do more and more, but she was beginning to understand that limits need to be set. No one should be expected to work 60 hours a week every week, without a reprieve. The level of entitlement in this client had dramatically increased and was astounding to see. She thought that what she had witnessed in the past year would only happen in Hollywood, but was actually happening in her suburban office. She even thought that it went to the extent of having the traffic lights outside the office turn green faster for the convenience of the CEO. She knew this client had long reaching arms and would go around her staff to get what they want from other contractors. This has made her question where she wants to be and who she wants to be around, as far as an employer. Being around the energy of such entitled humans, makes her wants to be at this cabin even more, where there is no energy present to create the same frustration she feels at the office.  

The water in the pails started to boil, so she went to find some rags to clean with. She went to the closet and found a box with rags in. The rags on top were too big, so she pulled them out and found smaller rags underneath. When she pulled out the smaller rags, she found an envelope under. No writing on the envelope, and it was sealed, so she opened it. Inside was a large amount of one-hundred-dollar bills. Her eyes were in disbelief. She thought for sure she had found something that wasn’t meant to be found. The envelope had been sealed, so it seemed that whomever had put it there, was done contributing to the fund. She left the envelope and money in the box, and returned to cleaning. She found the bleach and took it over to the pails. Using the rags to lift the pails off the stove, she then poured bleach into the water. She figured the whole cabin needed some level of disinfecting, she so started in the kitchen first. The memories of her mother working in the kitchen from many years ago, came back to her while cleaning. She could picture her mother making meals on the portable stove top that they would bring with them because there wasn’t a stove. It was small, but it worked for their times up here. Her mother was always able to figure out timing for all the food that needed the stove and nothing was ever cold. Now, she didn’t know that her mother would even remember making those meals. With her new diagnosis of dementia, it was a surprise when her mother could conversate like a normal 65-year-old, and a disappointment when she couldn’t. The emotional ups and downs that Ruth had dealt with in the past two months were exhausting. She knew her mother was having memory difficulties, but she thought it was normal aging issues, until she spent a full day with her mother for a spa day. Her mother started speaking about memories of when Ruth was 10 or 12 years old, as if they were there in present day. Ruth initially thought her mother was joking around, until it happened again and her mother became irritated when Ruth tried to correct her. After that, Ruth had her mother evaluated by a neurologist and the diagnosis was confirmed; early onset dementia. Her brother was now checking in with their mother while Ruth was at the cabin, so she at least had some reassurance that her mother was safe.  

When moving to the bedroom to clean, she started thinking about how her parents would always push her to do more, be more, be your best self. This was what pushed Ruth to get her MBA, leading the dreadful job she was currently in. Just thinking about work made her blood pressure rise, but this cleaning was helping. It was as if she were cleaning away the stress in her life, wiping away every negative comment she had recently heard and then wringing the necks of the people that said it, when wringing out the rags. She just wanted to have a job where she could be effective, positive, and feel like she was making a difference. This current job did not do that and she needed a change. Maybe she could use the money she found to help her move and find that right job. But she needed to figure out who had put the money there. Most likely her parents, but why hide it in that box and leave it here in the cabin? Emergency fund maybe, but if you’re snowed in, you can’t use the money anyhow. She hoped her mother would be able to answer her, and since her father was dead, she wouldn’t get any answers from him.  

Ruth continued to clean and when it started to get dark outside, it made it even harder to see inside also, since she was using candles and flashlights if needed. She dumped the pails outside and hung the rags outside to dry on the porch. Coming inside, she locked the doors, closed the curtains and settled on the couch for a peaceful evening. For dinner, she had brought lunchmeat with her, so she had a sandwich and water. No real comfort food, but for now, she didn’t care. It meant more to her to have peace and quiet, than a feast of chocolate cake. Her mind began to wander again to work, but she was able to drown out the noise and meditate on the quiet that surrounded her. She wondered how long she would be able to have this quiet to herself. Her brother had mentioned coming up to the cabin, but his plans weren’t definite since he was currently in charge of checking on their mother. Ruth planned for this evening at least, she could decompress and dream of what her life could be if she were able to work in an environment where she felt fulfilled.  

Ruth had fallen asleep on the couch and woke up to a banging noise outside. She didn’t move at first, just listened. It sounded like someone playing with the metal pails outside, like a scraping sound on the pails. Ruth very slowly got up and grabbed the 30-30 rifle that her father had hidden under the couch many years ago. She hoped it still worked. Checking that it was loaded, she moved to the door. There were no windows in the door, so she crept to the front window and barely opened the curtain. To her surprise, a small brown bear was on the porch, hitting the pails around, playing. He didn’t seem to be doing any other damage and didn’t seem interested in trying to get into the cabin, so she left it to play. She watched it for about 5 minutes, and then the bear left the porch and walked off into the dark, down the stone driveway.  

Ruth decided to keep the rifle with her, and grabbed some extra bullets to place in her bedside table, then went to the bedroom. Crawling into the bed that she had put fresh linens on yesterday, she felt a sense of relief and fell fast asleep. She had just opened her eyes slightly and saw that the sun was up, when she heard a banging on the porch again. She grabbed the rifle and ran to the window, ready to scare off the bear. If it had returned again, then surely it would get enough courage to try and break into the cabin eventually. When she looked out, she saw her brother and her mother on the porch, picking up the pails and stomping off the snow from their boots. She went to the door, unlocked it, and opened it. “Hi mom!”, Ruth exclaimed as she hugged her mother, then brother. “We were going to try and surprise you, and it looks like we did”, her brother said, as he eyed up the rifle in Ruth’s right hand. “Oh sorry, there was a bear here last night and I thought it came back”, Ruth said, as she set the rifle on the kitchen table and unloaded the bullets. “They were a problem at times. I can remember your father yelling at a few to scare them off”, Ruth’s mother said, laughing at the memory. “He would scare me enough to want to run away also because he was so loud!”, Ruths’ brother said. “Oh, that reminds me mom, did you ever hide money in an envelope here?”, Ruth asked. “I’ve always said that sometimes you have to clean house to find what you didn’t know you had”, Ruth’s mother said proudly. “Well, then I guess I found the lottery that you didn’t know you had”, stated Ruth. “It’s yours Ruth, your brother just hasn’t cleaned enough to find his. I put money away here knowing that someday you both would need it and when it was time, you would find it”, her mother said lovingly. “Well then I guess it’s my time, because I found it, and I know just want to use it for”, Ruth said with excitement. 

January 19, 2021 01:41

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David Brown
21:30 Jan 27, 2021

Good job, I only have one critique. Pay attention to paragraph length. I’m sometimes guilty of writing paragraphs that are too short, however, I think shorter paragraphs keep my attention. Maybe it’s just me. If anyone else wants to add to this thread I’d be interested in what other writers on here think about long vs. short paragraphs.


Jessica Crosby
00:09 Jan 28, 2021



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