Lucas Weismann

Another Winter Gone – 33

Marcus woke in the dark, Eva’s arms wrapped around him.  He felt the warmth of the fire in the small bed they planned to share, before she took ill.

“Do you remember when we lay like this?” she asked him.

“Mmm, yes.  We were expecting Jack.  You were too hot, so you pushed me away, but you ended up holding on like a limpet.”  Marcus smiled to himself.

“You remembered.”  

“Of course I remembered.  That’s when I wrote Ave Amata.”

“You never read that one to me you know.” She said.

“I did, but I called it ‘The Island’.”

“Oh, I liked that one.  Tell it again.”

Marcus grumbled something about it being silly because no one could hear.

“Sillier than writing a poem for your wife that parallels the Hail Mary?”

“Well, no.  But-“

“Then say it, you might feel better and be able to start writing again.”

“You know about that huh?”

“Of course I do.  I’m not really here.  I’m just a ghost of a thought of a memory.  Haven’t you noticed I’m talking more like you do?  Giving explainations and being sentimental?  I was always more sharp-tongued than this, even though you never could see it.  You’re the one who has to be so rational about everything.  Besides, I’m funnier than you write me.”

“I don’t know.  There’s work to be done tomorrow,” he said.

“There’s always work do be done Marcus.  You’ve done it.  Your food and fire will last the winter and possibly into June if you’re careful.  There’s paper in the outhouse and extra newspapers just in case.  Ten seconds won’t make or break your sleep.”

“Fine.  But just because I know you and you won’t rest until you’ve had your story.” He said.

Then marcus spoke aloud for the first time of the exchange as he said,


“Beautiful Soul, Full of grace

Who lies beside me silent.

In your arms I am at peace

And  know I am no Island.”


He never felt the moment her presence left, but he did feel the ache of loss that had been with him every night since Eva’s passing.  No longer able to feel her arms, he wrapped the blankets tighter and went to sleep, alone.

Another Winter Gone – 32

Marcus sat down to write.  He stretched his hands reflexively and looked at him.  It was the conflicts that were the hardest part to write convincingly.  Oh, not for the children’s books, he’d been writing them for years and had been successful in his way.  He remembered the publishers picking illustrators, some poor, some who could make is stories come to life and sing through the imagination.  Those were no problem.  It was the conflicts in longer books, the novels and short fiction that always presented him with a problem.  

For one thing, Marcus knew that despite his wishes, he would forever be an optimist.  In doing so, he had a hard time trusting his characters to be able to think their way out of any problem that would prove too difficult for him.  It’s funny that way, he’d think.  It shoudn’t matter what kind of problem I put in there, so long as I remember that I can get them out.  

After all, someone I write can get stuck in a life and death situation with no time to think, but I have the luxury of time.  I can act between the words on the page to find a solution.  But this was the problem.  In children’s books, the problem had to be direct and solveable, but just hard enough to make the audience think.  With fiction directed toward adults, the problems couldn’t be too obvious or people wouldn’t believe the characters.

He remembered somewhere reading that it was the challenges faced or the villains fought that defined a hero.  What did he know about that?  What the hell could Marcus tell anyone about anything?

He remembered being a boy, but how to write that without seeming like an adult.  Marcus had been a logical kid and remembered people calling him an “old soul” or letting him work through problems on the farm usually reserved to older kids.  Of course, he was an only child, so he got the favoritism of the youngest and the assumption of responsibility of the eldest all rolled into one.   Besides, he’d been writing about childhood for children and Eva died, he didn’t have the taste for it.

His work wasn’t anything to speak of.  He’d really only done two jobs off of the farm before getting to his writing.  No one was going to read stories about itenerant painters painting stationhouses.  Sure, maybe as a short story he could write an anecdote or two, but that wasn’t really the same.


