Monday, October 25, 2010

The Old Mill



Laura's fingers play in the spears of light streaming through the window, as if they have substance, much like the memories they kindle. Light catches on the jagged glass still clinging to the window, twinkling. She smiles. Many that walk the ruins of the old flour mill may think some delinquent, chucking rocks for wishes in the shadows of night, was responsible for the broken windows. She knows different.
_____

It was once the largest flour mill in the world, giving Minneapolis the moniker of the Mill City. Times change though and in 1965, it was shut down along with eight other mills. Over the years, the once prominent landmark became just another forgotten place that every one walked or drove by daily on their way to the future. It was where their future was to begin.

James chose the old mill not just for the seclusion, but because it stirred within him a romanticism beyond his years. The old stone. The hard cut timber. The creation that came in the making of the flour, and the promise it carried. Many a night they had snuck away coming to just this spot, pushing aside old boards, meant to guard the windows, now loose on rusted nails.

He would bring a blanket, which he spread across the wood floor beneath the window and they would lay in each others arms, stars peeking through the window. He laughed, saying they were jealous of her beauty, running his finger along her cheek. His lips would find hers, tenderly writing stories of the life they would live.
_____

She can almost smell the spice of his skin, twenty years later as the museum crowd swims around her. Seeing families walking around the old mill feels like a travesty against the intimacy they once shared. A dove lands on the sill of the broken window, drawing her eyes back to the spot. It struts back and forth before settling its eyes on her.
_____

The glass in the second story window was cloudy as she peered through it, waiting for him to appear. He was always early, preparing a place for them, but tonight she slipped into the crumbling old building to find only shadows. Sitting the backpack against the base of the wall, she checked the watch on her wrist. James was late. Just a half hour, and he had much to do, she reassured herself. Tonight they were leaving.

They planned it for weeks, deciding to wait until the night of her birthday. She had told no one, not wanting someone to try stop them or accidentally let it slip at the sweet sixteen party her parents were throwing her. Her girlfriends were at the house, covering for her. They thought she was just meeting James for a midnight birthday celebration of their own.

Looking once more to her watch, she settled beneath the window, back pack under her head. The stares of the stars seemed colder, as if they knew something. Turning away from their accusations, her eyes soon drifted closed. She dreamed of fields, sunshine, and butterflies. This was where they would live.

It was the heat that woke her, her skin stinging. The room was filled with smoke, and her first breath caught in her throat. She could not see flames, but the floor was hot and she could hear the roar. James was still not with her. Her heart galloped as she ran to the window to see what was happening.

Shadows moved along the street, people running here and there. She yelled, beating her fists against the window. Visions being roasted, burned in the fire danced across her mind, turning her frantic. Pounding furiously, her hands began to hurt. Realising she needed help, she searched for something, anything heavy enough to break the glass.

Thick smoke fought against her, obscuring her vision, sapping her strength as it consumed the oxygen. Panic set in, her breathing shorter and faster. The world began to spin and she was having a hard time walking. Crumpling to the floor, her last thought as the world went dark, was of James, breaking the window, cool air flowing across her and flames.
_____

Fingering the skin on the back of her hand, she watches the dove fly away. A child loudly complains to his parents that he is bored as they walk into the room. She ignores them, as much as they do her, approaching a framed newspaper clipping hanging on the wall. Her eyes scan the headline, "Local boy arrested in fire that nearly destroys abandoned mill." The photographer captured just the edge of James' face in the close up of the patrol cars window, the reflection of the flames on the glass.

"Not the best picture of me, is it?"

"You had just lost everything, the fear in those eyes is...," the remaining words are lost in his lips pressing into her.

"Hard to believe they fixed this old place up into a museum, twenty years after it nearly burned down," breaking away from the kiss, he holds her close as they look around the room. His eyes find hers and they rest in that moment letting it warm them.

"So, tonight..," she puts a finger to his lips, and smiles as they slowly sink into the floor, unseen by anyone, except a little boy who is no longer bored.

Seeing a twinkle of light as they disappear from view, he tugs at his mother's hand, saying, "Look mommy, a star. Mommy!"

This is fiction. A request from Drybottomgirl, who emailed me the picture of the old mill in Minneapolis saying it needed a story...in 1991 it did burn only to become a museum several years later. I left a lot of questions open. How did he die if he was in the police car? Why was he late? How did the fire start? Let your imagination fill in the gaps.

64 comments:

Meeko Fabulous said...

What an awesome piece! I was taking deep breaths as the flames were engulfing the building and the smoke was building up and suffocating her.

Daniel said...