Marcus stood up and felt his joints creak.  They didn’t hurt, thank god, but they grumbled a bit when he got moving after he gave them some rest.  He walked over to a picture on the fireplace mantle.  It was Eva.  She wasn’t doing anything romantic or special, just walking by the river.  Her hair was tied up behind her and the wind blew some whisps of it.

By the time color film was readily available, her hair had gone gray.  Marcus smiled at that.  It had been one of her little jokes, the kind that get told often over the years.  Not really funny, but comforting and a part of the woman he’d loved.

Staring at his wife wasn’t going to get a story going. Marcus had read a fair few potboilers and romance novels, but he never felt like the audience.  Besides, their romance lacked all of the hallmarks of good literature.  Their parents approved of their choices, no religious or political quarrels to speak of.  The war kept them apart of course, but even so, that hadn’t been too hard.  They’d both been too distracted by what they were doing at the time to go looking for other potential partners.  Hell, their marriage even looked tranquil compared with some of the sitcoms.

Marcus suspected this was because neither he or Eva had been the sort to make a fuss, when work would see you through.  It was only logical too.  Networks sought sitcoms based on “the average nuclear family”, a bit more polished and with no cussing of course, but basically that.  Life couldn’t get too real otherwise you lose the comedy and nothing could get put out of place becase it had to be as clean as the set that looked like a suburban livingroom by the end of the episode.  That meant that the drama had to come from the mundane, from small misunderstandings that any adult could resolve by asking a question or two.  

Now by the coffeemaker, marcus put the pot to boil.  He didn’t have much time for this nonesense anyway.  There was work that needed doing.  Eva had been gone for months and there were other things that needed doing.  After pouring the coffee, Marcus walked to the fridge, held the door open with his foot and grabbed the cream from the shelf in front of the light.  He poured the cream and placed it back in the fridge.

The problem of what to write had been on his mind for awhile and an idea was starting to form.  Not an idea for something to write, that would be asking too much.  But an idea about why he wasn’t writing now.  It wasn’t that there were other things he needed to do, those were excuses- he’d made enough in his time to smell them a mile off.  They were seductive in their own way, because these were dressed up in bits of truth, like the fact that he did need to be doing other things.  Marcus was getting an inkling that he was having a hard time writing because he didn’t know who his reader should be.  For the first time ever, he had no ideal reader in mind.

Before Jack had been born it had been Eva.  Her love of stories, and insatiable appetite for books was rivaled by Marcus’s own.  After Jack had been born, he had no problem finding things to write books about.  He just had to look at the problems his own son was going through and write something that was just distant enough not to feel like a lecture, but similar enough that Jack could apply it.

Who the hell was he going to write for now?  Writing for himself seemed unecessary.  After all, he could just think the stories in his head.  Writing them down presumed an audience and he had none.

Of course, this was just as true as the part about having chores and work to keep himself busy and might just be an excuse that was a bit closer to the heart of the problem.  Marcus sat down at the desk in front of his typewriter and looked out on the snow.  He was getting close to his deadline.  The one Eva imposed on him.  The date when he would have to start writing again or for the first time he could remember, break a promise to his love.

Marcus clenched his fists.  He’d spent his whole goddamned life trying to make himself the kind of self-sufficient person who could handle any situation and make anything he needed to survive.  The kind who could protect his home and the people in his care from any outside threat.  That’s probably why in the end, it had been his loved ones own selves he couldn’t protect them from.  In the case of Jack it was the hatred of bullies and desire to do the right thing that had done him in.  In the case of Eva it had been worse.  Her own body turned against itself and fought every means the doctors had at their disposal, even as her desire to live kept her alive longer than they had been told was possible.

Marcus’s eyes itched and his vision blurred.  He rubbed his eyes and took a measured breath.  This was foolishness.  Marcus walked outside and despite having several cords stacked and dried and ready, he went to the woodpile and went to chop wood.

Another Winter Gone – 30

Marcus left the funeral, a man cut adrift in the world.  He hadn’t felt so alone since returning from the war.  Everywhere Marcus went, his Eva had been there, every victory, every dream, every goal, shared.  Now without her, there was a hole inside.  Not black, not empty, but pure unadulterated vacuum that gnawed away at his insides.

Marcus didn’t cry outwardly, what good would it do?  Inside though, the feelings were welling and roiling and he felt the dam was going to burst.  There was going to be a wake, and he would go to it of course, but first Marcus needed some air.


Despite their years of not particularly caring for religion, Eva had been adamant that Jack should grow up being a part of a church.  She took him to church and they were a part of the community there, despite not really ever believing in some of the more fanciful aspects of the religion.  Marcus didn’t go though.  For special occasions, yes, but it seemed to go against the grain of who he was.

He recognize however, that the community had been helpful when they’d found out she was sick and had done their best to stop by and let her know she wasn’t forgotten.


“I wish they would forget me,” she said one day after Sister Brekken brought her some Hot Dish.  Sister Brekken was a terrible cook, and sadly for the quality of fare at the church picnics, her lack of skill in the culinary art was inversely matched to her enthusiasm for it.  Dry overcooked salmon, boiled steaks and cookies that were burnt on the bottom and raw on the top.  

Eva’s pain medication had been wearing off hours before the next time it would be given her and she was in pain.  When Eva was in pain, she wouldn’t complain, she would get sharp.  “It is amazing to me that anyone could be so bad at something they practiced so much.”

“It’s like I used to tell Jack and the other boys on the team.  Practice makes- -habits. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”  Marcus smiled, wishing his wife’s pain away.

“Still though, the law of large numbers would seem to indica-“  Eva stopped herself and smiled happily.  “Of a sudden, I’m thankful for two things I never thought I would be.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“My pain and Sister Brekken’s cooking.”

“Come again?”

“They’ve made me so miserable that you forgot your own misery to make me smile.”

Marcus thought for a second.  “Jack.” He said.

Eva nodded.  “You know that’s the first time you’ve said his name and smiled since we got that damned letter.”


The letter in question wasn’t the one that the military sent them to inform them of their son’s death in Vietnam.  The letter was one from Jack, that had been stuck in the mail and arrived on the day of the funeral.  In it, Jack had written about how beautiful the countryside was and how he would take his parents to see how amazing it was, as soon as the war was over.  All of the certainty that he and the boys were doing the right thing and would be home before you knew it was writ large in between the lines of that letter.


Of course, the church had insisted on holding the funeral and making the arrangements and Marcus had no desire to stop them.  It would do them some good to be useful.

Another Winter Gone – 29

“Marcus-”  The voice was a whisper.  Barely a shade of what it had been.

“I’m here hon.”

“I’m so sorry.”  She paused to catch her breath.  “I wanted to go home for Christmas and I know you’ll be alone.”

Marcus didn’t say anything.  He just closed his eyes and put his chin to his chest, just holding her hand in his.

“I’m so sorry to put all this on you.”  She coughed.

“Shh, it’s okay, just rest.”

“Time enough for that soon enough Sergeant.”

Marcus nodded and stroked the back of her hand gently.  The skin was slack and paper thin.  That wasn’t right.  Every time he closed his eyes, she was the same young girl he’d met when he came home for that furlough during the war.  That had been stolen from him and for the first time in a long time, he was torn between sadness at impending loss and anger at the unfairness of the world.

“Marcus, I meant to outlive you after Jack died.  I never wanted to put you through this pain and expense.”

“Honey, I don’t care about the money.  Never have.  We’ll just get through it the same way we always have, by doing what needs to be done.”

“Well, you’re going to have to do that without me.  I can’t help you here, not anymore.  And don’t try to tell me comforting lies.  I’m going to my rest.”  She caught her breath.  “I have two things I need you to do for me.”

“Course, you do.  What can I do, hon?”

“The first one is hard.”

“Tell me what it is.”