My mind was left racing in several directions after reading this one. It tended to settle on the negative. He got what he wanted at the time by making promises and saying what he had to. When the time came for them to escape, he was forced to deal with the absurdity, the impracticality, the enormous pressure of the whole situation and tried to take the coward's way out.

Steven Anthony said...

Just when I think you can't out do your last piece, you pull this one out of the hat...Brian my friend, you amaze.

Susan Deborah said...

If this was a movie, the juxtaposition of the past and the present would have been brilliantly portrayed. Tight read. I just wished that they would run away and live . . . but alas! the movies always spoil our imagination. I am glad that you turned it the other way. I wonder if all your stories could be stringed together into a novel someday. You just have to connect every thread.

You are terrific, Brian!

Joy always,
Susan

Boom Boom Larew said...

Wow! I love that you left enough things unsaid so that we're left to imagine what might have happened that night... and beyond.

JStar said...

This was very intriguing Brian...Its a sad story and you told it well...

Mama Zen said...

I love the way you introduce the story.

Myrna R. said...

Nice story for the mill. I thought it had romance and a lot of mystery. Just right for Halloween. I can just envision their ghosts making trouble, having fun with those who can't...see dead people.

5thsister said...

A very captivating and intriguing tale. I will be pondering all sorts of hows and whys and whats of this piece. Thanks for allowing my imagination to wander...

Lori said...

Excellent Brian! I like that you left it open to our imaginations! Very cool...I remember that old Mill!

Hope your Monday is going marvelously! :)

drybottomgirl said...

Better than I could have imagined or hoped for. You took me out of my office and into the ruins of the mill, and I could feel the cool air rushing up from Saint Anthony Fall's...Awesome my friend, thank you so very, very much!!!!!

mama-face said...

i always look at old buildings and wish they could talk. the secrets they could tell.

i love your take on the photo-gosh, i love that someone sent the photo and that you wrote this piece.

Nezzy said...

Oh man, I do believe this is the best one yet. I have to admit though, I have an 'thang' for old mills!

Keep up the good work (writing) man!

God bless and have the most incredible day!!!

KB said...

This is fantastic and I love the pic too.

DJan said...

So well written. I reluctantly have to agree with Daniel, why else was he so late? And the story seems to lead me in that direction. Sad story, but so well told.

Titanium said...

How many, many times I've heard the lament, "if only these walls could speak..." Well, you've given the walls words unlike any other. What a fascinating story you've woven from this photograph!

Eva Gallant said...

Great story! All inspired by the photo of the window. You are amazing!

Pat said...

One of my favorites, Brian! I, too, live old mills! I like that you left us hanging!

Sophia said...

"He would bring a blanket, which he spread across the wood floor beneath the window and they would lay in each others arms, stars peeking through the window."

LOVEEEEEEEEEEEE that piece. The entire thing is brilliant, but I do love this part the most. I love how you write...almost always, you leave us wondering about SOMETHING...what a great writer. You're fab! You're amazing! You've so got it...wait....sounds like I am sucking up to you. hahahahaha Well, maybe I am. No, ok, maybe just a little. JUST KIDDING! :)

Really, you are an amazing writer. What does your sweets think about your writing? What amazing words you've left behind for your boys to read as well, when they grow older.

Later!

(curtsy)

Brian Miller said...

i like to think i can draw from experience...smiles.

not that i am a ghost or anything...err....

Becky said...

Oh this was awesome Brian!My imagination went wild.

william said...

brian you prove daily that you are a fantastic writer this was awsome :)

The Retired One said...

That picture did BEG for a story, and you conjured up the perfect one. I love that you left details up to us to decide, too....
love it!

Baino said...

I think it's important not to spell it all out and treat your readers like idiots. I like a little conjecture or mystery to remain with the story. Haha also provides opportunity to stretch it or write a sequel/prequel. Sweet.

Sara @ Domestically Challenged said...

Beautiful. i see the old mill all the time, so it made it even more romantic and beautiful!

Slamdunk said...

What a creative exercise and I think did a great job with this one Brian.

As a fan of history, I enjoy looking at things that are old and often forgotten...

Magpie said...

It's amazing how you can look at a picture and then with words as your building blocks you build an entire world colored with people and emotions and lives and sometimes ghosts. Wonderful! :)

Teri said...

I haven't been here for awhile. We had such a huge rain storm (over 6.6 inches!) that the satellite would not work. But, I have read through the last couple of posts and you are still doing it! And drawing too.! Incredible!

Who Is Afraid of Alfred Hitchcock? said...

Hi! Brian...
..."Let your imagination fill in the gaps."