“Please don’t give up.  I know that you made me and Jack your whole life.  After he was stolen from us, you stopped seeing other people than me except when necessary.  You didn’t write for years afterward.  But in all that time, you never stopped doing the work that needed doing, or lending a hand where and when it was needed.  Please don’t stop that on my account.”

“Eva…” he began

“Don’t interrupt me Sergeant, I’m dying so I get to make my last speech.”

“Yes doctor.” He said.

A weak smile appeared on Rose’s face.  “I need to go to my rest, knowing you’re going to go on being you and that you won’t take it too hard.  I know that’s a hard task, so I’m willing to be reasonable.”

“How so?”

“When I die, you can mourn for one year.  But after that, you have to go on being you and writing and telling stories.  And you have to be the Marcus who does what needs doing.”

“What’re you gonna do if I can’t do that?”

“Nothing.  I’ll be dead.  But I just don’t like the idea of losing me being the thing that pulls the legs out from under you.”

“Rose, I-“

“Now, if you choose never to remarry and live as a withered old bachelor that’s alright with me.  It’s a touching tribute.”

The smile on Marcus’s face was a sad one.  “So that’s it?  Keep telling stories and keep helping people?  How long do I have to do it for?”

“As long as it takes.” She said.  “I really am sorry to do this to you.  It was my intention to outlive you so that you wouldn’t be put to the bother of the funeral and going on.”

“No bother.”  He mumbled, though he wished he could be with her at any other time than now.  Eva never talked like this, she must’ve gotten her 2-minute curtain call.

They sat in silence for a long while until, the nurse came in to tell him that visiting hours were over.  Marcus looked up and nodded, patted the back of his wife’s hand and stood up.  He leant over to kiss her forehead, whispered something in her ear and walked out.

If the nurse wondered at what Marcus had said, she didn’t ask.  Marcus respected that.  What he said to her was no one’s business but their own.

Another Winter Gone – 28

Jack was born a respectable 8 lbs 3 oz in the hospital at Saint Cloud. Marcus never knew whether the pregnancy itself was difficult, because Eva didn’t seem to complain about it. Reports from the midwife about her conduct in the during the birth were similar. Eva pushed and grunted like any other, but there was no screaming or crying from her, as if her determination to do the work ahead of her surpassed any little thing like the blinding pain of childbirth.
Marcus wouldn’t have thought less of his wife if she had reacted any way. From the little he’d seen growing up on the farm he was unsure he’d have volunteered for the job of birthing a baby.
When he was finally allowed to enter the room, he saw his wife, looked exhausted and happy and more beautiful than he remembered as she held their child. Eva beckoned Marcus over to her side. Read more

Another Winter Gone – 27

Owning a home came with its own challenges, which the new Mr. and Dr. Austmann took to with gusto. Plumbing problems, squeaky floors- that often needed waxing and polishing as well and peeling plaster all seemed to be no problem for Marcus or Eva. They loved turning their house into a home. Marcus said it gave him something to do during the layoffs in the winter. Mr. Jacobson had no need for crews to paint during the winter, so the men were let go. Some found other employment, but Marcus spent his time working on the house and writing his stories, mostly for Eva. Read more

Another Winter Gone – 26

Marcus and Eva returned to the lodge the next day, where they were greeted by Dorothy. She gave them some of her homemade root beer and asked them how they had fared on their adventures. They related the story of the water and the burn and she insisted that she be allowed to examine Eva.

It turned out that Dorothy was a licensed nurse and often treated people who ran across her path, whether guests or not. “I’m not just some ’root beer lady’ she said,” when she told she was a nurse. “Even go back to the city every year to keep my license up to date and make sure my skills are sharp.” She said and she smiled at Eva.<!--more-->

After examining the leg, she recommended seeing a doctor right away. She even offered to radio ahead so that someone would be ready for them in town. They thanked her and made their way to the cabins to gather their things and said their goodbyes.

Once underway and heading back home, it started to snow. Lightly at first, but then more strongly, so it was a serious storm by the time they reached their car that evening.