Most definitely, what a nice short story...almost ethereal, ghostly, and haunting.

The photograph of the Old Mill is very...lovely!
Thanks, for sharing!
DeeDee ;-D

emily wierenga said...

very gifted prose.

TALON said...

You made it all come alive, Brian. Really neat twist at the end.

Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

I may have been way off but my mind was wondering whether they were planning a duel suicide in the old mill. What confused me was when he was in the police car. Then, I figured, he chickened out.

Thanks for letting the mind wander.

G-Man said...

And he even does requests....
You need to slow down son!

BTW...Awesome...G

moondustwriter said...

Nice story - would be nice to develop it more Bri

Moonie Smiles

Zuzana said...

Your story has it all; romance, suspense, action, mystery, love, sadness, nostalgia, death, loss...
Only you can manage to put it all together in one page of eloquent words.
My favorite parts are the third and fourth paragraph, as I am an undying romantic.;)
Have a great day dear Brian,
xo

adeeyoyo said...

Such a lovely story, Brian. Sweet, sweet girl - how sad... I love it when you leave the ending or explanation up to the reader's imagination...

TechnoBabe said...

I do like that in a short story not all the ends are tied and I get to enjoy filling in some of my own ideas. You have a way of inviting a reader to experience what you write. This is very well done.

Claudia said...

she is sixteen and wants to run away with this boy?...my daughter is sixteen and maybe i got a bit side tracked because of the own movie that started to play in my head...and well...indeed you left lots of room for our own imagination..nice

Lorraine said...

Magnificent and what a photo!

Birdie said...

wonderful Brian!! I love it all ... oh wow your talent is just limitless ... have a beautiful day!

Kim A. said...

I am a romantic at heart and read this one twice. I think it had a happy ending...

♥namaste♥

Vicki Lane said...

I like those unanswered questions!

Pauline said...

You sure can tell a story! When does the book come out?

annell said...

Nice write about the old mill. Thanks.

Velvet Over Steel said...

Wow!!! Another intense and amazingly creative piece, Brian! Fit's the picture perfectly and does make my 'mind' wonder in many directions and possible 'missing' pieces to the story!

I love it & hopefully I will have a romantice dream about this one, instead of the one about the mirror. Although, you are writing way too much about fire lately! ...smiles.... which is one of the 'pieces of information' that make these so intense for me!
~ Coreen

slommler said...

Oh my!! My imagination is going all over the place with this one!! He set the fire and then found that he couldn't kill her and tried to save her but it was too late. He spent several years in prison only to die there and he joined her that very same night. The night he died. Now they exist in the mill...night after star filled night!!
Sigh!
Thanks Brian
And they don't creep me out when they stare. I just think they are anxious for me to finish them.
Ha!
Hugs
SueAnn

Valerie said...

You wrote that beautifully, it got my imagination running. I was slightly worried by the fire, as I always am.

Barbara said...

That was amazing, Brian.

Manda said...

WOW!!! This was stunning in script! It captivates the reader.

natalee said...

Wow!!!!! Now my magination is all over the place especally what happened from that time to present.. I loved this!!! I see a novel coming out of this one

tera said...

Very nice. A little romance, a little spook. Great in time for Halloween.. Needs to be an episode of Twilight Zone! :)

Nancy said...

This kept me scanning ahead - did she live - are they alright? Beautiful writing! Interesting right up to the twist at the end.

Cinner said...

Brian , amazing as always, lots to think about. Have I told you I think your brilliant....yeah I think so. take care, smiles.

Jen Chandler said...

Beautiful story, Brian! So much left unanswered. Fabulous. I have always enjoyed imagining the tales old buildings have witnessed. :)

Cheers,
Jen

Melissa Campbell said...

I love to read what you write.

Have a great week!

Anonymous said...

I will remember this story for long time.

a tender, haunting story.

trisha
mydomainpvt.wordpress.com

OJ Gonzalez-Cazares said...

amazing endless love story! they were finally reunited for eternity! my romantic heart meets my dark side with your tale! you are the best!!

secret agent woman said...

Somehow this conjured up a memory of the old mill where my boyfriend tried to propose to me some 23 years ago - but the gnats drove us to a less buggy place!

blueviolet said...

I like that you've begun to write stories more. I could visualize it all happening as I read this. Nice!

sheila said...

Enjoyable! As always! And I love this pic! Stunning!

gayle said...

So wonderfully written!! Want more!!

Beedeebabee said...

Gosh, that one got my heart pounding! Loved it!

Marla said...

I see a book and a movie and Oprah. :-)

ds said...

Brilliant. Every word held my imagination, my attention. They both died, didn't they?