“It occurs to me,” said Eva as they waited for the car’s heater to start warming the car as they drove, “That anyone whose favorite things include snowflakes that stay on their eyelashes is probably expecting they’ll be near a warm fire soon, or they’re clinically insane.”

Marcus smiled and listened to Eva talk for awhile, before putting his arm up on the back of the seat so Eva could slide over next to him. Carefully, they made their way back into Ely, MN (the nearest town with a hospital) and got in to see the doctors.

After waiting what seemed to be an interminable amount of time, they were seen by the doctor. He unwrapped the bandages, washed the blister and asked for details about what happened. He told them the burns looked to be second-degree, that they should keep them wrapped with clean bandages and keep the skin clean with soap and water, and to see their regular doctor at the first sign of infection. Then he had the nurse re-dress the wounds and charged them and sent them on their way.

The snow lessened as they made their way back south toward Saint Cloud. They had bought a home and fixed it up, and would be entering for the first time as newlyweds when they returned. About halfway back, Eva looked up at Marcus and said, “You know, that Dorothy had a great place. I’d love to get one for the two of us.

Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, where we could just be and live off the land.” Inside some small corner of Marcus’s mind, the little boy who told his mother he’d go live in the woods punched the air. He squeezed her a little tighter then and knew for the second time in two days, that he would never let her go as long as he lived.

Another Winter Gone – 25

Weeks passed blissfully, as Marcus and Eva took day trips to see local pictographs, or swam in the lakes nearby. The end of the season was approaching and Marcus could feel the chill in the air. The only bit of trouble, being a small burn Eva received on one of their day trips while moving some boiling water she was using to make cocoa. Some spilled over on to her right leg. Immediately, she yelped tore off her wool slacks and ran to the lake.
Marcus was away looking for firewood, but the sound of her yelp and a splash brought him back to camp. At first he couldn’t find her. She was no where to be seen! He ran to the lake and out onto a small promontory, then climbed a rock down. He looked left and right, unable to find her. Then he shouted, “Eva! Eva!” before looking again. Read more

Another Winter Gone – 24

Marcus studied during the school year and worked for Mr. Jacobson during the summers and by the time he graduated, he was offered a position managing the crews for the company. He agreed, thankful for the opportunity to work somewhere that would offer him a measure of stability and for six months he began to save.
One day in late August, he invited Eva to join him on a walk near the river near the campus to a place they had spent many starlit evenings before going to dinner. They walked down by the river until they found ‘their’ spot. A small overlook that hid them from view, but from which they could see the swimmers in the summer and the ice skaters in the winter.
Turning the last bend in the path revealed a warm woolen blanket, on which there was a bottle of wine, a small picnic basket and two burning candles. Read more

Another Winter Gone – 23

The war ended and with it, Marcus’s engagement in the military. He took his money from the GI bill and enrolled in classes at what would later become St. Cloud State University. He took a room in a boarding house not far off of campus and worked in the summers painting railroad bridges on a moving crew. They pay was not bad, but it went much further for Marcus than many of the other men, because he neither drank, nor gambled. His mother, a staunch teetotaler instilled temperance in him from an early age, though time would soften his stance.
Knee-deep in the surety of youth, he believed water was the best thing to ingest where possible and due to his love of tea, he managed to avoid the problems that others might run in to, had they insisted from each lake and river, wherever possible.
Unlike his mother, he didn’t see drink as evil, merely unnecessary. He understood the need for the men to relax after a hard day’s work and why seeing the obliteration of drunkenness was attractive- especially the guys who’d also been “over there.” No, he did not begrudge the veterans their liquor. On one occasion, it was either the anniversary of VE day, or the Normandy invasion, he raised a glass to absent friends and lead the men in a drinking song most of the Veterans seemed to know. It was this character of being both strict with himself and knowing how to win friends that won him the loyalty of the men in his crew, just as it had won him the loyalty of the men in his squad. Read more

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